From his exile in Rome, Birri embarked on a titanic project that was to take him more than 10 years, financed by the actor Mario Girotti —Terence Hill, the film’s protagonist. The result is an excessive, overflowing collage packed full of humour, comprising over 26,000 cuts and 700 audio tracks, assembled using different types of film, archive material, interventions, multiple exposures, varied processes of laboratory experimentation and magnetic sound mixing. Stan Brakhage, Georges Méliès, Charles Chaplin, Roberto Rossellini, Jonas Mekas, Jean-Luc Godard, Pino Solanas and Octavio Getino, Julio García Espinosa, Tomás Gutiérrez Alea and Glauber Rocha are some of the filmmakers to whom he refers with excerpts from films or citations.
To generate a debate about what was proposed at the time as “new cinema”, ORG offers interesting links not only to the Latin American avant-garde, but also to US and European concerns with montage and viewing processes; according to editor Settimio Presutto, Birri spent months studying how the eye muscle responded to the interlacing of frames.
As usual, Birri accompanied the film with a production diary and also with a manifesto, “For a cosmic, raving, lumpen cinema”, which reads: “the entire operation is a demonstration of the fact that Utopia can be put into practice.”
Blocked by Terence Hill on the recommendation of his representatives, the work suffered the curse of being withdrawn from circulation on the same day of its world premiere at the Venice International Film Festival 1979.
ORG, Fernando Birri, Italy, 1968-1979, 35 mm, 177’
DCP screening, original version (Italian, French, Spanish and English) with English subtitles. Copy provided by Arsenal.