Movie Matters #33 supplement 2 - Roma Imago Urbis

Wednesday, 2 September, 2015

As a further addendum to our Luigi Bazzoni double bill episode, Jason Coffman provided us with this fascinating postscript to his excellent article The Films of Luigi Bazzoni, which we reproduce here with his permission.

So around the time I wrote the Bazzoni piece, I was trying to find out information on his “Roma Imago Urbis” project. IMDB only has a tiny bit of information on it, but I discovered after digging around a bit that it was a huge project, a 15-part documentary running as many hours with each part focusing on a different part of Roman culture and how it has influenced human civilization throughout history. Just to make it even more ridiculously ambitious, there are no actors in the film, just images and narration (in Italian, of course) accompaniment. Once Bazzoni completed it, “Roma Imago Urbis” screened at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York to accompany an exhibit of Roman art. After that, it aired once on Italian television, and has never been released outside of Italy. In Italy, it was released on VHS in a massive (and hugely expensive) boxed set of tapes with accompanying books and replicas of Roman coins. From what information I’ve been able to glean, it looks like the set was pressed in 1992 or 1993 and ran something like $700-$800.

I managed to find a mint sealed copy of the set on Ebay Italy for about $200 U.S., but the seller would not ship it to me here in the States because it would have been ridiculously expensive and a huge pain. Fortunately, I have been involved with a few projects on an online forum dedicated to European cinema where an English- and Italian-speaking cinephile living in Italy obtained 35mm prints of a few “lost” films and gathered people together to contribute to getting them transferred to digital and subtitled. We put together a plan to get the set into his possession so he can rip the documentary to digital format and work on creating subtitles for it. He’s still working on a few other similar projects, but he did transfer the first part of “Roma Imago Urbis” and posted some screen caps from it on the forum. I’m attaching them here so you can have a look at them.

It’s probably going to be quite some time yet before this is finally available in an English-friendly version, but we found enough fans of Bazzoni to get together and hopefully get his final project out there for people to see. Bazzoni worked on this for years, and it’s a shame that it’s hardly ever been seen. He passed away in 2012, and never directed again after completing “Roma Imago Urbis.” Here’s hoping we’ll eventually be able to help get his lost passion project into the world where it can be appreciated, and maybe working on this project will help spur the rights holders to make an official DVD or Blu-ray release of the film!

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