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3 | To encourage participation, Trilogy, X Triennal of Milan</br>Frame from the film Una lezione di urbanistica, 1954

3 | To encourage participation

by Leonardo Ciacci

This new update of Archive Movies takes the 'reader' to a historic moment considerable closer to us than those of the 1930s on which the column has focused until now, and to which it will in any case have reason to return. If the images that the town planners' filmed archive allows us to see again are considered together, the fifties do not seem much closer to us than those preceding the second world war. The move from subtitles to sound superimposed on every frame of the film does not help to make any significant time distance. Rather, the commentary to the images often weighs down the filmed interpretation with narrative and rhetorical themes that take much from the immediacy of the mute black and white of the first attempts at filmed town planning and architecture communication. Given that we are now completely surrounded by the graphic language of video and multi-media presentations, we frankly have some difficulty in noting differences that are flattened within the 'genres' established by the usual chronology of cinema periods. The three documentaries of the 1954 Trilogia (thirty minutes in all) are in this context nevertheless a special case. One of the three films, Una lezione d'urbanistica, is still capable of provoking a clear reaction from the audience, which inevitably applauds at every screening and easily remembers (when made up of students) both the images and themes presented. The takes of La città degli uomini in their turn give rare proof of how this little appreciated genre of cinema is part of the same language that has largely made up the visual memory we share.

Cronache dell'urbanistica italiana, finally, the hardest to accept in its ideological reasoning and tone, offers important proof of what town planning could be when it is not experienced as the knowledge and action of initiates. This is where the topicality of these three old films lies: in the freshness of wanting to communicate their knowledge, considered as an instrument available to all and one that is ineffective if separated from the daily procedure of transforming what has been constructed, whose specificity lies in always and inevitably being a collective project. The project of the creators of the Trilogia destined for the Milan Trienniel of '54 is called: "participation". There are no longer town planning schemes to be carried out and on which agreement must be encouraged. Innovative signs to be asserted against others of a past to be rejected are not shown. Rather, they reflect and invite reflection. They invite participation and at the same time demand a political role, of participation in political life, for town planners and architects. The controlled definition of the subjects and the detailed writing of the screenplay perhaps weighs a little on the images of these films, but in the light of the technological simplifications seen in new video products, they make you look back nostalgically to a time when town planners and film directors worked together, albeit sporadically.