Italy Grand Tour: the New Aquila Cinema in Rome

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This article is published in number 23 of Vanity Fair on newsstands until June 8, 2021

At Pigneto there is everything. The nightlife clubs, smoking and cocaine, the places where you eat and drink well (my favorite Dar Parucca), there are the Egyptian bistros and pizzeria, there are alternative and historical places, there is the mosque and there are murals with Pasolini’s face. Above all, there are many people on the move, the hard core are the families who have moved from the barracks of the Mandrione and have come to live in a real house, there are the “Bangla”, the Arabs and the Nigerians, even some Americans and some English.

In recent years, the architects’ studios and art galleries, bookstores and artists who live in the houses with gardens have arrived, renovations of what were the first illegal houses, those of the film Beggar by Pier Paolo Pasolini. A desolate place on the outskirts of the city that has become the manifesto of the new alternative life, because the borders of the suburbs have moved away and, from those frontier places, now the new subway line brings these new people, who are no longer er core de Roma. There is a new world full of new religions, new cultures, but above all there are the children of the digital revolution and this world is called Pigneto.

And here has always been the Aquila Cinema, a cube of steel and shiny glass, always illuminated. Right in front of via Montecuccoli where there is the door of Rome open city where Magnani dies running towards her Francesco taken away by the Nazis, and below is the Prenestina flyover where the accountant Fantozzi descended from the balcony of his house directly into the bus that took him to the office.

Because it is not the only Cinema Aquila with its red armchairs that brings the images of cinema to life every day, but the life of this place is the real film, the story of the life of this universe is cinema. Because after all, the room, the big screen as we have known it up to now is no longer there, the digital revolution has canceled everything, I find myself thinking. One day, during this pandemic year, I walked into the room and suddenly it seemed like an unknown and foreign place. And then, while I was wondering what had happened to that place, two guys appeared who just a year earlier together, almost hand in hand, approached me to ask me what I thought of the film they had just seen, they continued saying that they loved coming to the cinema those times when there were directors or actors to present their film. I looked at those two faces as they spoke to me, and I couldn’t help but stare at their fine and delicate features almost painted, they looked into each other’s eyes with shyness and kept asking me questions. But are you engaged? – I asked – and they are a little vague: no, he would like a little but I don’t. We are above all two people who like to come to the cinema, make an appointment, take the means together, be nervous because we risk being late, queuing for the ticket, being afraid that the seats are finished, hoping that we are going to see a good movies, maybe make friends with someone while we wait to get in. For these two little angels, cinema is not films but their bodies in motion, their slender figures that come into contact with the universe of cinema. And that cube of glass and steel is the outpost of civilization to be discovered, it is the museum of stories to be preserved and handed down, it is the meeting place of generations that pass through life. The Nuovo Cinema Aquila, under the beautiful sloping roof, when it was abandoned was the refuge of drug dealers and their customers on rainy days, today it is the refuge of the last lovers of cinema.

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