Vital Crises in Italian Cinema: Iconography, Stylistics, Politics
P. Adams Sitney
Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub
Examining the landmark works that ushered in Italy's golden age of cinema, P. Adams Sitney provides a stylish, historically rich survey of the epochal films made by Roberto Rossellini, Vittorio De Sica, Luchino Visconti, Federico Fellini, Michelangelo Antonioni, and others in the years after World War II. Remarking on the period in 1957, Pier Paolo Pasolini wrote that its films reflected a "vital crisis" in Italian culture after the fall of Fascism. Sitney expands this conceit to demonstrate the multivalent social and political forces behind a range of movies made from the mid-1940s through the1960s that includes Paisa, La terra trema, Ladri di biciclette, L'Avventura, and La dolce vita. Throughout its pages, the book considers how the nation's cinema depicts the convergence of Christian and Resistance iconography; contemplates the debate over dialect and a national language; deploys cinematic effects for the purposes of political allegory; and incorporates insights from the psychoanalytic discourse that became popular in Italy during the fifties and sixties. This new edition includes an epilogue that extends the range of the study into the 1970s with discussions of Nanni Moretti's Io sono autaurchico, the Tavianis' Padre Padrone, and Ermanno Olmi's L'albero degli zoccoli.
laissez-faire speculation in land and construction. In 1963, for the first time, only half the population attended church. And by the early 1960s there was a television in half of all Italian homes. Both the Left and the Right decried what Paul Ginsborg called the “increased… tendency towards passive and familial use of leisure time, and [the decline of]… other more participatory and collective pastimes.”1 In a similar spirit of atomization or isolation the major Italian filmmakers were turning
takes place in the fifties and sixties and the latter is situated at the turn of the century—the Tavianis’ and Olmi’s very different historical visions both reflect the desperate situation of the late seventies. Later in 1978 the Sicilian novelist Leonardo Sciascia, writing as if he were constructing a detective novel largely about Moro’s letters from captivity, published a critical analysis of the kidnapping and the failure of the security police to find the DC leader. Because Moro had always
bureaucrat becomes a figure of pathos when he silently endures Bergmann’s scorn for Italians. We see him only in Bergmann’s company, where he plays the foil to foreground his counterpart’s maliciousness, conducting offscreen the research that reveals Manfredi’s real identity. By concentrating all of the evil in the Germans, Rossellini discovers a safely distant scapegoat that could play no role in the political situation of 1945. One index of his realism is the incorporation of German language.
commitment in the form of topical commentary: “Sometimes a film, while avoiding any precise representation of historical or political reality, can incarnate in mythic figures, speaking in a quite elementary language, the oppostion between contemporary feelings, and can become very much more realistic than another film in which social and political matters are referred to more precisely.”4 One sign of the disengagement of the national cinema that came with the waning of the postwar political
which he is disclosed within the scene. I take this portrait as the equivalent to the confrontational encounter of Sandro with the painting of Roman Charity near the conclusion of L’avventura; both are disturbing iconographic cruces. Furthermore, both are emblems of the filmmaker’s fascination with the ramifactions of his heroines’ relationship to their fathers. In L’eclisse, then, Riccardo, the broker whose death indirectly facilitates the meeting of Vittoria and Piero, and this elderly man can