Women, Desire, and Power in Italian Cinema
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Women, Desire, and Power in Italian Cinema offers, for the first time in Italian Cinema criticism, a contextual study of the representation of women in twentieth-century Italian films. Marga Cottino-Jones argues that the ways women are depicted on screen reflects a subconscious “sexual conservatism” typical of an Italian society rooted within a patriarchal ideology. The book then follows the slow but constant process of social awareness in the Italian society through women in film, especially after the 1950s. Comprehensive in scope, this book analyzes the films of internationally known male and female directors, such as Antonioni, Fellini, Rossellini, Visconti, Bertolucci, Benigni, Cavani, Wertmuller, Comencini, and Archibugi. Special consideration is given to the actresses and actors that have become the icons of Italian femininity and masculinity, such as Sofia Loren, Gina Lollobrigida, Silvana Mangano, Gian Carlo Giannini, Marcello Mastroianni, and Alberto Sordi.
their marriage, Massinissa can spare her the humiliation of being taken prisoner to Rome. Massinissa, however, cannot convince Scipio, who unwaveringly believes that Sophonisba is a very dangerous woman, especially for the strong influence she has on Massinissa, and is determined to take her with him to Rome and make her an important part of his war booty. When Massinissa realizes that he is unable to spare Sophonisba that humiliation, he sends her another gift, not jewels this time, but poison,
together with the darkness on the screen, highlight the dangerous nature of the assailant’s rage and his witnesses’ anguish as well as his victim’s failure to understand the fears that her seductiveness had inspired in him. This version of Assunta Spina powerfully conveys the ambivalence of the character of the femme fatale, underscoring on one hand the sexual power of Assunta’s 30 WOMEN, DESIRE, AND POWER IN ITALIAN CINEMA overrepresented body and sexuality and, on the other hand, the danger
fascist and patriarchal standards, should always be under the control of men as the proper objects of sexual drives. Instead, Sophonisba, with her seductiveness, is the one who is in control of men— of Siface first and of Massinissa later—and only Scipio’s virtue and authority can stand up to her, suspend her negative power, and take away her controlling influence “MOTHERS OF ITALY” 41 by making her a prisoner of the Romans. Scipione l’Africano, thus, demonstrates how fascist cinema clearly
hesitate to take credit for the heroic deeds performed by Fieramosca, thus exploiting Fieramosca’s bravery to his own ends in order to win Giovanna’s admiration and attention. Once he has conquered Giovanna through his first act of deception, the same knight moves on to conquer the fortress for the French with another, even worse, act of treason, which costs several of Giovanna’s people their lives. Giovanna up to this point is presented as a very virtuous woman shown exclusively inside the walls
satisfaction and economic stability together with an equally strong rational capacity to understand and control situations and people. She is thus endowed with a human complexity rarely attained in former fascist films but that will be attempted again by several later neorealist filmmakers. Giovanna’s death, combined with that of her unborn baby, opens up a pathetic parenthesis in the narrative with a tear-jerking finale, a typical melodramatic ending focusing on Gino’s desperation that promotes