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Italian Neorealism Between Hollywood and Nation Thinking Italian Film project Italian Studies , 2008 Neorealism Hollywood and Nation Stazione Termini/Indiscretion of an American Wife (1953) What We Talk About When We Talk About Neorealism 1943-53 Documentary-style Politically committed

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Italian Neorealism Between Hollywood and Nation

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Presentation Transcript
Thinking Italian Film project
  • Italian Studies, 2008
  • Neorealism
  • Hollywood and Nation
  • Stazione Termini/Indiscretion of an American Wife (1953)
what we talk about when we talk about neorealism
What We Talk About When We Talk About Neorealism
  • 1943-53
  • Documentary-style
  • Politically committed
  • Opposed to star-driven practices of Hollywood
  • De Sica’s Sciuscia (1946), Bicycle Thieves (1948), Rossellini’s Rome Open City (1945) and Paisa’ (1946)
(Hayward 203): ‘one film meets with all these tenets [of neorealism]: Bicycle Thieves’
  • Neorealism supposedly based on real-life subject matter
  • Moral and ideological stance
  • ‘Cinema of the Liberation’ (Bazin, 1948)
  • Constant reference point
  • Gomorrah (Garrone, 2008): ‘neo-neo-realism’


critical topoi
Critical topoi:
  • Rhetoric of crisis: fall, belatedness, loss
  • New beginning – Edenic
  • Stasis of discourse: 2007 debate on ‘The Crisis of a Cinema Without Language’
critical topos 2
Critical topos 2:
  • Great auteurs as masters
  • Fellini’s description of Rossellini:
  • ‘Adam, a kind of progenitor from whom we are all descended’
critical topos 3
Critical topos 3:
  • Neorealism as national cinema and collective sounding board
  • Importance of ‘national reference’ – Millicent Marcus
  • ‘mirror of national life’ – Gian Piero Brunetta
Transnational turn in film studies ignored
  • Vitali and Willemen (2006): ‘Films can be seen not to “reflect”, but to “stage” the historical conditions that constitute ‘the national’ (8)
  • Cinema itself as ‘instrument for social regeneration’ (Gundle: 2000, 27)
series of exclusions
Series of Exclusions
  • ‘rejection of the star concept’ (Bazin, 1948)
  • Generic influences: melodrama especially
  • Bazin ‘demon of melodrama’ (1948)
  • Female address
  • Address to nation
  • Caldwell (2000): neorealism created little discursive space for the specific experience of women
Wood (2005) on neorealism rosa = pink neorealism
  • Female-addressed form of popular realism
  • O’Leary (2007) – masculinist terms of discourse of ‘impegno’ (political commitment)
l unita
  • 1955 ‘enquiry’ on Cinema e popolo
  • Distinction reiterated between ‘the public’ (pubblico) and ‘the people’ (popolo)
  • Gramscian conception of popolo and the popular still dominates
  • Inductive fallacy
  • Cesare Zavattini: neorealism opposed to Hollywood practice
  • American realism, eg Vidor’s The Crowd, or Ford’s The Grapes of Wrath, were acceptable models
Neorealism constructed critically through its reception in the US
  • Two Oscar nominations for De Sica (Sciuscia’, Bicycle Thieves)
  • ‘New Italian realism’ successful import

Anna Magnani in Un uomo ritorna (1946) – released as Revenge in USA 1947

transnational address
Transnational address?
  • Use of American actors/GIs (Paisa’,Tombolo paradiso nero (Tombolo, Ferroni, 1947), Senza pieta’ (Without Pity, Lattuada, 1948)
  • Americanized star figures
  • Riso amaro (Bitter Rice, De Santis, 1948), Il bandito (The Outlaw, Lattuada, 1946), Desiderio (Desire, Pagliero 1946)
co productions and collaborations
Co-productions and Collaborations
  • Rossellini and Ingrid Bergman, Stromboli (1949) and Viaggio in Italia (Journey to Italy, 1953)
  • Anna Magnani directed by William Dieterle in Vulcano (1949)
  • Stazione Termini – De Sica and David O. Selznick
stazione termini 1953
Stazione Termini (1953)
  • Financed/co-produced by David O. Selznick
  • Starring Jennifer Jones, Montgomery Clift
  • Released in the US as Indiscretion of an American Wife
  • Excluded from De Sica filmographies and dismissed by critics
US trailer:
  • Clash of cinematographic practices
  • Long shots of material environment vs soft-focus star close-ups
  • Neorealism vs codes of ‘woman’s film’
creative struggle
Creative Struggle
  • G.R. Aldo (La terra trema, Umberto D) replaced as close-up photographer by Oswald Morris
  • DOS flew in Richard Van Hessen (It’s a Wonderful Life, The Paradine Case) to oversee sound post-production
selznick vs de sica
Selznick vs De Sica
  • Framed as struggle over notions of quality and craftsmanship
  • ‘the subsequent revelation of the lenses used by Aldo so shocked the entire film community that it became a matter of public debate’ (23/2/52).
value of the star
Value of the Star
  • DOS: ‘the distortion of Jennifer’s face and figure into a monstrosity because of the almost irrational insistence upon giving superior consideration to the photography of buildings literally two city blocks away’
  • Different visual schemes – lighting, framing, lenses
conclusion questions of definition
Conclusion: Questions of Definition
  • Hallam and Marshment (2000): neorealism as ‘vacant signifier’
  • Bracket it with film noir as a ‘flexible container’
  • Noir: ‘conceptual black hole’
  • Neale (2000): ‘noir never existed’
  • Bazin (1955): ‘le néoréalisme n’existe pas en soi’
film history nation
Film, History, Nation
  • Duncan (2008): ‘Histories of Italian cinema tell a national story […] The point and project of such histories, it must be remembered, is not to furnish a descriptive account of what happened. Rather, their purpose is to stake a claim that would align time and space in a gesture that is recuperative and utopian. It is a claim that, in the most positive sense, makes the nation up.’