Italian neorealism between hollywood and nation
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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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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)

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Legacies neorealism]:

  • Moral and ideological stance

  • ‘Cinema of the Liberation’ (Bazin, 1948)

  • Constant reference point

  • Gomorrah (Garrone, 2008): ‘neo-neo-realism’


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Critical topoi: neorealism]:

  • Rhetoric of crisis: fall, belatedness, loss

  • New beginning – Edenic

  • Stasis of discourse: 2007 debate on ‘The Crisis of a Cinema Without Language’


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Critical topos 2: neorealism]:

  • Great auteurs as masters

  • Fellini’s description of Rossellini:

  • ‘Adam, a kind of progenitor from whom we are all descended’

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Critical topos 3: neorealism]:

  • Neorealism as national cinema and collective sounding board

  • Importance of ‘national reference’ – Millicent Marcus

  • ‘mirror of national life’ – Gian Piero Brunetta

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  • Transnational turn in film studies ignored neorealism]:

  • 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)

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Series of Exclusions neorealism]:

  • ‘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

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L’Unita’ neorealism]:

  • 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

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Hollywood neorealism]:

  • Cesare Zavattini: neorealism opposed to Hollywood practice

  • American realism, eg Vidor’s The Crowd, or Ford’s The Grapes of Wrath, were acceptable models

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

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Transnational address? the US

  • 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)

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Co-productions and Collaborations the US

  • 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

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Stazione Termini the US (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

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  • US trailer: the US

  • Clash of cinematographic practices

  • Long shots of material environment vs soft-focus star close-ups

  • Neorealism vs codes of ‘woman’s film’

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Creative Struggle the US

  • 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

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Selznick vs De Sica the US

  • 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).

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Value of the Star the US

  • 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

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Conclusion: Questions of Definition the US

  • 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’

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Film, History, Nation the US

  • 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.’