Featured Article: Are You Ready For The Digital Switch?
- Sign Up
in 2 minutes!
10 November 2009
News - Business
With the new Italian film Mid-August Lunch coming to DVD next month, MovieMail looks back on the rich history of Italian cinema.
Over the years, the unexpected has become commonplace. Therefore, it's no surprise to see Gianni di Gregorio, the screenwriter of the uncompromising crime saga Gomorrah, making his directorial debut with Mid-August Lunch, a charming comedy of bourgeois manners, whose unforced naturalism, social insight and deceptive wit hark back to a golden age that is recalled here by MovieMail - the best place to buy classic movies and world cinema on DVD.
After two decades of propaganda and pictorialism, Italian film went back to basics after the Second World War. The theorist Umberto Barbaro borrowed the term `neo-realism' from philosophy to categorise the kind of cinema proposed by screenwriter Cesare Zavattini, who wanted to ditch the star system, studio artifice and plot contrivance associated with the escapist rhetorical spectacles of the Fascist era and focus on the poverty and pessimism of ordinary people.
Luchino Visconti's Ossessione (1942) is usually credited with launching the vogue for pictures shot on location in natural light with mostly non-professional casts and film-makers in developing industries around the world (and even in Hollywood), were inspired by such key works as Roberto Rossellini's Rome, Open City (1945), Visconti's La terra trema (1948) and Vittorio De Sica's Shoeshine (1946), Bicycle Thieves (1948) and Umberto D (1952).
However, local audiences were less enthralled and a law was passed (by the same Giulio Andreotti who is so mercilessly lampooned in Paolo Sorrentino's Il Divo) to limit the production of films presenting an unfavourable picture of Italian life. Yet, despite its cinematic and intellectual influence, neo-realism accounted for only a fraction of the pictures made in postwar Italy. Conscious of the need to produce films with a local flavour to counter American competition, the government offered subsidies that were seized upon by unscrupulous purveyors of cheap quickies, which appealed to record audiences, if not always to the Catholics, Communists and critics trying to mould public taste.
Everything changed again in 1960, however, thanks to the domestic and international reception accorded Fellini's La Dolce Vita, Antonioni's L'Avventura and Visconti's Rocco and His Brothers. If the latter harked back to neo-realism, the other two were as modernist as anything emanating from the French New Wave and they similarly unleashed a torrent of new talent.
Fellini was innovative, and markedly more flamboyant than Antonioni, with 8½ (1963), Fellini Satyricon (1969) and Amarcord (1973) resembling carnivals of memory and fantasy. Pier Paolo Pasolini eventually adopted an equally flagrant approach in the likes of Theorem (1968) and Salò (1975). But early features like The Gospel According to Matthew (1964) demonstrated that poverty remained throughout Italy, despite the so-called `economic miracle'.
Populist genres flourished alongside art cinema, with `sword and sandal' adventures like Umberto Lenzi's Sandokan the Great (1963), giallo chillers like Mario Bava's Black Sabbath (1963) and crime dramas like Francesco Rosi's Lucky Luciano (1974) becoming cult favourites alongside Sergio Leone's `spaghetti' Westerns, from A Fistful of Dollars (1964) to Once Upon a Time in the West (1968).
The latter boasted among its scriptwriters future horror maestro Dario Argento and Bernardo Bertolucci, who had already made his name as a director with La Commare Seca (1962). With such acclaimed pictures to his credit as Last Tango in Paris (1972), 1900 (1976) and The Last Emperor (1997), he would become the last of the classic era greats.
More Business News
With Ken Loach's inspirational new film Looking for Eric coming to DVD & Blu-ray this month, MovieMail celebrates the good health of British...
ADVERTORIAL FEATURE: Net Some European Games With Football Blogs
10 days until movie release
4The Bling Ring
5Behind The Candelabra
6The Big Wedding
7Man of Steel
8The World's End