This course aims to provide a comprehensive but selective overview and analysis of the landmarks of Italian cinema from its beginnings in the Silent era to current production more than 100 years later. The course examines the ways in which Italian cinema reflects the evolution of modern Italy in terms of the changing social, political, economic and cultural developments which characterize 20th century Italian life. It also explores the global significance in Film Studies and in visual culture in general of the uniquely Italian phenomenon of Neo-Realism and the impact this ‘movement’ had and has not only on international cinema but also, and most importantly, for better or worse, on Italian national cinema.
Beginning with the hugely influential early masterpiece CABIRIA (1914), the course investigates the way that the Fascist era plundered the Classical past and especially the iconography of early silent cinema. The origins of Neo-realism and its flowering in the anti-Fascist period during and immediately after the Second World War are explored. The ways in which cinema sought to break away from the Neo-realist ethos and then started taking account of the changing realities brought about by the economic miracle of the late 1950s and early 1960s is explored in ‘Magic neo-realism’ and Commedia all’italiana. The transition to Modernism is traced in the ‘Art Cinema’ work of Antonioni, Fellini, and Visconti. The rediscovery and re-evaluation of the Fascist past by filmmakers in the 1970s and 1980s, and the progress into the realm of the Post-modern in the 1990s and early 21st century is examined as a continuity but also a transition that embraces the whole of modern Italian history. Finally, a possible return to Neo-realism is explored in the ‘new cinema’ that chronicles the old Italian reality of organized crime in the first decade of the century.