Italian 356/466 CMS 301
Italian Cinema – Cinema as entertainment or cinema as art? (Genre vs authorship)
Objective of the course – This course aims at providing students with an overview of Italian Cinema from the end of WWII to the present days. At the core of the early development of post WWII Italian Cinema are the innovations (narrative and cinematic) brought by what is commonly known as Neorealism. Directors like Vittorio De Sica, Roberto Rossellini and Giuseppe De Santis developed a particular style based on slow editing, rejection of fancy camera movements and above all the idea that cinema should reproduce life with limited interference by the director. This meant abandoning the typical cause-effect development of the film in favour of a looser narration. During the 1950’s many director that grew up in this cultural environment started to develop the notion, very common in most of European countries, that cinema is an art form and that being a film director is equal to be a painter or a writer. Directors like De Sica, Fellini, Antonioni, Visconti, became famous for their peculiar style and for their total control of every detail of film production (shooting, editing, casting, etc.). French critics labeled these directors “auteurs”. To most of them, cinema was not very different from any other art forms such as painting, poetry, or music. In the late 1940’s and 1950’s their movies were as popular as American movies. The notion of commercial success was very foreign to many of these directors. From this period became very clear the juxtaposition between the more entertaining style of mainstream Hollywood movies against the more cerebral and engaged dramas that developed especially in Italy and France. The presence of the auteurs reached its peak in the early 1970’s with directors like Bertolucci, Pasolini and Bellocchio. With the advent of commercial television first (from the mid 1970’s on), and other form of media later, Italian Cinema entered a critical phase in which the commercial success at the box office became a priority. More and more younger film-makers turned to genre movies, often imitating some of the famous genres developed by Hollywood cinema (horror, mystery, etc.) while the concept of auteurs slowly faded away. Where is Italian Cinema now? Does the concept of “auteurs” still exist? Has the audience completely abandoned traditional Italian Cinema in favor of more entertaining American blockbusters? We will address all of these questions and by the end of this course students will have a strong historical background of Italian Cinema from the post WWII production to the present days and understand what made Italian cinema so famous in the past and in which direction is Italian cinema going now.
Method: During the first part of the course we will discuss the notion of auteurship and the major technical and narrative characteristics associated with this label through the close analysis of the film of Neorealism (1945-1954). Each movie will be presented for its historical relevance along with the cinematic qualities (editing, camera angles, etc.) that characterized it. We will progress from the mature works by De Sica to the young Fellini to the most glorious period of the auteurs with films like Antonioni’s The passenger. Then we move to the present days and discuss how the concept of auteur has a changed in a period when TV has become a major competitor for cinema and when the director lost control over production of the movies. We will analyze different works from the contemporary production and we will verify how Hollywood’s idea of genre has influenced the films of young directors. At the same time we will discuss whether the notion of auteur is completely dead or not.
SIFF Film Festival: Between November 9 and November 16, SIFF is organizing an Italian Film Festival. They will present movies made in Italy in the last twelve in the months. Students will be asked to screen three movies at the Film Festival (most of them will be shown during the week-end.
Textbooks: A course reader will be available at Ram’s Copy center. Other articles will be provided in the form of handouts.
Requirements: Midterm, Final Exam, two responses from articles on the film we watched and two very short pop quizzes in the form of frames of movies to be recognized.
Grade Breakdown: Class Preparation and participation 20%
Response to article(s) 15%
Pop quiz 15%
Mid term 25%
Final Exam 25%