The Italian films and its journey started from the late 1890s, much later from the invention of moving pictures which took places in 1880s. First known Italian film was produced in 1896 which recorded the Florence visit of Italian King And Queen. However, the commercial Italian film industry started in 1905 with movies like 20 Settembre 1870 (The Capture of Rome, September 20, 1870), historical film by Florentine Filoteo Alberini, La Presa di Roma. Soon various companies were seen sprang up Milan, Turin and Naples and a standard market in the national and international arena was developed. Italy had its position in the movie production and screenwriting prior to the First World War. The movies were first seen to be documentary, mythological or historical in nature however, a transition was seen by 1910 when Italian makers moved towards comedies and art films. The Italian film studios are considered to be serious historical filmmakers and are pioneer in this field (Marcus 1986, Burgoyne 1991, Dalle Vacche 1992). The representation of the pioneer history of Italian cinema as explained by Gian Piero Brunetta has been found to passim (Brunetta 1979, 1981 and 1982).
This paper discusses the development and evolvement of the Italian Cinema and how it has emerged to be one of the impactful film industry in the world. The paper focuses on the involvement of important films and directors of the industry in the period between 1915 to 2015. The paper depicts how the Italian cinema has transformed over these decades representing the various phases along with raising some intense questions on the social, cultural, and political and religion based issues in the country.
A series of propaganda films were seen to be produced in the World War II era. These were followed by newly inspired film genre known as Neorealism exploring the demoralizing economic conditions of the county. The period between 1945 and 1948 saw the works of De Santis, De Sica, Rossellini and Visconti saw unleashing of energy which was intense enough to change the cultural systems, coordinates, poetics and paradigms of the international cinema. Roma citta` aperta (Rome, Open City) and Paisa` (Paisan) were not just films but considered as events for only absorbing the essence of traditional cinema but also for creating a new benchmark for international and Italian cinema (Nowell-Smith, Geoffrey, 1999). The masterpieces produced by these filmmakers are considered indisputably to be the major works of art capturing the spirit of post-war culture of Italy along with remaining as the original contributions to the film language (Hope, William (ed.), 2010).
The historical films of Italy are seen to possess an unfettered affiliation with history which are sometimes seen to be overlapped with biblical-mythological tests and popular historical novel irrespective of the fact that the hermeneutical difference between myth and history is almost insurmountable and impossible (Muscio 2013, 161).
During this specific period most enduring films of the country were seen to be produced during this period which included Ossessione (1943) by Luchino Visconti, Open City (1945), Rome by Roberto Rossellini, Paisà (1946), Vittorio De Sica's Shoeshine (1946), Miracle in Milan (1951) and Germany Year Zero (1948). The rise of most celebrated directors was seen in the post-World War II era like Rosellini, Visconti and De Sica, Michelangelo Antonioni, Sergio Leone, Franco Zeffirelli, Paolo and Vittorio Taviani, everyone contributed to the Italian Cinema.
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The era between 1950s and 1960s was termed as Hollywood on the Tiber when Rome, the Italian capital was considered as the major location and attracted a plethora of foreign productions. These movies were produced in English and received a global release. Some of the examples of these movies are Roman Holiday, War and Peace, Quo Vadis, Trapeze etc.
In 1950s the movie theatres took the role of crossroads in the metamorphosis of the way Italian people pursued the world. With the decline of neorealism, the film industry was seen to welcome new international co-productions along with successful expansion. This period saw the launching of highly ambitious project aimed toward circulating the commercial and artistic products beyond their map and in other continents. The lessons from neorealism were applied in a melodramatic and funnier manner which showcased the significant elements of the social history of the country and transformed the popular iconography and collective life present in Italy. With the gaining of the economic stability and moving towards greater prosperity, Italy started ignoring the focus of Neorealism on suffering and poverty. Some use nonprofessional actors and locations were used by Rosy Neorealism which occasionally took up some social issues and absorbed itself with the Neorealism amalgamated with the robust tradition of the comedy in Italy.
By the arrival of 1960s, a genre which addressed all the social issues through humor was established in Italy known as the Commedia all'Italiana, which had all its roots in Commedia dell' Arte. Mario Monicelli is considered as the one of the greatest director of this genre who produced over 60 comedies on various social issues along with writing around 80 screenplays. Commedia dell' Arte provided one of the strongest characteristics for constructing the typology and morphology of the Italian cinema which moved apart from the farm life of the people to modernity and industrial life. This was done by multiplying the network of masks hyperbolically in the commedia dell’arte.
In the era between 1960s and 70s the Italian filmmakers like Riccardo Freda, Mario Bava, Dario Argento and Antonio Margheriti developed giallo horro films which gradually became a classic and was one of the major factor of influencing the genre in other nations. The most famous horro films of this era were Castle of Blood, Black Sunday, The Bird with the Crystal plumage, Twitch of the Death Nerve, Suspriria and Deep Red. In 1964-1967, with the great success of James Bond series in the other countries, a large number of spoofs and imitations were made by the Italian film industry in the Eurospy genre. With the boom of shockumentary known as Monso films like Mondo Cane by Gualtiero Jacopetti during the late 1970s, the Italian cinema was seen to have an image synonymous to the violent horror movies. This genre saw emergence of the directors like Joe D'Amato, Lucio Fulci, Ruggero Deodato and Umberto Lenzi. During this period the Italian films were seen to group together as exploitation films and even faced legal challenges.
In the 1970s to 1980s period a plethora of cultural models, patterns and contradictory structures were formed for finding their points of perfect balance, congruence, confluence and highest success. This era is highly known for the opera mondo created by Fellini and Antonioni. The renewal and continuity was seen to increase the creative potential of the Italian cinema in this period and all the factors pushing the cinema to strive further were seen to increase the potential of the Italian film industry. In the mid-1980s the industry was in crisis as the art films became isolated due to separation from mainstream cinema. During this time, trash films were highly popular in the country which were comedic in nature with little artistic value and confronted the social taboos of Italy especially in the sexual sphere. Paolo Villaggio invented a comic personage Fantozzi and tended to bridge the trash comedy along with elevating the social satire. The character of Fantozzi had a great impact on the Italian society and this era saw the entering of adjective fantozziano into the lexicon. The most noticeable work with this character is the Fantozzi and Il secondo tragico Fantozz.
Since the end of 1980s, a new generation of directors were seen to return to the healthy level. This era saw the production of Nuovo Cinema Paradiso, the most noted film of the period which won the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar Award in 1989. The same prize was given to another Italian film of 1991, Mediterraneo by Gabriele Salvatores. In 1988, Robert Benigni’s Life is Beautiful (La vita è bella) won three Oscars in the category of Best Actor, Best Foreign Film, Best Music.
While continuing the consideration of the structural elements it can be recognized that the Italian cinema is beyond undeniable visual greatness and is typically an iconosphere fed by the Italian paintings and their tradition. Italian cinema is following perfect steps with twentieth-century artistic experimentation. From the history of Italian cinema its heavy inference being drawn from literature can be seen. The language of the movies and theaters helped to unfold the story determining the syntax, prosody, rhythm and scansion of the narrative presented in the Italian silent film.
In the recent years, the balance forces have been changes awakening the film history. A reawakening of era where the Italian film history was seen as privileged depository of memories containing the plethora of tools which ranged from socio-linguistics to social history, economic history to intellectual and creative history. The Italian film industry utilized the traditional sources and amalgamates them with others so as to assemble everything in a new manner on the basis of creativity of the filmmaker.
The Italian films were seen to present a considerably high proportion of films based on political issues like fascism, the Risorgimento, mass political movements of the sixties and seventies, mafia, government corruption and other scandals like presentation of tangentopoli in Il Divo. Additionally, the Italian cinema has become an integral part in the national political life as it has ascribed to the national institutions of the country. While various critics have tend to distinguish and condemn and further to create the hierarchical values with maintaining the ephemeral longevity, the cinema does not fail to achieve a framework and provides integrated vision of various elements.
On comparing, Italian films with the other industry it has been identified that the Italian film history is highly unified in spite of multisided structure, discontinuities, irregular development and complexity. The processes of expression and invention has been determined and guided by linking them uniformly with the same mode, matrices, myths, forms and souls. On considering the last five decades of the Italian cinema, the perception grows even further. The continuity is seen to prevail over the discontinuity in the beginning and then eras of Italian cinema with more or less crisis expect the neorealism, the referential models and paradigms cannot be erased. Until 1970s, the underlying texture wasn’t seen to be disintegrated but the interaction was seen between commercial and independent production at an extraordinary level. The cinema was further seen to represent a strong sense of intolerance and independence towards all sorts of external meddling. The Italian film industry has always claimed high culture, literary and artistic genius along with establishing the theatrical, literacy and pictorial traditions.
2. Federico Fellini was an Italian director known famously for his blending of fantasy and baroque images. His movie 8½ has been listed as the 10th greatest film of all time.
3. Luchino Visconti di Modrone is one of the most famous Italian screenwriter, opera, theatre and cinema director. He is best known for his work on Death in Venice (1971) and The Leopard (1963).
4. Life is Beautiful: It is a 1997 Italian movie based in 1930s era where Guido, a carefree Jewish book keeper marries a lovely woman living in a nearby city. Both have a son and live happily until the emergence of Italian forces. In order to save his son from the horrors and pain given by the Jewish Concentration Camp, Guido starts imagining Holocaust as a game where the real prize is to win the tank. The movie won three Oscar awards in the category of Best movie, Best actor and Original Music Score.
5. Paisan is a movies based on the neorealist war drama and is second from its triology. The whole movie was divided into six episodes and was set during the World War II in the Italian campaign and Nazi Germany was about to lose the war against the Allies. The movie primarily deals with the barriers in language. The movie was nominated for BAFTA and Academy Award for Best Writing.
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