Vital Crises in Italian Cinema: Iconography, Stylistics, Politics

Vital Crises in Italian Cinema: Iconography, Stylistics, Politics

Vital Crises in Italian Cinema: Iconography, Stylistics, Politics

Vital Crises in Italian Cinema: Iconography, Stylistics, Politics

Synopsis

Italian films of the post-World War II period showed an extraordinary power and originality that sets them apart from others in the history of Italian cinema. In this book, P. Adams Sitney combines new interpretations of many of these films with original research into the intellectual milieu in which they were made in order to explain them as reflections of Italian national life during moments of vital self-definition. The films Sitney analyzes were made during the years 1945-1950 and 1958-1963. Taking six films from the first period and nine from the second, he focuses on three interrelated aspects: the ways in which they refer, directly or obliquely, to the social and political issues of their times; their relationships to contemporary currents in Italian literature; and their elaborations of a traditional iconography to which they actively contribute. Rossellini, Visconti, De Sica, Zavattini, Antonioni, Pasolini, Olmi, and Rosi are among the directors whose work he discusses. The films include Paisa, La terra trema, La dolce vita, and Il deserto rosso.

Excerpt

This book is quite different in subject and origins from my other writings on film history, for it is neither polemical nor centered on my lifelong association with the American avant-garde cinema and its artists. It is the product of a passion and of the scholarship animated by that passion.

The three crucial films I discuss in the chapter called "Annus Mirabilis" had been fundamental in my formation as a teenage cinéphile. So that when I first traveled to Italy, in 1963 as the director of an exposition of American avant-garde films, it was with great anticipation and inevitable disappointment that I glimpsed aspects of that great moment--or "vital crisis," to adapt Pasolini's phrase--as it was waning. Yet it was only as the director of a second such exposition, while visiting Italy several times in 1967 and 1968, that I began to learn the language (which I never mastered) and study the history of that fecund period, realizing that it could not be understood without reference to the florescence of Italian cinema in the years immediately following the Second World War.

My fascination with those phases of Italian film history would not have resulted in a book had I not moved from my positions as Librarian of Anthology Film Archives and Assistant Professor of Cinema Studies at New York University, where I taught mainly avant-garde film or film theory, to Princeton University in 1980, where I had responsibility for the full range of film history. Of the many seminars and courses I presented in . . .

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