15

European Renaissance: West

THE SECOND ITALIAN
FILM RENAISSANCE

Like the American, French, and British cinemas, Italian cinema experienced a creative decline during the fifties as the neorealist impulse died out and the studios returned to the business of producing mass entertainment. Visconti, Rossellini, and De Sica (see Chapter 11) continued to make serious films, but, as elsewhere, the industry's emphasis was on spectacle and mildly titillating sex. The fifties was largely a period of "rosy realism" in the Italian film—a mode that might best be understood as a merging of telefono bianco and neorealism—and the decade witnessed the appearance of such international sex symbols as Sophia Loren, Gina Lollobrigida, and Marcello Mastroianni. But two figures were working within the domestic cinema at this time who would create the second postwar Italian film renaissance—Federico Fellini (1920-93) and Michelangelo Antonioni (b. 1912).


Federico Fellini

Formerly a newspaper cartoonist, Fellini began his film career as a scriptwriter for Rossellini (Roma, città aperta, 1945; Paisà, 1946; Il miracolo, 1948 *), for Pietro Germi (In nome della legge, 1949; Il cammino della speranza, 1950), and for Alberto Lattuada (Senza pietà, 1948). His early films were very much in the orthodox neorealist tradition. Luci del varietà (Variety Lights, 1950), codirected with Lattuada, provides an ironic portrait of a seedy itinerant vaudeville troupe. Fellini's first solo film, Lo sceicco bianco (The White Sheik, 1952), is a sardonic account of a young bride's infatuation with the hero of a fumetto, or popular photomagazine strip. But I vitelloni (The Loafers / The Young and the Passionate, 1953) was the first film to reveal the director's remarkable feeling for character and atmosphere. This episodic study of aimless young loafers in the seaside resort town of Rimini, where Fellini grew up, contains semi-autobiographical elements, and is one of his finest achievements.

With La strata (The Road, 1954), produced by Dino De Laurentiis

____________________
*
Released in the United States in 1950 as one of three episodes in a film distributed by Joseph Burstyn as Ways of Love (the other episodes were Marcel Pagnol's Jofroi [1933] and Jean Renoir's Une Partie de campagne [1936; 1946]). Fellini also starred in II miracolo as the tramp who is mistaken by a peasant woman for St. Joseph. See Chapter 11 for discussion of the 1952 Supreme Court Miracle decision.

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