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February 18, 2008

Rome: Open City. 1945. Dir Roberto Rossellini

Rome: Open City. 1945. Dir Roberto Rossellini

Under Construction

Roma città aperta (Open City) is widely regarded as the most important film in Italian cinema history...At the time it was first shown, the film must have seemed utterly different from anything that had gone before. when it is looked at more closely, however, what is most striking is its overwhelming similarity to previous cinema. (Brunette, Peter; 1996 p 41) 

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As a visual depiction of the divided city, the film has at once the value of a testimony and the status of a rhetorical construction. It is a testimony because, for all its artifice - actors, scripted performances, built sets - it records on celluloid how parts of Rome looked at the end of the Second World War. Including sites of memorable events. (Forgacs in Gottlieb 2004 p 107)

The one opposition on which Rome Open City does not insist, however is that between realism and melodrama....Instead of trying to rescue the authentic visual feel of the film from its story, realism from melodrama , it is better to see how the latter enabled the former....Rome Open City's counter-Hollywood offered up the lived experience of the wartime Resistance and the Popular Front . (Rogin, M.P. in Gottlieb 2004 pp132-133)

Open City is a labyrinth of clichés. Foremost amongst these clichés is the presentation of a narrative "plot" that dramatises the struggle against the  conspiratorial powers of Nazism and Fascism... In its investigation of the criminal acts of the Nazis and the Facsists, draws on melodramatic clichés in relation to its construction of character and plot, uses of misé en scene, and dialogue. These clichés involve representations of femininity and masculinity in the context of perverse sexuality, deception and misrepresentation in probing questions of belief, responsibility and judgement. (Landy, Marcia in Gottlieb 2004 p 86) 

I sought only to picture the essence of things. I had absolutely no interest in telling a romanticized tale along the usual lives of film drama. The actual facts were each more dramatic than any screen cliche.”—Roberto Rossellini, 1960 - cited e-Jump-Cut

It is a fascinating paradox that Roma città aperta continued many of the stylistic characteristics of cinema produced during the Fascist era, but it embodied, at the same time , a clear antifascist ideology that attempted to reconcile all of the different and conflicting political positions of the various groups making up the Italian antifascist resistance. (Bondanella in Gottlieb 2004, p 43)


Currently this is a straight forward webliography and bibliography for the film. The Google entries have been researched down to page 26 looking for decent quality articles that aren't simply repetitive. A fuller analysis of the film will appear in due course however this page should still be of use to interested visitors.

Another YouTube Extract. Here the fascists are about to conduct a raid. (Italian Only)


Gottlieb, Sidney. Ed. PDF Intro to Rossellini's Rome Open City. Cambridge: CUP

Scope Book Review on  Forgacs: Rome Open City. London: BFI

Rai TV on Roma Citta Aperta

Wikipedia on Roma Citta Aperta

The Films of Roberto Rossellini by Peter Bondanella. Author(s) of Review: Barbara Odabashian (JSTOR article)

Celluloide Dir: Carlo Lizzani, 1996 A Review by Luca Prono, University of Nottingham, UK Scope

Representations of Modern Italy. University of Warwick includes Roma Citta Aperta and work on neorealism

The Homosexualisation of Nazism  

Film Philosophy Rebuilding the Cinematic City Review PDF 

Film Philosophy Tocce on Bondanella's Films of Rossellini 

History Channel Programme for March 2008


Brunette, Peter. 1996 2nd Ed. Roberto Rossellini. Berkeley: California University Press(Originally Oxford: Oxford University Press)

Bondanella, Peter. 2002 3rd Ed. Italian Cinema: From Neorealism to the Present. New  York / London: Continuum. This is the first book to get on Italian cinema for anybody unfamiliar with the overview. Whilst one may have disagreements with certain aspects of it it is one of  the best introductions to the whole period.  

Bondanella, Peter. 1993. The Films of Roberto Rossellini. Cambridge: CUP. This has a complete chapter on Roma Citta Aperta

Forgacs, David.2000. Roma Citta Aperta. London: British Film Institute Paperback ISBN: 0851708048

Forgacs, David. 2004. Space Rhetoric and the Divided City in Roma città aperta. Gottlieb, Sidney. Ed. 2004. Cambridge . A fascinating essay building on some ideas which had to remain underdveloped in his BFI 2000 monograph. Here Forgacs explores several aspects of the way Rome as a city is represented through visual rhetoric (film language). The essay looks at the way the city is framed, at vertical divisions and horizontal movements and the use of mise en scene as a rhetorical device.

Forgacs, David  Lutton,Sarah and  Nowell-Smith Geoffrey. 2001. Roberto Rossellini: Magician of the Real.London: BFI

Gallagher, Tag. 1998. The Adventures of Roberto Rossellini: His Life and Films. New York: Da Capo Press. A large biographical account of Rossellini and his work.  Much of the account is based upon interviews and is therefore imbricated with memories which are clearly of greater or lesser reliability and at times seems to slip into anecdotalism. The book has a chapter on the making of Rome Open City.

Gottlieb, Sidney. Ed. Rossellini's Rome Open City. Cambridge: CUP. This is an affordable and very useful book of essays by several of the most prominent scholars of Italian cinema and comes highly recommended.

Hipkins Danielle. 'Francesca's Salvation or Damnation? Resisting recognition of the prostitute in Rossellini's Paisà (1946)', Studies in European Cinema, 3.2 (2006), 153-69. Hipkins has been studying the role of the prostitute in Italian films and in Roma citta aperta the role of Marina as temted, temptress and traitor and how she affords to keep herself is of importance.  Rossellini's use of homosexuality as a perversion linked to Nazism is also an interesting area to discuss. 

Marcus, Millicent. 1986. Italian Film in the Light of Neorealism. Princeton: Princeton University Press. As well as being a useful introduction to the ideas underlying neorealism there is a complete chapter on Rome Open City. The book itself is a powerful thesis showing the influence that neorealism has and continues to have within Italian cinema. This book is essential reading for anyone interested in Italian cinema and is probably the best one to get after the Bondanella mention above. Here there is greater depth working through a range of case studies. 

Rossellini, Roberto. The War Trilogy. Open City. Paisan. Germany-Year Zero. Edited and with an Introduction By Stefano Roncoroni. Translated from the Italian By Judith Green. NY: Grossman, 1973.

Shiel,Mark. 2006. Italian Neorealism: Rebuilding the Cinematic City. London: Wallflower Press


February 02, 2008

Roberto Rossellini: 1906–1977

Roberto Rossellini

Rossellini and Ingrid Bergman 1

Roberto Rossellini with Ingrid Bergman

Under Construction

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This article will be giving an overview of the work of Roberto Rossellini from Roma citta aperta until about 1963. This is when what are usually considered to be his most important films were made and include his classic neorealist films as well as his post-neorealist films many made with Ingrid Bergman and considered by many left-wing critics of the time to be a betrayal of neorealism. Given the scandal around the relationship between Rossellini and Bergman at a time when the Italian right-wing had become resurgent around Andreotti and the concommitant influence of the Roman Catholic Church it isn't hard to see why these films bombed at the box office however their influence on future filmmakers such as Truffaut was enormous. The overview will provide an introduction to the individual works which will have separate articles. There will also be an article about the general developments in Italy. Sadly the best part of one which was written has been the victim of hard disc crashes (yes plural). This kind of article is always important as films are usually deep participants in the SPECT (Social / Political / Economic / Cultural / Textual complex.  

Written as far back as 1986 Brunette's preface on Rossellini notes that he is perhaps the greatest unknown director who ver lived. As a central figure within neorealism and then moving on in his films with Ingrid Bergman to work with antinarrative methods and the use of deadtime Rossellini was ahead of his time preceding the work of Antonioni. Whilst he was to have enormous influence on filmmakers such as Godard and Truffaut it seems extraordinary that in a time when so many film directors have most of their work available on DVD very little of Rossellini's work is available. Even his neorealist films aren't all available. As for his later work Voyage to Italy is available from the BFI but other important work such as Stromboli is not. Hopefully by writing about him this will help stimulate demand for these works to become readily available. As can be seen from the bibliography below there is a large amount of critical writing in English readily available on Rossellini but without readily available texts this is not very helpful. By comparison most of Visconti's films are available although he is very underwritten by English speaking critics.

Rossellini and Neorealism

Rossellini made three films which are central to the cinematic tendency called Neorealism. These films are Rome Open City, Paisá, and Germany Year Zero.

Rossellini's main ideological thrust through these films was an emphasis on humanism ideas which ranged from an emphasis on solidarity between seemingly opposed idological positions of communism and catholicism against the common enemy of Nazism to a moral appeal for children in the former Nazi Germany to break with the amoralistic and anti-human ideas encapsualted in Nazism in Germany Year Zero. Paisá focused upon the cultural difficulties between Americans and Italians as the Allies gradually beat back Nazism in Italy.

Rome Open City 1,

Rome Open City 1945

Rome Open City 2

Rome Open City 1945

Rome Open City 3

Rome Open City 1945

Paisa 1

Paisa 1946

Paisa 3

Paisa 1946

Paisa 2

Paisa 1946

Paisa 4

Paisa 1946

Germany Year Zero

Germany Year Zero 1948

Germany Year Zero 1

Germany Year Zero 1948

Germany Year Zero 2

Germany Year Zero 1948

The Rossellini & Ingrid Bergman Collaboration

After the famous neorealist trilogy Rossellini is probably best remembered for the films he made with Ingrid Bergman. The full length feature films were: Stromboli (1949), Europa '51 (1952), Voyage to Italy (1953), Giovanna d'Arco al Rogo (1954), La Paura (Fear) (1954/55).

Bergman was to become Reossellini's wife. The story of how they first met and then started their cinematic collaboration seems extraordinary. According to Brunette (1996) Bergman and her then husband Petter Lindstrom saw Rome Open City in a small art cinema which by then was three years old. Bergman was thoroughly impressed If there there is such a man who can put this on the screen, he must be an absolutely heavenly being (Cited Brunette 1996 p 109). A few months later Bergman saw Paisà in an almost empty cinema for it was not popular in the US. Still excited by the director's work she was convinced that Rossellini's films would do much better if they had a named star in a leading role. This led to her famous letter to Rossellini:

Dear Mr Rossellini,
I saw your films Open City and Paisan and enjoyed them very much. If you need a Swedish actress who speaks English very well, who has not forgotten her German, who is not very understandable in French, and who in Italian only knows "ti amo" I am ready to come and make a film with you. (Cited Brunette 1996 p 109)

Rossellini's response was very enthusiastic and he outlined his ideas for the film which was to become Stromboli. Eventually he visited the Lindstrom home in California and fell in love with Bergman. Howard Hughes who was enthusiastic about Bergman ventually agreed to finance the film. Bergman duly went to Italy to shoot the film.

Bergman on Stromboli

Ingrid Bergman photographed on the island of Stromboli

Rossellini's filmmaking methods were somthing of a surprise to Bergman who was used to working to thoroughly prepared scripts and only working with professional actors. By comparison Rossellini was using many non-professional actors and his scripts wre loose and there was much expectation of improvisation. During the filming Bergman and Rossellini fell in love and Bergman wrote to her husband that she was going to stay with Rossellini. This caused a huge scandal in the USA.

Bergman on the island of Stromboli

Ingrid Bergman in Stromboli

The film was made in two versions one in English and one in Italian. Rossellini disowned the American version which was 20 minutes shorter and had been edited by the  RKO  studio totally undermining  Rossellini's intentions.

Whilst the Bergman films wre critically badly received by many critics at the time with the excption of the writers of Cahiers du Cinema critics such as Pter Bruntte and Laura Mulvey consider them to be the strongest and most innovative work of Rossellini.


  • Beaubourg, centre d'art et de culture Georges Pompidou (1977)
  • Il messia (1976)
  • Anno uno (1974)
  • The World Population (1974)
  • Concerto per Michelangelo (1974)
  • Agostino d'Ippona (1972)
  • Intervista a Salvador Allende: La forza e la ragione (1971)
  • Rice University (1971)
  • Da Gerusalemme a Damasco (1970)
  • Les Carabiniers (1963)
  • Ro.Go.Pa.G. (segment: "Illibatezza") (1963)
  • Benito Mussolini (1962)
  • Anima nera (1962)
  • Uno sguardo dal ponte (1961)
  • Vanina Vanini (1961)
  • Viva l'Italia! (1961)
  • Era Notte a Roma (1960)
  • Il generale Della Rovere (1959)
  • India: Matri Bhumi (1959)
  • Giovanna d'Arco al rogo (1954)
  • La Paura (1954)
  • Viaggio in Italia (1954)
  • Dov'è la libertà...? (1954)
  • Amori di mezzo secolo (segment: "Napoli 1943") (1954)
  • Siamo donne (segment: "Ingrid Bergman") (1953)
  • Europa '51 (1952)
  • La macchina ammazzacattivi (1952)
  • Les Sept péchés capitaux (segment: "Envie, L'Envy") (1952)
  • Medico condotto (1952)
  • Francesco, giullare di Dio (1950)
  • Stromboli terra di Dio (1950)
  • L'Invasore (1949)
  • Germania anno zero (1948)
  • L'Amore (segments: "Il Miracolo" and "Una voce umana") (1948)
  • Paisà (1946)
  • Desiderio (1946)
  • Roma città aperta (1945)
  • L'Uomo dalla Croce (1943)
  • La nave bianca (1942)
  • Un Pilota ritorna (1942)
  • Il Ruscello di Ripasottile
  • Fantasia sottomarina (1940)
  • La Vispa Teresa (1939)
  • Il Tacchino prepotente (1939)
  • Luciano Serra pilota (1938)
  • La Fossa degli angeli
  • Prélude à l'aprés-midi d'un faune (1937)
  • Dafne (1936)


Intute Arts and Humanities records on Rossellini

BBC 4 Profile of Rossellini 

Senses of Cinema on Rossellini  

Senses of Cinema Rossellini's Germany Year Zero

Roberto Rossellini and his Italian Cinema: The Search for Realism

Malcolm: The rise to Power of Lousi the XVI

Rossellini at UCLA

Rai TV on Rossellini  

Dr. Adrian Martin Review of Tag Gallagher's Biography of Rossellini 

Jump Cut. Re-evaluating Rossellini by Martin Walsh  


Ben-Ghiat, Ruth. ‘The Facist War Trilogy’. Forgacs, David , Lutton, Sarah and Nowell-Smith Geoffrey.Eds. Roberto Rossellini: Magician of the Real . London: BFI

Bernadi, Sandro. 2000. ‘Rosselini’s Landscapes: Nature, Myth,History’. Forgacs, David , Lutton, Sarah and Nowell-Smith Geoffrey.Eds. Roberto Rossellini: Magician of the Real . London: BFI

Bondanella, Peter. 1993. The Films of Roberto Rossellini. Cambridge: CUP

Brunette, Peter. 1996. Roberto Rossellini. University of California Press: Berkley. (First publishd by OUP 1987)

Forgacs, David. 2000. ‘Introduction: Rossellini and the Critics’. Forgacs, David , Lutton, Sarah and Nowell-Smith Geoffrey.Eds. Roberto Rossellini: Magician of the Real . London: BFI

Forgacs, David , Lutton, Sarah and Nowell-Smith Geoffrey.Eds. 2000. Roberto Rossellini: Magician of the Real. London: BFI

Gallhaer, Tag. 1998. The Adventures of Roberto Rossellini. New York: Da Capo Press

Gottlieb, Sidney. Ed. Rossellini's Rome Open City. Cambridge: CUP

Gottlieb, Sidney. Ed. PDF Intro to Rossellini's Rome Open City. Cambridge: CUP

Hipkins Danielle. 'Francesca's Salvation or Damnation? Resisting recognition of the prostitute in Rossellini's Paisà (1946)', Studies in European Cinema, 3.2 (2006), 153-69.

Marcus, Millicent. 1986. Italian Film in the Light of Neorealism. Princeton: Princeton University Press

Muscio, Giuliana. ‘Paisa / Paisan’. Bertellini, Giorgio Ed. 2004. The Cinema of Italy. London: Wallflower Press

Nowell-Smith, Geoffrey. 2000. ‘North and South, East and West’: Rossellini and Politics. Forgacs, David , Lutton, Sarah and Nowell-Smith Geoffrey.Eds. Roberto Rossellini: Magician of the Real . London: BFI

Restivo, A. 2002. The Cinema of Economic Miracles: Visuality and Modernisation in the Italian Art Film. Durham and London: Duke University Press

Rohdie, Sam. 2000. ‘India’ Forgacs, David , Lutton, Sarah and Nowell-Smith Geoffrey.Eds. Roberto Rossellini: Magician of the Real. London: BFI

Rossellini, Roberto. The War Trilogy. Open City. Paisan. Germany-Year Zero. Edited and with an Introduction By Stefano Roncoroni. Translated from the Italian By Judith Green. NY: Grossman, 1973.

Shiel, Mark. 2006. Italian Neo Realism: Rebuilding the Cinematic City. London: Wallflower Press

Wagstaff, Christopher. 2000. ‘Rossellini and Neo-Realism’. Forgacs, David , Lutton, Sarah and Nowell-Smith Geoffrey.Eds. Roberto Rossellini: Magician of the Real . London: BFI

Dino Risi: 1916–2008

Dino Risi: (December 23 1916; died June 7 2008)

Dino Risi 3

Dino Risi


Dino Risi had a long and illustrious career in Italian cinema. Risi was one of the foremost proponents of the genre which came to be known as 'Comedy - Italian Style'. risi worked with many leading Italian movers and shakers in the film industry including: producers such as Carlo Ponti; scriptwriters such as Zavattini, and Ettore Scola; actors such as Sophia Loren, Vittorio de Sica, Marcello Mastroianni,Monica Vitti and Jean-Louis Trintignant.

Working with luminaries such as Alberto Lattuada initially, it was 1956 when Risi made his first film entirely under his own steam. Poor but Beautiful (1956) marked the shift in Italian cinema from neo-realism to comedy. Despite his prolific output there is little written on him according to the bibliographical section of Bondanella's history of Italian Cinema. This may be because so much work has been focused upon neorealism, however as Hipkins notes in her introduction to a course on Comedy - Italian Style:

Picking up on elements of the post-war movement's social critique and combining them with comic techniques, a series of directors managed to satirize the Italy of the economic miracle in a genuinely popular form of cinema. Despite its success, both artistically and at the box office, Comedy - Italian Style is little known abroad and all too rarely studied.

Luigi Comencini was the other main director of these type of films at the time, and they have continued to be made up until the present notes Bondanella (p 89). The genre was highly dependent upon an effective start system and Risi worked with many of these actors who were good at comedy although some may be surprised to see names such as Monica Vitti in these ranks.

Il Sorpasso (The Easy Life,1962) was very popular. It has a picaresque narrative structure using adventures on a drive from Rome to Viareggio to elpore the changing nature of Italian values during the years of the great 'economic miracle'. Vittorio Gassman is obsessed with his car and is a symbol of the over-inflated economy whiclst Jean-Louis Trintignant is a more introverted and intellectual type of personality. The crash which kills the Trintignant character symbolises the dangers just under the surface of the exuberant economy.

The following year Risi produced another popular comedy I Mostri ( The Monsters, 1963), composed of 20 sketches Risi parodies a range of Italian sterotypes who symbolise the type of people who are running Italain society for their own gratification. (One might ask what has changed with Berlusconi's return to power in 2008)

In 1977 I nuovi mostri (The New Monsters) is another episodic work by Risi, Monicelli and Scola in a similar but more bitter vein than the earlier one as Italy has become increasingly violent. A man in the street sees a stabbing but ignores it becuase he is concerned with the quality of cheese on his Pizza for example. Often comedy can provide a powerful politicsal commentary upon society and Risi made films in this tradition. Hopefully more of them will become available now in the UK.

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Filmography (for full Credits go to the RAI site)

Vacation With a Gangster (Vacanze col gangster) (Italy, 1951)
Director: Dino Risi, script: Dino Risi

Viale della speranza (Italy, 1952)
Director: Dino Risi, script: Dino Risi

Paradiso per quattro ore – Segment of "Amore in città" (Paradiso per quattro ore – Episodio di "Amore in città") (Italy, 1953)
Director: Dino Risi, script: Cesare Zavattini

Il segno di Venere (Italy, 1954)
Director: Dino Risi, script: Dino Risi, Ennio Flajano, Valeri, Cesare Zavattini, featuring: Vittorio De Sica, Sophia Loren, Alberto Sordi, Peppino De Filippo

The Sign of Venus (Pane, amore e…) (Italy, 1955) Director: Dino Risi, script: Dino Risi

Poor but Beautiful (Poveri ma belli) (Italy, 1956)
Director: Dino Risi, script: Dino Risi

Poor Girl, Pretty Girl (Belle ma povere) (Italy, 1957)
Director: Dino Risi, script: Dino Risi, Pasquale Festa Campanile, Massimo Franciosa

Oh! Sabella (La nonna Sabella) (Italy, 1957)
Director: Dino Risi, script: Dino Risi, Pasquale Festa Campanile, Massimo Franciosa, Ettore Giannini

Poor Millionaires (Poveri Milionari) (Italy, 1958)
Director: Dino Risi, script: Dino Risi, Pasquale Festa Campanile, Massimo Franciosa

Venice, the Moon and you (Venezia, la luna e tu) (Italy, 1958)
Director: Dino Risi, script: Dino Risi, Pasquale Festa Campanile, Massimo Franciosa
Director: Dino Risi, script: Etttore Scola, Alessandro Continenza, Ruggero Maccari

Il vedovo (Italy, 1959)
Director: Dino Risi, script: Dino Risi, Fabio Carpi, Rodolfo Sonego

Love in Rome (n amore a Roma) (Italy, 1960)
Director : Dino Risi, script: Ennio Flajano, Ercole Patti 

Behind closed Doors (A porte chiuse) (Italy, 1961)
Director: Dino Risi, script: Marcello Coscia, Dino De Palma, Sandro Continenza

A difficult life (Una vita difficile) (Italy, 1961)
Director: Dino Risi, script: Rodolfo Sonego, featuring: Franco Fabrizi, Claudio Gora, Alberto Sordi, Lea Massari

March on Rome (La marcia su Roma) (Italy, 1962)
Director: Dino Risi, script: Age, Furio Scarpelli, Ruggero Maccari, Ettore Scola, featuring: Vittorio Gassman, Ugo Tognazzi, Giampiero Albertini, Nando Angelini

The Easy Life (Il sorpasso) (Italy, 1962)
Director: Dino Risi, script: Dino Risi, Ettore Scola, Ruggero Maccari, featuring: Vittorio Gassman, Catherine Spaak, Jean Louis Trintignant, Nando Angelini

The Thursday (Il giovedì) (Italy, 1963)
Director: Dino Risi, script: Dino Risi, Castellano, Pipolo

15 from Rome (I mostri) (Italy, 1963)
Director: Dino Risi, script: Age, Furio Scarpelli, Ruggero Maccari, Ettore Scola

The Success (Il successo) (Italy, 1963)
Director: Dino Risi, Mauro Morassi, script: Ruggero Maccari, Ettore Scola

La telefonata – Segment of  "Four Kind of Love" ( La telefonata – Episodio de "Le bambole")
(France/Italy, 1964)
Director: Dino Risi, script: Rodolfo Sonego

The Gaucho (Il Gaucho) (Italy, 1964)
Director: Dino Risi, script: Dino Risi, Tullio Pinelli, Ruggero Maccari, Ettore Scola

Una giornata decisiva – Segment of "The complexes" (Una giornata decisiva – Episodio de "I complessi") (France/Italy, 1965)
Director: Dino Risi, script: Marcello Fondato, Ettore Scola, Ruggero Maccari

Weekend, Italian, Style (L'ombrellone) (France/Italy, 1965)
Director: Dino Risi, script: Dino Risi, Ennio De Concini

Il marito di Attilia – Segment of "I nostri mariti" (France/Italy, 1966)
Director: Dino Risi, script: Age, Furio Scarpelli, Stefano Strucchi

Treasure of San Gennaro (Operazione San Gennaro)
(Italy, 1966)
Director: Dino Risi, script: Nino Manfredi, Ennio De Concini

Kill Me with Kisses (Straziami, ma di baci saziami) (Italy, 1966)
Director: Dino Risi, script: Age, Furio Scarpelli

The Prophet (Il profeta) (Italy, 1967)
Director: Dino Risi, script: Dino Risi, Ruggero Maccari, Ettore Scola

The Tiger and the Pussycat (Il tigre) (Italy, 1967)
Director: Dino Risi, script: Age, Furio Scarpelli

Normal Young Man (Il giovane normale) (Italy, 1969)
Director: Dino Risi, script: Dino Risi, Maurizio Costanzo, Ruggero Maccari

Vedo Nudo (Italy, 1969)
Director: Dino Risi, script: Iaia Fiastri, Ruggero Maccari

The Priest's Wife (La moglie del prete) (Italy, 1970)
Director: Dino Risi, script: Ruggero Maccari, Bernardino Zapponi, featuring: Sophia Loren, Marcello Mastroianni, Venantino Venantini, Gino Cavalieri

In The Name of The Italian People (In nome del popolo Italiano)
(Italy, 1971)
Director: Dino Risi, script: Age, Furio Scarpelli

Noi donne siamo fatte così (Italy, 1971)
Director: Dino Risi, script: Age, Furio Scarpelli, Rodolfo Sonego, Ettore Scola, featuring: Monica Vitti, Clara Colosimo, Filippo De Gara, Pupo De Luca

Dirty Weekend (Mordi e fuggi) (Italy, 1972)
Director: Dino Risi, script: Dino Risi, Ruggero Maccari, Bernardino Zapponi

How Funny Can Be Sex? (Sessomatto) (Italy, 1973)
Director: Dino Risi, script: Ruggero Maccari, featuring

Scent of a Woman (Profumo di donna) (Italy, 1974)
Director: Dino Risi, script: Dino Risi, Ruggero Maccari, featuring: Vittorio Gassman, Alessandro Momo, Agostina Belli, Moira Orfei

Lost Soul (Anima persa)
(France/Italy, 1976)
Director: Dino Risi, scenegigatura: Dino Risi, Bernardino Zapponi

The Bishop's Bedroom (La stanza del vescovo)
(Italy, 1976)
Director: Dino Risi, script: Dino Risi, Leo Benvenuti, Piero Chiara, Piero De Bernardi

The Career of a Chambermaid (Telefoni Bianchi) (Italy, 1976)
Director: Dino Risi, script: Dino Risi, Ruggero Maccari, Bernardino Zapponi

The New Monsters (I nuovi mostri) (Italy, 1977)
Director: Dino Risi, Ettore Scola, Mario Monicelli, Claudio Risi, script: Age, Furio Scarpelli, Ettore Scola, Bernardino Zapponi, Ruggero Maccari, featuring: Vittorio Gassman, Ornella Muti, Alberto Sordi, Ugo Tognazzi

First Love (Primo amore) (Italy, 1978)
Director: Dino Risi, script: Dino Risi, Ruggero Maccari, featuring: Ornella Muti, Ugo Tognazzi, Riccardo Billi, Caterina Boratto

Dear Father (Caro papà) (Canada/France/Italy, 1979)
Director: Dino Risi, script: Dino Risi, Marco Risi, Bernardino Zapponi

Roma – Segment of "I seduttori della domenica" (Roma – Episodio de "I seduttori della domenica")
(France/Great Britain/USA/Italy, 1980)
Director: Dino Risi, script: Age, Furio Scarpelli, featuring: Ugo Tognazzi, Lino Ventura, Sylva Koscina, Rossana Podestà

I'm Photogenic (Sono fotogenico) (Italy, 1980)
Director: Dino Risi, script: Dino Risi, Marco Risi, Bernardino Zapponi, featuring: Edwige Fenech, Renato Pozzetto, Ugo Tognazzi, Vittorio Gassman

Ghost of Love (Fantasma d'amore) (France/Italy, 1981)
Director: Dino Risi, script: Dino Risi, Bernardino Zapponi, featuring: Marcello Mastroianni, Romy Schneider, Victoria Zinny, Michael Kroecher

Sesso e volentieri (Italy, 1982)
Director: Dino Risi, script: Dino Risi, Enrico Vanzina, Bernardino Zapponi, Laura Antonelli, Giuliana Calandra, Johnny Dorelli, Gloria Guida

Good King Dagobert (Dagobert) (France/Italy, 1984)
Director: Dino Risi, script: Dino Risi, Age, Gerard Brach

Madman at War (Scemo di Guerra) (France/Italy, 1985)
Director: Dino Risi, script: Dino Risi, Age, Furio Scarpelli, featuring: Beppe Grillo, Fabio Testi, Bernard Blier, Claudio Bisio

Il Commissario Lo Gatto (Italy, 1986)
Director: Dino Risi, script: Dino Risi, Enrico Vanzina, Carlo Vanzina

Teresa (Italy, 1987)
Director: Dino Risi, script: Dino Risi, Bernardino Zapponi, Graziano Diana

I'll Be Going Now (Tolgo il disturbo) (Italy, 1989)
Director: Dino Risi, script: Dino Risi, Beranrdino zapponi, Enrico Oldoini

Poor But Beautiful (Giovani e belli) (Italy, 1996)
Director: Dino Risi, script: Dino Risi, Bernardino Zapponi


RAI Biography of Dino Risi

Guardian Obituary of Dino Risi

BBC News of Dino Risi's Death

Independent Obituary of Dino Risi

Reuters Report of death of Dino Risi

International Herald Tribune on Dino Risi's Death

New York Times on Dino Risi's Death

Independent Obit of Producer Carlo Ponti

Guardian Obit of Producer Goffredo Lombardo

Monica Bellucci had only been modelling for a few years when Italian director Dino Risi saw her photo in a magazine and hired her for her first film Vita Coi Figli

Where to Study Italian Style Comedy

"Comedy - Italian Style Exeter Uni "

Cambridge Uni (only a couple here)


Some of these are in Italian only

Extract from Il Sorpasso: Dino Risi (1962)

The Opening Credits from Il Sorpasso. The car driven by Vittorio Gassman is a fine looking Lancia Aurelia B24

Lancia Aurelia


Vittorio de Sica

Vittorio de Sica

Return to Italian directors hub page 

Under Construction  

Filmography (Director). [Current listing is from IMDB but links are not] 

  1. Viaggio, Il (1974)
    ... aka The Journey (UK)
    ... aka The Voyage (USA)
    ... aka Voyage, Le (France)
  2. Breve vacanza, Una (1973)
    ... aka A Brief Vacation (USA)
    ... aka Amargo despertar (Spain)
    ... aka Vacaciones, Las
  3. Lo chiameremo Andrea (1972)
    ... aka We'll Call Him Andrew
  4. Cavalieri di Malta, I (1971) (TV)
    ... aka The Knights of Malta
  5. Dal referendum alla costituzione: Il 2 giugno (1971) (TV)
    ... aka From Referendum to the Constitution: June 2
  6. Coppie, Le (1970) (segment "Leone, Il")
    ... aka The Couples
  7. Giardino dei Finzi-Contini, Il (1970)
    ... aka The Garden of the Finzi-Continis (Canada: English title) (USA)
    ... aka Garten der Finzi Contini, Der (West Germany)
  8. Girasoli, I (1970)
    ... aka Fleurs du soleil, Les (France)
    ... aka Sunflower (USA)

  9. Amanti (1968)
    ... aka A Place for Lovers (USA)
    ... aka Temps des amants, Le (France)
  10. Woman Times Seven (1967)
    ... aka Sept fois femme (France)
    ... aka Sette volte donna (Italy)
  11. Streghe, Le (1967) (segment "Sera come le altre, Una")
    ... aka Sorcières, Les (France)
    ... aka The Witches (USA)
  12. Caccia alla volpe (1966)
    ... aka After the Fox (UK) (USA)
  13. Un monde nouveau (1966)
    ... aka A New World
    ... aka A Young World
    ... aka Mondo nuovo, Un (Italy)
    ... aka Un monde jeune
  14. Matrimonio all'italiana (1964)
    ... aka Mariage à l'italienne (France)
    ... aka Marriage Italian-Style (USA)
  15. Ieri, oggi, domani (1963)
    ... aka Hier, aujourd'hui et demain (France)
    ... aka Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow (USA)
  16. Boom, Il (1963)
  17. Sequestrati di Altona, I (1962)
    ... aka Séquestrés d'Altona, Les (France)
    ... aka The Condemned of Altona (USA)
  18. Boccaccio '70 (1962) (segment "La riffa")
    ... aka Boccaccio '70 (USA)
    ... aka Boccace 70 (France)
  19. Giudizio universale, Il (1961)
    ... aka Jugement dernier, Le (France)
    ... aka The Last Judgement (USA)
  20. Ciociara, La (1960)
    ... aka Two Women (UK) (USA)
    ... aka Paysanne aux pieds nus (France)

  21. Anna di Brooklyn (1958)
    ... aka Anna of Brooklyn (UK)
    ... aka Fast and Sexy (USA)
  22. Tetto, Il (1956)
    ... aka The Roof
    ... aka Toit, Le (France)
  23. Oro di Napoli, L' (1954)
    ... aka Every Day's a Holiday
    ... aka The Gold of Naples (USA)
  24. Villa Borghese (1953)
    ... aka Amants de Villa Borghese, Les (France)
    ... aka It Happened in the Par
  25. Umberto D. (1952)
  26. Miracolo a Milano (1951)
    ... aka Miracle in Milan (USA)

  27. Ladri di biciclette (1948)
    ... aka Bicycle Thieves (UK)
  28. Cuore (1948) (children's scenes)
    ... aka Heart (International: English title)
  29. Sciuscià (1946)
    ... aka Shoe-Shine (USA)
  30. Porta del cielo, La (1945)
    ... aka The Gate of Heaven
  31. Bambini ci guardano, I (1944)
    ... aka The Children Are Watching Us (USA)
  32. Garibaldino al convento, Un (1942)
  33. Teresa Venerdì (1941)
  34. Maddalena, zero in condotta (1940)
  35. Rose scarlatte (1940)

Neorealism and Pure Cinema: Bicycle Thieves. Andre Bazin from the Trondheim University Theory Kit  site

RAI site De Sica Entry  

Bright Lights on The Garden of the Finzi-Continis  

UNESCO Tribute to De Sica  

Celli, Carlo 1963-. The Legacy of Mario Camerini in Vittorio De Sica's The Bicycle Thief (1948).  You will need Athens access to access this)

De Sica's "Bicycle Thieves" and Italian Humanism Herbert L. Jacobson Hollywood Quarterly, Vol. 4, No. 1 (Autumn, 1949), pp. 28-33. (Again you will need institutional access to this JSTOR article)


Vittorio De Sica: Contemporary Perspectives Toronto Italian Studies Edited by Howard Curle and Stephen Snyder
University of Toronto Press © 2000

February 01, 2008

Frederico Fellini

Frederico Fellini

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Under Construction


Millicent Marcus in her third book tracing Italian cinema through case studies called 'After Fellini' notes that the outpouring which occurred as Fellini's coffin was lying in state at Cinecittà studio acted as a synechdoche for the death of Italian cinema over and above the death of a gifted individual:

Fellini stood for the entire age of brilliant signature filmmaking that gave Italian directors a disproportionate place in the international pantheon......To name Fellini, then, is to invoke that period when cinema occupied a position of cultural primacy - when films were seen as foundational acts, as socially defining exercises, as interventions in the life of the country. In short Fellini, stands for a time when filmmaking mattered.  (Marcus, 2002 p3)

Peter Bondanella (2002) suggests in his slightly hagiographic introduction that "the very name Fellini has come to stand for the art film itself and for the kind of creative genius that produced this phenomenon, so crucial a part of the film culture of the 1960s and 1970s." Fellini's films represent says Bondanella :

...a series of complex chapters in the creation of a unique, private and personal world of poetic, lyrical, visual images. Fellini stands in complete contrast to the academy, for if his films represent any ideological stand, it is a courageous defense of the imagination as a valid category of knowing and understanding and a rejection of "group thought", political correctness, or sociological explanations of art in favour of the individual imagination and the creative personal act. (Bondanella, 2002 p 2)

Certainly Fellini has grasped the imaginations and attention of a far wider audience than most of the other Italian directors. This doesn't make Fellini any more or less of an auteur than other Italian directors such as Visconti, Pasolini or Rossellini. Bondanella's cry for a recognition of poetics in cinema is an important one and he is right in suggesting that contemporary academic criticism downplays the issue of aesthetics and indeed poetics, however, the world of criticism needs to keep all these balls in play. None of us exist outside of ideology as Eagleton has noted. That Fellini has undoubted emotional appeal and was able to  raise a budget to make highly personalised films itself requires an explanation. Certainly in an industry such as cinema the ability to continuously raise money is fundamental. Whilst the writer of poems needs relatively little money to produce a book of poems the films which Fellini went on to make were not cheap. Arguably Fellini was a beneficiary of the large amount of footloose investment money which came from Hollywood to Europe during the 1960s as Hollywood reconstructed itself. To a certain degree then these films were products of their time. It is hard to think of any director since this time that has been able to command such high budgets for less than mainstream products. Other directors of what can be considered as 'Art Cinema' such as Greenaway and Jarman certainly haven't had those budgets. 

Bondanella argues that Fellini's work is largely about an examination of his own dreamlife and is thus highly personalised:

Besides being a storyteller, Fellini was primarily a poet. He created his visual images primarily through an examination of his own dream life, and when his personal expression succeeded in tapping into a similar experience  in his audience, this linkage, this reception of a personal form of poetic communication  created a powerful emotional experience that is often unforgettable. (Bondanella, 2002 pp 5/6)

There is little doubt that Fellini's work has created far more international writing than any other Italian director as one can quickly see from the bibliographical pages in Bondanella's well know Italian Cinema (2003). Fellini's work was certainly very well known when I ran Italian film courses and doubtless his reputation attracted many to the courses. At an anecdotal level this certainly provides support for Bondanella's argument that there is an audience out there who are interested in a more poetic less narrative driven style of cinema. Nevertheless all texts can be subject to textual analysis of varying descriptions and individual entries on this blog will deal with this as they appear. At times Bondanella seems to think that Fellini is above critique as indicated in one of his footnotes complianing that a book on Fellini had inappropriately tried to encapsualte Fellini's work in ways that didn't suit the work. To talk of 'political correctness' as Bondanella does is also to align oneself with the right-wing ideology that invented the term as a denial of ideology in the first place. The reality is that Bondanella is anti-Marxist (now itself a pretty untrendy position in any case) apart from any other theoretical perspectives else which frequently comes out in his Italian Cinema history (2003). 

In an age when culture is increasingly industrialised the poetic and art can perhaps function as critiques or they can be idealistic hidey-holes. for those involved at the more industrial end of culture there is always likely to be a creative tension between the poetic and the strictly functional. In culture the latter would be a product which delivers entertainment effectively and functions to be supportive of the status quo rather than allowing any serious critique to develop. In other fields such as architecture creative designers such as Walter Gropius strove to develop a poetry of the industrial as can be seen in his 1914 Werkbund Pavilion and his later contributions to the development of the Bauhaus design school.

Werkbund Pavilion Cologne 1914

Above: Gropius & Meyer the Werkbund Pavilion Cologne 1914. an exercise in poeticising the industrial?

Fellini as Scriptwriter

Fellini began his career in cinema as a scriptwriter. Many of the well known neorealist films were scripted by more than one person often involving the director themselves. Fellini contributed to several of the scripts of of the classic neorealist cinema. These included Rossellini's seminal  Rome Open City (1945) and Paisan (1946) He also contributed to the scripts of the less well known Rossellini films Il miracolo / The Miracle (1948) Francesco, giullare de Dio / The Flowers of St Francis (1950). Fellini also scripted Senza Pieta / Without Pity (1948) for Alberto Lattuada  and Pietro Germi's Il cammino della speranza / The Path of Hope (1950).  This strong association with the core of Italian neorealist cinema was important for when he made his breakthough film as a director La Strada (1954) he was strongly accussed of being a 'traitor' to the ethic of neorealism, as of course were other filmmakers such as Visconti. 

Fellini as Director 

Fellini's first film as director was a shared one with Alberto Lattuada Luci del varietà / Variety Lights (1950) which followed the journey of a travelling theatre and performance group around the rural parts of Italy, and examined the desire for stardom amopngst its leading lights. In some ways it can be seen as a precursor to Fellini's ongoing concerns with film and media. Fellini followed these up with Lo sceicco bianco / The White Sheik (1952) and I Vitelloni (1953). His following film La Strada ( 1954) was his breakthrough film. It gained 'unprecedented international success' (Bondanella 2004). It received wide critical success including a Silver Lion at the Venice Film Festival and an Academy Award for Best Foreign Film (1957).   

It was to be La Dolce vita 1960 which was to firmly place him on the international map.  


  1. Voce della luna, La (1990)
  2. Intervista (1987)
  3. Ginger e Fred (1986)
  4. E la nave va (1983)
    ... aka And the Ship Sails On
  5. City of Women
  6. Prova d'orchestra (1978)
  7. Casanova di Federico Fellini, Il (1976)
  8. Amarcord (1973
  9. Roma (1972)
  10. Clowns, I (1971) (TV)
  11. Fellini - Satyricon (1969)
  12. Block-notes di un regista (1969) (TV)
  13. Histoires extraordinaires (1968) (segment "Toby Dammit")
  14. Giulietta degli spiriti (1965)
  15. 8½ (1963)
  16. Boccaccio '70 (1962) (segment "Le tentazioni del dottor Antonio")
  17. Dolce vita, La (1960)
  18. Notti di Cabiria, Le (1957
  19. Bidone, Il (1955)
  20. Strada, La (1954)
  21. Amore in città, L' (1953)
  22. Vitelloni, I (1953)
  23. Sceicco bianco, Lo (1952)
  24. Luci del varietà (1950)


Sight & Sound. Philip Kemp: Why Fellini?

Sight & Sound. Guido Bonsaver: Late Fellini

Bright Lights Interview with Frederico Fellini

Senses of Cinema Frederico Fellini Overview

Frederico Fellini 8 1/2. Malcolm The Guardian

La Dolce Vita. Philip French The Observer


Affron: 8 1/2. Rutgers University Press

Bondanella: La Strada. Rutgers University Press

Bondanella. The Films of Fredrico Fellini. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press

January 31, 2008

Nanni Moretti

Nanni Moretti (1953-)

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Under construction 

Nanni Moretti


(All bar Il caimano taken from Mazierska & Rascaroli. 2004. The Cinema of Nanni Moretti)
  • Il caimano (2006)
  • La stanza del figlio (The Son's Room, 2001)
  • Aprile (1998)
  • Il Giorno della prima di Close Up (1996 short)
  • L'unico paese al mondo (1994)
  • Caro diario (Dear Diary 1994)
  • La cosa (1990)
  • Palombella rossa (1989)
  • La messa è finita (1985)
  • Bianca (1983)
  • Ecce bombo (1978)
  • Io sono un autarchico ("I Am Self Sufficient", 1976)
  • Come parli, frate? (1994)
  • Pate de bourgeois (1973)
  • La sconfitta (1973)

Videos on Web

Extract from Caro Diario (Dear Diary) about visit to site of Pasolini's discovered body. 

Extract from Palombella rossa (1989) [In Italian no subtitles]


Scope Review of The Son's Room

Independent on New Italian Directors

Nanni Moretti Darling of Italy BBC Story

Guardian on Nanni Moretti Interview 2001

Film Comment : Deborah Young on Moretti

Peter Byrne on Il Caimano.

Euroscreenwriters interview with Moretti

Analysis of Moretti's Caro Diario (Dear Diary)

Films currently available on DVD in UK (Very Few of course!)

Moretti interview on The Caiman

Psychoanalytic Analysis of The Son's Room in Psychomedia

Daily Telegraph on The Caiman

Marcus, Millicent: Caro Diario and the Cinematic Body of Nanni Moretti
Italica, Vol. 73, No. 2,
Film (Summer, 1996), pp. 233-247 doi:10.2307/479365.  You will need institutional access to this JSTOR article. (It is also available in Marcus 2002 see bibliography below)

World Socialist review of The Caiman

International Herald Tribune Moretti directs Turin Film Festival  

RAI International Online Biography of Nanni Moretti  

CineEuropea Interview with Nanni Moretti

BBC Interview with Moretti on The Son's Room

Sight and Sound Review Aprile  

Article in The Roman Forum on Nuovo Sacher independent cinema owned by Nanni Moretti 

Google Book Extract on Masculinity an Fatherhood in Aprile  (Book can be purchased from Wallflower Press

Senses of Cinema on The Son's Room  

American Cinematheque on Moretti

Toronto Film Festival The Caiman

Washington Post The Caiman Review

European Film Promotion: Jasmine Trinka Nanni Moretti chose her to play one of the leading roles in IL CAIMANO, which was in competition at the Cannes Film Festival 2006. On this occasion, she received the Chopard Trophy-Female Revelation.


Bondanella, Peter. 3rd edition. 2002. Italian Cinema: From Neorealism to the Present. New York and London: Continuum

Marcus, Millicent. 2002. After Fellini: National Cinema in the Postmodern Age. Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press

Mazierska & Rascaroli. 2004. The Cinema of Nanni Moretti. London: Wallflower Press

January 30, 2008

Italian Directors Hub Page

Italian Directors Hub Page

Under Construction

I have decided to open this page however currently most of the entries below will not be available for visitors.  As part of the development plan director pages will be made available as soon as a Google search down to page 20 has been conducted and sites deemed useful entered. Filmographies will also need to be put in place.  It has been decided to proceed like this as links embedded in the chronology of European Films page are being redirected to National director pages as they are developed. Apologies for any disappointments and inconveniences in the meantime. Provided it manages to service some needs then it seems to be worth keeping it 'as a work in progress'

Amelio, Gianni

Antonioni, Michelangelo (Now Open)

Bellocchio, Marco

Benigni, Roberto

Bertollucci, Bernardo

Cavani, Liliana

De Santis, Guiseppe (This page is open for a filmography / webliography / bibliography with film links to kinoeye reviews when possible)

Fellini, Frederico

Germi, Pietro

Lattuada, Alberto 

Leone, Sergio

Moretti Nanni (Currently weblinks available) 

Nichetti, Maurizio

Olmi, Ermanno

Pasolini, Pier Paolo

Pontecorvo, Gillo

Risi, Dino (Now open)

Rosi, Francesco,

Rossellini, Roberto (Now open for bibliography and weblinks. Main overview still under construction)

Salvatore, Gabriele

Scola, Ettore

Taviani, Paolo & Vittorio

Tognazzi, Ricky 

Tornatore, Guiseppe 

Visconti, Luchino (Currently  available) 

Wertmuller, Lina 

Zeffirelli, Franco 

January 21, 2008


Michelangelo Antonioni (1912-2007)

Antonioni Behind the Camera

Michelangelo Antonioni Behind the Camera

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Michelangelo Antonioni  is probably best known for his films made in the 1960s which explored themes of isolation, alienation and the seeming lack of genuine interpersonal communications between people in the backdrop of the contemporary world. L'Avventura, The Red Desert, Blow Up and Zabriskie Point made in Italy, the UK and The USA respectively all contained these underlying features. With 16 feature films to his credit Antonioni made a respectable number of films over his career although he wasn't by any means the most prolific of the Italian directors. 

Michelangelo Antonioni was born into a bourgeois family in Ferrara in 1912. At Bologna University he took a degree in economics. After leaving university he became a film critic fo the Corriere Padano based in Ferrara.  He then moved to Rome to become a film critic with the journal Cinema in 1939 . He published an article in 1939 Concerning a film on the River Po. The outcome of this article was the making of his first film a documentary Gente de Po, (People of the Po) (1943). He reviewed the Venice film festival in 1940 revealing a strong degree of scepticism about the rampant commercialism and general superficiality of the mainstream cinema. Antonioni also studied at the Centro Sperimentale.  He wrote the script for Rosselini's  Un pilota ritorna in 1941. He went to Paris to assist with Marcel Carne's Les visiteurs du soir during 1942. Returning to Italy he reviewed Visconti's Ossessione (1943) in which he praised the portrayal of both the landscape and everyday life. 

It was in 1943 that he begun to make his own films. His first film was a documentary which was supported by the Instituto Luce about the people living on the delta of the Po river, Gente del Po (1943). The film focused upon the everyday life of the people making a living there. With the film confiscated by the Fascists Antonioni has been overlooked as a part of the original neorealist film making tendency. 

Extract from Gente de Po 1943: Dir. Michelangelo Antonioni

Later he worked with de Santis on the film Tragic Pursuit (1947) as a co-scriptwriter. Antonioni's next film was another short documentary style film Netteza Urbana (1948). This was about the activities of the sanitation workers in Rome making visible what is largely unseen as the work is done before most people are going to work. It was a neorealist perspective on the contemporary city and its unseen mechanisms.

Both films demonstrated a sensitivity to the hardships faced in daily life by ordinary Italians which would remain central throughout Antonioni's career. (Shiel 2006, p 97)

Antonioni's Politics

Shiel (2006) suggests that Antonioni wasn't one to wear his heart on his sleeve when it came to politics and that on the whole he preferred a more subtle approach than the more committed idealogues. Although not didactic Shiel points out that Antonioni's sensitivity to the plight of the poor got him into trouble with the censors in I vinti (1953). By representing the problems of the modern family especially the issue of juvenile deliquency Antonioni fell foul of the dictat which tried to ensure that only a positive view of Italy was represented.  On the whole by then Antonioni had started a more abstract approach to his film making.

Extending the Concept of Neorealism

Millicent Marcus (1986) argues that the 1950s represented a crisis for neorealism and was also a time when there was a "proliferation of neorealisms' (Marcus p186). There was discussion of 'Romantic neorealism' from Visconti, 'Phenomenological neorealism' from Fellini and 'interior neorealism' from Antonioni.  Marcus comments:

Neorealism is somehow reinvented in retrospect each time it is called upon to justify a new stylistic departure...The return to various aspects of neorealismto legitimize all important subsequent cinematic developments in Italy, even when those developments seem to contradict each other or to negate the neorealist example, is a testimony to the power of this precent and its elasticity. (Marcus 1986 pp 188-187)

Marcus continues by citing Antionioni's own stated perceptions of what he was trying to achieve:

I began as one of the first exponents of neorealism and now by cocnetrating on the internals of character and psychology I do not think I have deserted the movement, but rather have pointed a path towards extending its boundaries. Unlike earlier neorealist filmmakers, I'm not trying to show reality, I am attempting to recreate realism. (Antonioni cited Marcus 1986 p 189) 

This appears to fly in the face of the original neorealist concept of representing the external world as it 'really' in terms of being a natural or social entity. Marcus suggests that what Antonioni is trying to achieve is a 'transvaluation' of realist concepts of truth by changing from representation of the external world by:

coming to mean fidelity to the nature of the medium or to the artist's subjectivity itself... (Marcus 1986 p190)

By the time of Red Desert Antonioni seems to have moved a considerable distance from the early notions based on ducumentarism in the cinema of Rossellini and de Sica in particular, nevertheless, argues Marcus he still maintains that strong ethical commitment which was a fundamental feature of 'classic' neorealism:

...yet the ethical commitment is still very much alive in him. Zavattini's notion of a "cinema of inquiry" in search of the truth about contemporary Italy has simply beeen transferred from the level of theme to that of visual style, but the impulse to to reexamine and revise the relationship between the observer and the phenomenal world is still as much a concern for Antonioni as for his neorealist predecessors. (Marcus 1986 p 206) 

Cronaca di un amore 

Cronaca di Amore 2

Cronaca di Amore

Cronaca di amore was Antonioni's first full feature film made in 1950. At this time the worst of the post-war austerity was behind. As the contextual circumstances changed so there was a need to represent other aspects of Italian society which included the rise of the new middle classes who were people benefiiting from the Marshall plan in Europe.  Antonioni decided to focus on the emptyness of life for a bored middle-class wife (Paola) of a successful industrialist. Reviving an old romantic liaison with someone who had a drifting lifestyle with no regular income provided excitement and a focus of attention in her life. In many ways the plot was similar to 'A Postman Rings Twice' and Ossessione, itself derivative of A Postman Rings Twice. Other factors in Paola's previous life are gradually unfolded. Eventually they decide the Guido would murder Poala's husband Enrico. But when Guido is waiting to ambush the husband we hear a crash. Enrico has coincidently died in this crash, but in a twist to the tale the murder which might have consummated the relationship. This recognition of failure comes firstly from Guido who comments first "we can't go on", Paola responds "Why not" and Guido enigmatic questioning response "Don't you feel it". It is the enigmatic approach, the seeming inability to communicate in a direct manner which is at the root of Antonioni's vision. 

Shiel (2006, p 101) usefully notes the compositional dominance in Antonioni's camerawork of the primacy of long and medium shots. These are shots which combined with a moving camera which "emphasise the alienation of the human subject by his or her physical environment."  This 'detached mode' of using the camera also works very effectively in interior shots in which the use of long takes emphasise:

...the forms, surfaces and texturesof the physical habitatand its effects upon his characters'. internal psychology.

These are formalist devices which many people, more familiar with Antonioni's 1960s films such as L'avventura and Red Desert and even Blow Up, will recognise. It is interesting to note that Robbe-Grillet  was very interested in the work of Antonioni and has been interviewed about his work which features in an old BBC documentary on Antonioni which hopefully will be made available again somewhere. 


Monica Vitti in L'avventura

This provides some links between the French avante-garde of the Nouveau Roman (New writing)of those later to be known as of the Left-Bank such Marguerite Duras. Arguably Antonioni is perhaps the earliest exponent of cinematic ecriture or writing, a term used by Astruc who argued for the camera-stylo. Antonioni's use of things and his contruction of cinematic space isolate the bouregois subjects who inhabit his films in the 1950s and 1960s. His use of colour later in the Red Desert (1964) emphasises this tendency even more. In a recently published book Reading the French New Wave by Dorota Ostrowska she argues that it was the French writers and then directors of the Left Bank who reinvented the aims of 1920's modernism. Ostrowka examines the arguments of Andre Gide and also Jean Epstein. She points out that Gide:

...wanted to replace the artifice of plot with an arrangement of the events issuing from themselves and the reality of which they are a part and not from the order imposed by the narrator. (Ostrowka 2008 p 26)

Epstein she notes had similar intentions which seem to have much in common with Antonioni's approach to both his developments in form as well as in terms of the lack of strongly coherent narrative:

There are no stories. There never have been any stories. There are only situations, without the head or the tail, without the beginning, middle and end... with no limits imposed by the past or the future. These stories are present. (Epstein cited Ostrowka 2008 p 26)

Shiel notes Antonioni's  filming of the city of Milan which is not only wet and industrial but is:

...predominantly characterised by an unnerving emptiness and anonymity and a lackof social energy and human warmth especially in the depopulated marginal spaces where Guido and Paola

secretly meet. (Shiel 2006 p 100)

It is an aesthetic of the city which is bleak and represents the growth of individualism accompanied by individualism and a move away from the scenes of social solidarity expressed in the classics of neorealism. It is a society in which spiritual poverty is replacing the material poverty represented by neorealism. In the clip below it is certainly bleak and wet and watch for the framing of Paola and Guido at the park gates where the bars come between them an echo of the mise en scene of classic film noirs: 

Shiel points out that Antonioni saw neorealism as evolving and that the representation by cinematic means of interiority wasn't a rejection of external reality. In the extract above the obvious wealth of Paola who appears in a luxurious fur coat and with expensive diamonds serves to heighten the contradiction between crass materialism and its concommittant lack of human spirit. A left wing reading could have seen these symbols of wealth and status as a direct loss of rather than goals to be aimed for. The coldness of the relationship becomes a facet of the diamonds themselves signifying cold hard interiority.   

Rossellini's Voyage to Italy (1953) follows Antonioni's lead as Shiel points out, however, the reconciliation through the warmth of the Neopolitan religious festival at the end reasserts a warmth of spiritual solidarity with people. In the film wealth doesn't make the characters happy and even a trip to Capri (repeated by Godard in Le Mepris 10 years later) fails to provide any spiritual relief. Rossellini's film does allow for hope, whilst  Cronaca di un amore is more modernist  in the ways outlined above and with its bleak ending signifies increasing alienation under capitalism.  The fact that fate through a car crash removes the sense agency which had driven the film seems to signify that 'fate' here symbolic of a wider social structure. Again this is a theme returned to by Godard in Le Mepris. Indeed cars seem to signify a materialism that leads nowhere but crashes. 

Antonioni's Films of the 1960s 

Restivo suggests that Antonioni's films of the 1960s: (L'Avventura, 1960;La Notte, 1961; L'Eclisse, (The Eclipse), 1962; Il Deserto Rosso, (Red Desert), 1964; Blow Up, 1966; Zabriskie Point, 1968); can be seen in the context of two large intellectual currents:, an interrogation of the phenomenological model of perception (within both psychoanalysis and philosophy generally; but also in relation to an invention -the cinema- that itself affected the dimension of this question in this century); and two, the rethinking of a specifically national cinematic tradition in light of pressing historical circumstances. (Restivo 2002, p107/08)

Zabriskie Point house Blow Up

Zabriskie Point at the end where the arch-capitalist's house in the desert is blown up to the sounds of Pink Floyd

Antonioni Post the 1960s

After this period Antonioni went to China having been invited to make a documentary and filmed China Kuo Cina (1972) which was aired on TV. However the Chinese denounced it strongly arguing it grossly distorted what was happening in China. This was followed by The Passenger (1975) which was in the vein of Blow Up. Here antonioni follows the work of a TV journalist and manages to create a hybrid combining aspects of documentarism with a suspense-thriller.

In 1982 Antonioni returned to work in Italy after many years of working abroad making Identification of a Woman (1982). Although the style was the same as those of the early sixties Bondanella notes a shift in perspective where the woman is being observed rather than the man, as in L'avventura.

Antonioni's last film was made in collaboration with Wim Wenders who greatly admired Antonioni's work. antonioni had suffered a serious stroke during the early 1980s and wasn't expecting or expected to work again. This was Beyond the Clouds a portmanteau adapted from his short fiction. Wenders 'agreed to back-stop the production, to direct some linking sequences and to assist Antonioni on the shoot'.



I vinti (The Vanquished), 1952

Cronaca di un amore, (Chronicle of a Love Affair),  1950: (Colour , 100 minutes)

La Signora Senza Camelie (The Lady without Camellias), 1953: (B & W 100 minutes)

Le amiche (The Girl Friends), 1955

Il grido (The Outcry), 1957

L'Avventura, 1960 : (B & W 145 minutes)

La Notte, 1961: (B & W , 121 mins) 

L'Eclisse, (The Eclipse) , 1962: (B & W 125 minutes) [Sorry not yet open for viewing]

Il Deserto Rosso, (Red Desert), 1964: ( Colour 116 minutes)

Blow Up, 1966: (Colour 

Zabriskie Point, 1968: (Colour, 110 minutes)

China, 1972 

Professione: reporter (The Passenger), 1975)

Il mistero di Oberwald (The Mystery of Oberwald, 1981)

Identification of a Woman, 1982:  (Colour 131)

Beyond the Clouds, 1995: (Colour, 109 minutes)

Short Films

People of the Po, 1943

Sanitation Department, 1948 


Senses of Cinema Entry on Antonioni 

Senses of Cinema on L'Avventura

Senses of Cinema on Zabriskie Point

This is a useful discussion about sound and the construction of film based on an analysis of Il Grido from Yale

Wikipedia Entry

Guardian Obituary

BBC Obituary

BBC News story on Antonioni's death 

Penelope Houston on Antonioni in the Guardian

David Thompson on Antonioni a short reflection: The Desparate and the Beautiful

Poem for Antonioni by Wim Wenders: friend collaborator and director 

Interview with Antonioni July 1969 from Euroscreenwriters 

Interview between Antonioni and Cahiers du Cinema 1960 from Euroscreenwriter 


Bondanella, Peter. 2002 3rd Ed. Italian Cinema: From Neorealism to the Present. New  York / London: Continuum.

Marcus, Millicent. 1986. Italian Film in the Light of Neorealism. Princeton: Princeton University Press. There is a complete chapter on Antonioni's Red Desert here dicussing the links to and shifts away from neorealism.

Ostrowska, Dorota. 2008. Reading the French New Wave. London Wallflower Press

Restivo, A. 2002. The Cinema of Economic Miracles: Visuality and Modernisation in the Italian Art Film. Durham and London: Duke University Press

Shiel, Mark. 2006. Italian Neo Realism: Rebuilding the Cinematic City. London: Wallflower Press

Wenders, Wim. 2000. My Time With Antonioni. London: Faber & Faber

Availability of Films  

Despite the outpouring of obituaries for Antonioni in 2007 very few of his films were available on DVD, certainly in the UK, despite many of them being considered as canonical not only in terms of Italian national cinema but as markers of modernist / art cinema in general. One must repeatedly make the point that this would be like having works of Shakespeare or Goethe out of print - quite unthinkable!!! This points again to the need for a European independent institution which has far more control rather than leaving things to the vagaries of the market-place. as soon as Antonioni died it was predictable that some films would start to become available again. The key point here is that crucial aspects of Eurpean cultural heritage that are cinematically based do not carry the same cultural weight as books and fine art. 

Below are his available films which are strictly Italian ones.  

La Notte was released by Eureka in March 2008

La Notte DVD cover



April 11, 2007

Luchino Visconti

Luchino Visconti

Return to Italian directors hub page

(Please note this posting is still under construction)

I have now decided to open the page although it is still 'work in progress', however I have noticed that a few visitors are finding this page anyway.  There are now a good range of hyperlinks provided and it is now functioning as a 'web-hub' from the Chronology of European Cinema Page for work on Visconti. My apologies to visitors for any inadequacies. Hopefully you will still find it useful for your purposes and better than anything else on the web currently available in English.  

NB Hyperlinked filmography below 

For all those visiting from the 'Chronolgy of European Cinema' page there is a hyperlinked filmography as well as a webliography below.  The former takes you to the best articles I could find on the web on that particular film in English at the time of construction. If you have come across anything else which you consider better please drop a message in the comments box and I will relink if appropriate.  

Forget Rossellini and Fellini - no one did as much to shape Italian cinema as Luchino Visconti. So why is he so underrated, asks Jonathan Jones

Audiences are always stratified and it crudifies the situation to suggest that there are only two of them, a “mass” and an “elite”. Many film spectators (not to mention readers of books or visitors to art galleries) do not fall into either category and would find insulting suggestions that they did’ (Nowell-Smith 2003: 219).

Below is a YouTube extract from BBC 4 Arena documentary The Life and Times of Count Luchino Visconti. The full two hour version is available with the BFI version of The Leopard.

A Brief Overview


The role of this article is to provide an overview of Visconti and to act as a web-based hub for visitors to gain more information about Visconti in a more organised way. Hopefully this will provide researchers at whatever level as well as people generally interested in Visconti with a useful service. More in depth articles on specific films are posted elsewhere and have been hyperlinked. As I come to consider Visconti's cinematic oeuvre in more depth I am increasingly coming to the conclusion that there is a strong case to be made for him being considered as one of the greatest of the World's directors. Obviously it is a contentious argument and one can immediately criticise it by pointing out that in terms of film form his work was not especially avante garde in the way that of his near contemporaries such as Antonioni's was, neither in terms of the Marxist that he was did his films focus upon class formulations in ways that promoted the working class as the historical agent of change in a didactic sort of way.

My case is being developed built on his attempts to develop a vision of the processes of historical change in a thoroughly artistic way following the work of Lukacs and using realism as a tool to examine key turning points in history as experienced through representatives of their class who were often aristocrats and royalty rather than horny handed sones of the soil. Yet Visconti has represented the Risorgimento very effectively firstly in Senso and later in The Leopard. With The Leopard I argue elsewhere that Visconti successfully brackets what many saw as the positivity of European Liberal nationalism of the 19th century and the demise of nationalism as a force for progress in the representation of the coming to power and the consolidation of that power in Germany as it falls under the power of the Nazis in The Damned. In this last mentioned film Visconti is not afraid to use more operatic approaches within his art shifting momentarily out of realism modes of expression through the Bazinian long take into moments of melodrama a term which is perhaps best thought of attached to a more Italianate meaning of the term which simply means music with drama rather than an over the top approach to everything exemplified in British TV soap operas for example. 

It should not be forgotten that Visconti effectively represented many aspects of the marginalised and the working class in contemporary society as well firstly in Ossessione in an indirect fashion then in La Terra Trema which was originally designed as the first of a trilogy and interestingly represented regionalism as well with the film having to be subtitled into Italian for Italian rather than Sicilian audiences. The consolidation of the political right in power in Italy brought about a need for changes in approach and Bellissima starts to tackle the ideology of celebrity and the growing power of the media. In Rocco and His Brothers Visconti  made an insightful critique of the economic forces which underly the processes of diaspora and migration something which contemporary British film makers are dealing with today

Viscont's later films have often been associated with decadence and also his own personal predilections and history coming from an aristocratic background. Here it is important to differentiate between studies of decadence as an historical problem which often signifies a turning point in history manifest in the art and culture of the moment and associating the artist critiquing this type of society. Ludwig can be seen as a good exemplar of the historical film as the cultural impetus behind mid-19th century monarchy is represented as the end of an era. The rise of instrumentalism and bourgeois bureaucracies for modern industrial society were pushing aside the old regimes and Ludwig is as much about the rise of a German nationalism and Bismarckian realpolitick as a 'biopic' of the real Ludwig. 

One cannot ignore Visconti's masterliness in the realm of mise en scene. Known as a perfectionist in the construction of props and clothing he was also a perfectionist in his use of music as a fundamental facet of mise en scene.  Much of his work is also about music itself either directly or indirectly. Mahler, Wagner and the  failure of culture to stand up to the pressures of the new barbarism at the core of Nazism are just some of the musical themes present in visconti's work. The theme of music and memory is present in Vaghe Stelle dell' Orsa / Sandra through the use of  the late-romantic music of Franck and the use of American pop music to make an anti-Facist point in Ossessione amount to just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Visconti's in depth of understanding of the use of music in his cinema. Perfectionism too was present in his dealings with actors. Whilst Visconti is known to have had a stormy relationship with Burt Lancaster in The Leopard mutual respect grew out of this and Lancaster supported Visconti in Conversation Piece as well as Bertollucci in 1900. The rise of Maria Callas as an opera star is attributed to Visconti and actors turned into stars such as Alain Delon and Claudia Cardinale have much to thank Visconti for. 

Visconti then, became masterful in his film art which was informed by his widespread experience of theatre and opera directing. Visconti undoubtedly had personal vision and the determination to organise and develop his projects often against severe odds such as unsympathetic producers and a hostile political climate. The latter made it hard for him to make and to exhibit films such as Ossessione, Senso and Rocco and his Brothers

It is the commitment to artistic integrity as well as his intellectual approaches combined with a deep knowledge of aspects of European history and culture which give his films such depth. Of course he worked with the best people he could find and many people were regular members of his team. It is this which precisely defines the successful auteur. There can be few people who attend screenings of Visconti films or buy the DVDs who are driven by the genre considerations of watching a costume drama. Visconti had an artistic and political vision that was expressed in the way his films were made as well as the content of these films. To provide deep readings of these films requires of the viewer an engagement with many important features European political and cultural history. However, it must be remembered that at the time of the making of films such as Rocco and His Brothers there would have been many Italians who identified with the economic migration that was such a strong feature of Italian life in the post-war "Economic miracle". Part of Visconti's genius was his ability to engage with and represent different facets of European society in different ways which still related to his political understanding of the world. If this was less obvious in his later work it doesn't make this work any less important and it challenges the viewer to engage with the periods of histoty and culture represented. 

Visconti's films are perhaps perfect for the DVD era although most of his films are best experienced on the big screen. Their length is frequently inordinately long for a cinematic system geared to commerce rather than art and reliant upon the safe creation of genre output. Ludwig for example is aroung 4 hours long and the Leopard around three hours. The length of course relates more closely to operas and Italian audiences were far more used to this form across the classes than in most other countries. It is this cultural diifference which may have influenced Visconti to make such long films. They are films to which a viewer can comfortably return and gain new insights and meaning. They are unlikely to appeal to those brought up on the artifically dynamic editing styles prevalent in Hollywood. Visconti was a follower of the long take and the development of a complex mise en scene as methods of creating meaning in his films. Wholehearted engagement rather than just entertainment was at the core of his films but it is this approach which will help them to stand the test of time. 

Below are some brief bigraphical notes and an overview of his main films. Where appropriate links are provided to more in depth approaches to individual films or perspectives. Some of the comments are thin as the films are not currently available in the UK on DVD or Video. These will be developed in due course. A hyperlinked filmography is provided and a webliography will take you to the best places in English on the web about Visconti and his work. A bibliography is now included  and other bibliographical references can be accessed on the Italian Cinema Bibliography page.   

Biographical Notes

Luchino Visconti died on March 17th 1976 just before he reached 70 years old. His health had been deteriorating since he suffered a stroke nearly four years earlier in July 1972. Visconti’s death can be seen as part of the end of an era within Italian cinema.  De Sica had  died the previous year and Rossellini the year afterwards.

Visconti made 14 full feature films, contributed episodes to several others as well as directing nearly twenty operas and over forty plays. As such Visconti can be said to have an understanding of the role of the arts well beyond the capacity of most film directors. Visconti also had a theoretical understanding based upon his own readings of the Marxist writers Gramsci and Lukacs which were reflected within his work. 

Visconti was the son of a Milanese aristocrat on his father’s side and the daughter of a successful new industrialist on his mother’s side. Visconti was also gay. As an artist Visconti was interested in addressing a variegated audience who would be able to engage with the films at a number of different levels. As Geoffrey Nowell-Smith points out:

Audiences are always stratified and it crudifies the situation to suggest that there are only two of them, a “mass” and an “elite”. Many film spectators (not to mention readers of books or visitors to art galleries) do not fall into either category and would find insulting suggestions that they did’ (Nowell-Smith 2000: 219).

Visconti the formative years: from the 1930s to Ossessione (1943)

Visconti’s first work had been as a race horse trainer, an occupation in which he was successful. Visconti had a restless mind and he was never going to be totally satisfied with this as a career. In the early 1930s he was increasingly drawn to Paris and as the decade proceeded he visited more frequently and for longer periods.

As an aristocrat is was fairly easy to access the artistic and intellectual circles of Paris. Compared to the cultural straightjacket of Mussolini’s Italy Paris was seething with experimental ideas and it proved to be formative for Visconti intellectually, politically and sexually.

Coco Chanel

Above Coco Chanel  

Through Coco Chanel Visconti was soon in touch with many leading lights of the Parisian avant-garde such as Jean Cocteau, Kurt Weill, and Marlene Dietrich. Being in Paris afforded Visconti the opportunity to see films banned in Italy. These included works of the leading avant-garde film makers such as Bunuel, Dali, Cocteau, Pudovkin and Eisenstein.

Politically the decade was a formative one for Visconti as the political polarisations in Europe deepened. Initially he had a tendency to favour the right which was growing in France as elsewhere however he moved away from:

“false nationalistic pride, Fascist rhetoric and his habit of emphasising his aristocratic background” notes Bacon (1998, p 6).

1936 was the major turning point in Visconti’s life. The Popular Front in France had won a significant election victory that year which stemmed the growing tide of right wing nationalism amongst the French. Coco Chanel had introduced Visconti to Jean Renoir and his film making colleagues. All were strongly sympathetic to the Popular Front and this helped develop a different perspective on politics for Visconti. At the same time Renoir was pioneering new aesthetic methods. Toni (1935) had become a turning point in cinema described by Raymond Durgnat as:

… the point at which the whole documentary movement of the French cinema achieved its fullest coalescence with the fiction film. (Durgnat, cited Bacon 1998, p 7).

Renoir has commented about his objectives through this technique:

My aim was to give the impression that I was carrying a camera and a microphone in my pocket and recording whatever came my way, regardless of its comparative importance. (ibid)

Although Visconti’s aesthetic style turned to be very different to Renoir’s some of the underlying aesthetic principles became important to Visconti:

From the moment I realised the importance of unity I tried never to shoot a scene without some background movement more or less related to the action… Another of my preoccupations was, and still is, to avoid fragmentation, and by means of playing longer shots to give the actor a chance to develop his own rhythm in the speaking of the lines. To me this is the only way of getting sincere acting. (Renoir “My Life and My Films” cited Bacon 1998, p 7)

First Films

Visconti had made his first film in 1934 which Bacon describes as a little 'Bunuelesque', however the film hasn’t survived and the evidence suggests that it was an amateur affair. Visconti had learnt some photographic techniques from his current partner Horst who was a photographer. Visconti’s first professional acquaintance with the cinema appears to have been as Third Assistant Director to Renoir on the set of Une partie de campagne (A Day in the Country) in 1936. The film wasn’t released until after the war in 1946. Visconti’s role was to design and produce the costumes.

Visconti has claimed it was through politicisation that he started to make films with Renoir. However Bacon cites Ronolino’s book 1981 book on Visconti which argues that he took no strong political views on any pre WW II events including the Spanish Civil War.

Writer and Set and Costume Designer

At this time Visconti also played with the prospect of being a writer and two drafts for novels still survive. Bacon notes that these drafts: reveal Visconti’s obsession with detail. This level of detail can bog down the flow in a novel however in a film through mise en scene it can considerably enrich the cinematic experience and this points to the importance of using mise en scene criticism when studying Visconti’s films.

Visconti also started to work in theatre at this time. In 1936 he designed the sets and costumes for a production of Carita Mondana (Mundane Charity). This production took place in the Teatro Sociale in Como. This was followed by a production of Jan Mallory’s (Joyce Carey) Sweet Aloes. This was also produced in 1936 and ran at the Teatro Manzoni in Milan.

Visconti followed this by a trip to Hollywood. However it seems that this wasn’t a successful time and both Stirling in his Screen of Time and Servadio in Luchino Visconti both note that he never talked much about the experience.

By 1938 Visconti was back in Italy and involved in theatrical production this time producing sets and costume design for Il Viaggio (The Voyage) by Henry Bernstein whom he had met in Paris.

Tosca (1940)


Giacomo Puccini the composer of Tosca

The next film that Visconti became involved in was Tosca (1940). This turned out to be a particularly odd production. Jean Renoir was formally invited to make the film by the Italian government despite the fact that La Grande Illusion (1937) was banned by the Fascist government because of its political sympathies. According to Bacon the idea had originated from Mussolini directly. Mussolini in fact held a copy of La Grande Illusion in his private collection. As far as consistency in Fascist cultural policy was concerned this was: a prime example of its arts policy (Bacon p 9).

At the time this formal invitation was extended Mussolini had become a formal ally of Nazi Germany and at this time France had already declared war on Nazi Germany in September 1939. Renoir had already been called up and was serving as an officer in the French Army. The French government sent Renoir to Italy in the hope that this might allay any outbreak of hostilities.

Massimo Girotti

The Tosca starred Massimo Girotti (seen above in a different role in Ossessione). Girotti was the leading actor in Visconti's first full length feature film Ossessione.

Visconti worked on the script of Tosca with Renoir and his main assistant Carl Koch. However the international tension was mounting and Nazi Germany was making an increasingly obvious presence in Italy to pressurise Italy to declare war in support of Germany. As a result Renoir and all his French team returned to France shortly before hostilities broke out. Koch who had a German passport and Visconti were left to finish the film. This they did although Visconti has described it as a a ‘horrible film’. One important stepping stone for Visconti was that making it introduced him to the powerful Italian critics and other parts of the circle around cinema.

Tosca Poster

Visconti became increasingly drawn into this circle based around Cinema which had amongst its contributors several important critics who were to become important film directors. These included Giuseppe de Santis and Michelangelo Antonioni. Most of the critics were left of centre while Vittorio Mussolini (Mussolini’s son) was the editor in chief. Politics wasn’t discussed openly and Vittorio wasn’t around for a lot of the time and didn’t deal with day to day editorial decision making according to Bacon.

Effectively the magazine became a site of fracture within Fascist cultural policy as it afforded the opportunity to write more critically yet at the same time to have the veneer of official approval. It can be seen that cultural policy was applied unevenly sometimes with Liberal writers such as Carlo Levi being sent into internal exile (Christ Stopped at Eboli being his memoirs of this which was later made into a film by Rosi). Martin Clark has suggested that intellectuals were usually bought off and flattered rather than repressed as was the case in Germany

Ossessione & La Terra Trema

Visconti's films Ossessione and La Terra Trema respectively marked the precursor to neorealism as a movement whilst La Terra Trema is a core film of the neorealist movement. I have currently no time to provide a fuller evaluation of these films however they are both partially covered in the entries 
Italian Neorealism: an Introduction
and the review Italian Neorealism: Rebuilding the Cinematic City 

From Neorealism to Neorealism Rosa: Bellissima

The well known post-war history Italian Cinema by Peter Bondanella surprisingly fails to mention the film Bellissima at all. This film is very important for a number of reasons. It marks a transition from Neorealism to post-neorealism within Italian cinema; it is a meta-cinematic film which deals in a biting comedy a critique of the institution of cinema itself – it thus predates Fellini’s well known La Dolce Vita (1959) by several years; it can be taken as a strong indirect critique of the political direction Italy was taking at the time as well as a critique of the Christian Democratic government's relationship to America  it gives many insights into the way Visconti worked as a director with his performers (Anna Magnani & Alessandro Blasetti); lastly and by no means least as a film it is good viewing – it appears as a favourite of Richard Dyer’s in one of Sight & Sounds surveys about favourite films of critics. For an in depth dicussion of this film please go to my review of the 2007 release of Bellissima by Eureka Video.

Cultural Context

It is important to emphasise that Visconti was also working within an Italian framework. The Italian audience has an operatic culture which is popular across all classes. The binary division of opera into an elitist art form doesn’t operate in this culture as it does in Britain. Indeed one can point to the operatic form as becoming associated with the Risorgimento the emergence of the Italian nation in the 19th century itself. Visconti’s texts are knowingly multidimensional. Despite many criticism of the auteur within film criticism which seems to deny that a director can be an inspirational power behind a work of art Visconti is clearly exceptional. Arguably this is the time for a thorough re-examination of his work at least in the Anglophone countries. As Nowell-Smith has pointed out there has been a paucity of critical work and the films little seen.

The kind of film-making in which Visconti was engaged throughout his career... was a kind which put the director at the centre. The director chose the scriptwriter, the actors, the leading technicians, the editor. The director even chose the producer... Visconti’s films were all his in a way which other directors, not only in Hollywood but also in Italy, could only envy. Under these circumstances, auteurism and anti-auteurism become irrelevant categories’ (Nowell-Smith, 2000: 221-222)

Rocco & His Brothers

Visconti’s cinema always constituted a sophisticated analysis of these processes of social change. Rocco and His Brothers (1960) is a logical step from La Terra Trema (which is dealt in more detail below). A family from the mezzogiorno (deep south) have arrived in Milan a new centre of industrial expansion feeding the Italian economic miracle sucking in labour from the periphery. The response to this forced structural change by each of the four elder brothers corresponds to the range of individual responses which this enormous transition embodied.

The eldest brother had already become established in Milan, with a fiancé. The family arrival caused disruptions of loyalties causing a temporary split. The Sicilian machismo of Simone represents an ideology of the past unable to accept the necessary individual sacrifices to industrial disciplining either through education or within the professionalising cultural industry of boxing. Initial success came easily as Simone had strength and natural talent and was attractive to women. Seduced by a fellow immigrant turned prostitute, another side of the ‘cultural industry’ complex, Simone finds he cannot ‘own her’, and that whilst she like the detective is able to cross formal boundaries of society through hypocritical sexual mores Simone is excluded from refined society. Simone’s inability to control the situation causes a crisis of masculinity and his ultimate decline into alcoholism and the basest of acts. Simone ends up killing Nadia who had left him to return to prostitution and a level of independence. In between Nadia had fallen in love with Rocco. Simone on learning of this had raped Nadia in front of Rocco who was held back by Simone’s lumpen-proletarian acquaintances. Rocco is then beaten up by his brother to assert traditional male dominance. Rocco accepts this traditional dominance and also becomes a boxer mortgaging his future earnings to try and keep Simone’s debts under control.

Rocco’s quietitude and a 'Christian' martyrdom in the face of traditional family ‘values’ and Sicilian masculinity are contrasted with Ciro. Ciro has understood that the way forward is to establish himself through education. He struggles hard at night school to get the qualifications for a good factory job. Eventually he becomes a skilled worker at Alfa-Romeo. The industrial disciplining of the factory system signified by the factory whistle at the end of the lunch-break also represents the solidarity of the workforce who are supportive to Ciro when he is upset in a talk with his youngest brother Luca. Ciro sees the future in Luca telling him he will be the one who will have the luxury to return to their original homeland in recognition of the processes of modernity change the balance of society. Ciro also supports the growth of modern institutions seeing in them a force of progressive change. It is Ciro who ‘betrays’ the traditional familial quietitude about gross and murderous behaviour by reporting Simone to the police. The rational rule of law can work in favour of the working class and is superior to the outmoded and archaic attitudes of the past. It is Ciro who has recognised that a fundamental adaptation is required if the family is to successfully survive at the other end of this enormous transition.

It is worth noting that a new version of Rocco is due out in February 2008 from the Eureka Masters of Cinema Series and this may provide some useful insights into the film.

Il Gattarpardo / The Leopard (1963)

Visconti’s intellectual, political, historical and cultural concerns then bring us to what are frequently described as his films of the Risorgimento, the Italian bourgeois revolution. Firstly Senso then The Leopard. Based upon the historical novel of the same title, The Leopard was set in Sicily and starred Burt Lancaster. As such, the film had a large budget and was aimed towards an international audience. Bondanella describes the film as ‘ a meditation of death, historical change, and the demise of a social class to which the director also belongs to.’(Bondanella, 2002 p 200) . The aristocratic prince whose son has just married the beautiful daughter of a rising bourgeois notes ironically and with a romantic nostalgia that the older aristocratic ruling class had an imaginary of the big cats, whilst the changes were now the ushering an order of jackals and sheep. Certainly it this had an autobiographical ring to it for Visconti’s parents were from exactly that heritage with his mother the daughter of a bourgeois industrialist, his father an heir to the aristocratic family that had ruled Milan in an earlier period.

Bondanella reads Visconti as having sympathy with the Prince who in front of a painting The Death of a Just Man, imagines his own death. In this sense the film is a ‘Chronicle of a Death Foretold’, the recognition of the passing of an historical period and the inception and establishing of a new social order. However the sound of the volleys of a firing squad in the distance as the Prince walks home, indicate that the new order is already establishing itself by brutal means, and the hopes of the peasants and workers are foreshortened. Whilst for Bondanella the ‘epic sweep’ of the sets and costumes threatens to overwhelm the historical message, it is quite reasonable to suggest that the historical paradoxes are heightened by the mise-en-scene.

A Hiatus of Content and Criticism

After The Leopard there seems to be a general hiatus in both criticism and the availability of Visconti's work to watch and to develop further ideas about his ouevre. Hopefully this blog will contribute to a wider discourse which seeks to re-establish and re-view afresh this work of Visconti's from the middle period of the 1960s. The films concerned include Vaghe Stelle dell' Orsa / Sandra 1965 and Lo Straniero (The Stranger / The Outsider) (Italy 1967). Currently (December 2007) neither of these films appear to be available in English. 

Vaghe Stelle dell' Orsa / Sandra was a modern interpretation of the Electra myth in which the Torjan War was replaced by the concentration Camps of the Second World War. Instead of Agammemnon being murdered by Aegisthus and Clytemnestra here Sandra (played by Claudia Cardinale) suspects her mother and her lover of betraying her Jewish father to the Nazis. Bacon (1998) comments that:

In Sandra the fate of the Jews in the Second World War functions as a metaphor for the entanglement of victimization and groundless accusations practised in the end by Jews and non-Jews alike. (p121)

Visconti himself notes the deep ambiguities in the film:

All the characters excpet Andrew are ambiguous. He would like to find a logical explananation for everything, instead of which he finds himself in a world dominated by the most profound, contradictory and ineplicable passions... (Cited by Bacon 1998 p 120).  

These are not dissimilar themes to ones which were eplored by Bertollucci firtstly in The Spider's Stratagem and then in The Conformist. When one adds Bellocchio's fascinating first feature into the mix - Fist in the Pocket - one can see that themes of the family in crisis were apparently being played out to quite an extent in the Italian cinema of the 1960s. At the same time there was a reckoning being made with the fading memories of Nazism and Fascism which had been cut short with the return of a right wing government at the end of the 1940s. 

The 'German Trilogy'

The Damned (1969) Death in Venice (1971) and Ludwig (1973) are known as Visconti’s ‘German Trilogy’. Here Visconti examines the decadence of the Belle Epoque, the corruption and confusion behind the rise of Nazism in Weimar Germany, and the story of Ludwig II of Bavaria who has been viewed as very eccentric and was the patron of Richard Wagner. Whilst some critics have marked this down as Visconti’s ‘decadent’ period, and noted an increasing pessimism in the themes that he dealt with this has frequently been over-personalised. Visconti has argued that what interested him was the analysis of a sick society, and in these films the historical forces of modernity versus counter-modernity are being played out.

Some critics have managed to conflate a representation with a notion of sympathy in the director. This has the effect of undermining the subtle Marxism of Visconti from those either unfamiliar with or hostile to that particular intellectual heritage. Bondanella reviews the critical outputs on these films as follows:

Many European critics have tried to interpret Visconti’s German trilogy as a serious, historical vision of Germany’s flirtation with romantic idealism and its subsequent perversion in the Nazi era. But the three films fail to provide any coherent explanation of such a complicated process. It is far more accurate to conclude that in this trilogy Visconti has allowed his taste for visual spectacle, as well as his own personal preoccupation with old age, solitude ugliness and death to overwhelm his philosophical or cultural intentions.’ (Bondanella , 2002 p 20

In The Damned the representation of the infamous ‘Night of the Long Knives’ when the SS slaughtered the leadership of the sexually transgressive SA of Eric Rohmer, links the growth of Nazism to a crisis of masculinity, and also explores the homo-erotic bonding of militarism which repress its own sexual excess instead transferring that into compulsory heterosexuality in tandem with patriarchal family values.

Death in Venice links Thomas Mann and Mahler, artists of the period, with a desire for youth represented as homosexual longing which was an impossible desire at that time. Representing a crisis where the new generation will be fundamentally different whilst the once resplendent Venice the most dynamic city in Europe of the Early and middle Renaissance is decaying, riven by a pestilence of a more Mediaeval type. This isolation of the wealthy and their retreat to decadence is a representation of modernity as conquering the old, marginalising the ancien regime.

In Ludwig the king is seen as amusing himself with musical projects whilst his generals are unable to act as the Prussian Army under Bismarck will ultimately defeat Bavaria allied with Austria. For Germany this was their equivalent of the Risorgimento. Bismarck was to unify the squabbling and corrupted principalities in the name of a greater Germany nation, one which was able to organise industrially and administratively to enter the modern period. In these works Visconti’s predilection for opera and melodrama shines through, and the treatment of these dramatic social changes is artistically portrayed through the responses and activities and thoughts of representatives of those moments. Ludwig’s homosexuality can be seen as indicative of the passing of a monarchical system reliant upon hereditary and therefore compulsory heterosexuality. This dovetails two themes. Patriarchal systems based upon physical reproduction have become outmoded and unstable. A newer form of patriarchy is necessary to achieve stability. For Ludwig to express his desire even as a monarch means to regress from the social reality of the moment only when Bavaria has been subjugated to Prussia leaving a token monarchy can Ludwig act out his desires in a limited. But kings are now subject to controls and he is deposed. The war with Prussia was taking place at the same time as Austria’s war with the Italian process of the Risorgimento. Austria was fighting both wars.

Whilst in Italy there was some hope for progress, in a more democratic sense, both Bavaria and Prussia have acted to forestall a more democratic revolution and its attendant risks, the memories of 1848 still burning strongly in their memory. The modernisers represent ‘realism, calculation, negotiation, countering rival modernisers such as Bismarck by playing a similar game’ (Nowell-smith 2002 p 186). Nowell-Smith suggests that there are some links with Shakespeare’s Richard II and Marlowe’s Edward II which have homosexual motifs. Nowell-Smith reads this link as suggesting that legitimacy is itself a burden upon the individual, but while noting that Shakespeare was an apologist for the Tudors he fails to note that under Elizabeth the First the issue of inheriting the crown was one of the gravest concern. Just as Elizabeth played marriage possibilities diplomatically she was at heart a political animal. Even then stability was only a temporary event as the English Civil war was to show.

Gruppo di Famiglia in un Interno (Conversation Piece): (1974)

(Apologies still under construction)

L'Innocente (The Intruder): (1976) 

(Apologies still under construction) 

Visconti decided to do an adaptation of D'Annunzio's L'Innozente. This was his last film for he died on March 17th 1976 whilst was in its editing stage. As Bacon points out these later works of Visconti's reading Sandra as a turning point in his approach have frequently been read as 'decadent': expression of an aging director's morbid fascination with the themes of sickness, decay and death. On the whole it has not always been clear whther the label of decadence is a reference to the subject matter, the style or both, or whther it is used simply as a perjoritve term. (Bacon, 1998 p 214)



Appunti su un fatto di cronaca (Italy 1951) Director


Ossessione (Italy 1943) 

Giorni di Gloria (Italy 1945 - Director of one episdode) 

La Terra trema (Italy 1948) 

Bellissima ( 1951)

Siamo donne (We, The Women) Italy 1953 (Director of 1 part in 5)

Senso (Italy 1954)

Le Notti Bianchi (The White Nights) (Italy 1957) 

Rocco e I suoi Fratelli (Rocco and his brothers) (Italy 1960) 

Boccaccio '70 (Episode title Il Lavoro / The Job) (Italy 1962)

Il Gattopardo (The Leopard) (Italy 1963)

Vaghe Stelle dell' Orsa (Of a Thousand Delights) (Italy 1965). I was unable to find one good or even reasonable entry in English on this film despite looking under the Italian and French titles on the search engine. It is clearly a gap which need spaying attention to!

Le Streghe (The Witches) (Italy 1967). 1 part in 5 episode title La Straga Bruciata Viva)

Lo Straniero (The Stranger / The Outsider) (Italy 1967). This is the only vaguely reasonable link I could find on the search term The Stranger / The Outsider which shows that this film is need of publication and a radical reassessment. 

La Caduta degli Dei (The Damned) (Italy 1969)

Morte a Venezia (Death in Venice) (Italy 1971) 

Ludwig (Italy 1973)

Gruppo di Famiglia in un Interno (Conversation Piece) (Italy 1974)

I' Innocente (The Intruder) (Italy 1976)


The British Film Institute Luchino Visconti Feature

BBC Arena Page reporting on the very good BBC documentary the Life & Times of Luchino Visconti

Ossessione Review by Richard Armstrong on the Kamera Site 

Johnathan Jones The Guardian 2001 asks why Visconti is so neglected?

David Thompson Guardian article The Decadent Realist

This article by David Thompson is possibly the worst article on Visconti I have ever seen from somebody who is reputedly meant to have a good understanding of cinema. Whatever else, this is a vituperative piece of nonsense. Make sure you break the NHS prescribed amounts of salt when you read this. I have included it because the writer is well known however inclusion does not amount to a recommendation, it does show what Visconti was up against in terms of the petulant jealous petit-bourgeois failed intellectuals (maybe there are advantages to being an aristocrat after all :-) ).

Derak Malcolm  Guardian article on The Leopard

Pete Bradshaw Guardian on Death in Venice

Phiip French Observer on Death in Venice

Guardian / NFT Question and Answers with Claudia Cardinale

Guardian / NFT Part 2 with Claudia Cardinale 

San Francisco Film Society Dennis Harvey on Visconti

Strictly Film School Blog on Visconti 

Premuda, Noemi Luchino Visconti's Musicism (You will need a JSTOR account to access this article) 

BBC 4 Arena article about the 2 hour documentary on Luchino Visconti

Film and Literature. The Case of "Death in Venice": Luchino Visconti and Thomas Mann
Hans Rudolf VagetThe German Quarterly, Vol. 53, No. 2 (Mar., 1980), pp. 159-175doi:10.2307/405628

This article requires JStor access.  

Marxism and Formalism in the Films of Luchino Visconti Walter F. Korte, Jr.Cinema Journal, Vol. 11, No. 1 (Autumn, 1971), pp. 2-12 doi:10.2307/1225346

This article requires JStor access.

Dr. Ivo BlomPainting, theatre, cinema: Intermediality in the work of Luchino Visconti

Visconti Conference

Peter Brunette in film and Philosophy: Review of Nowell-Smith's third edition book on Visconti

Visconti's Cinema of Twilight by Maximilian Le Cain in Senses of Cinema site

Brief article by Gary Morris  

The Incompossible Languageof Natural Aristocracy:Deleuze's Misreading of Visconti's The Leopard

by Privitello on Senses of Cinema site. 

Bertellini, Giorgio : A Battle "d'Arriere-Garde": Notes on Decadence in Luchino Visconti's "Death in Venice" . (This requires JSTOR access)

Frieze Magazine: Forever Changes Dan Fox

Hide in Plain Sight: An Interview with Piero Tosi. Drake Stutesma. Project Muse PDF from Framework 47

Visconti Revisited: Take 2 . Senses of Cinema Review of Nowell-Smith's 3rd re Visconti 2003.


Bacon, Henry. 1998. Visconti: Explorations of Beauty and Decay. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press

Bertellini, Giorgio Ed. 2004. The Cinema of Italy. London: Wallflower Press

Bondanella, Peter. 3rd edition. 2002. Italian Cinema: From Neorealism to the Present. New York and London: Continuum

Hipkins Danielle. "I don't want to die": Prostitution and Narrative Disruption in Visconti's Rocco and His Brothers', in Women in Italy 1946-1960, ed. by Penny Morris (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2006), pp. 193-210

Hudson, Anne. ‘Rocco E I Suoi Fratelli / Rocco and His Brothers. Bertellini, Giorgio. 2004. The Cinema of Italy. London: Wallflower Press

Landy, Marcia. 2000. Italian Film. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press

Marcus, Millicent. 1993. Filmaking by the Book. Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press

Marcus, Millicent. 1986. Italian Film in the Light of Neorealism. Princeton: Princeton University Press

Nowell-Smith, Geoffrey. 2003 3rd edition. Luchino Visconti. London: British Film Institute

Rohdie, Sam. Rocco and his Brothers. London: BFI

Sellors, Paul. C. 2004. 'Senso'. In Bertellini, Giorgio Ed. 2004. The Cinema of Italy. London: Wallflower Press

Wood, Michael. 2003. ‘Death becomes Visconti’. Sight and Sound , May 2003 Volume 13 Issue 5 , pp 24-27

DVD Availability in the UK

This link to Moviemail gives a list of Visconti films currently available on DVD in the UK

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