There’s an interesting article in today’s Independent about the ‘new’ breed of Italian directors and their relationship to the golden age of Italian cinema. You can read the full article here, and a taster is copied below:
Rome’s once-fabled Cinecitta studio seems as redundant as the Colosseum now; its emperor, Federico Fellini, dead some 15 years. Italian cinema was an enduring wonder for 30 years, from the epochal neo-realism of Bicycle Thieves (1948), through to the great mid-century maestros – Fellini, Antonioni, Pasolini and Visconti. The images of a statue of Christ being helicoptered over Rome and Anita Ekberg frolicking in the Trevi fountain in Fellini’s La Dolce Vita are as globally recognisable as anything from Hollywood, from where disciples from Coppola to Woody Allen looked to Italy to learn.
But while France – with 10 times the state subsidies of its neighbour – marches on, Italian cinema today seems bankrupt, its finances and self-confidence in ruins. Its biggest hit of recent years, Giuseppe Tornatore’s Cinema Paradiso (1988), was an elegy for its past. No one knows this better than the new Italian directors struggling to find a voice. For them, that past is a crushing weight.
“They destroyed our cinema,” Saverio Costanzo, director of In Memory of Me, says of the maestros. “They consumed Italy, by portraying it in such an absolute, timeless way. With all these phantoms from the past, it’s very hard to understand our way. Because if you see La Dolce Vita or [Antonioni’s] L’Avventura today, Italy hasn’t changed so much. And I sometimes have the feeling that nobody cares what Italy is now.
“As young directors, we are working to get out of this enormous responsibility. It’s really oppressive. Why should I see Saverio Costanzo’s movie, if I have an Antonioni?”
Gianni Zanasi, another promising young director, sees living after Italy’s golden age of cinema more simply. “It doesn’t depress me. It’s more like a curse. It’s like finding yourself in the right place at the wrong time. A stroke of bad luck.”
I don’t have many comment to make on it… it seems to speak more that adequately for itself. A couple of minor issues I do have are that
(a) it perpetuates that myth that all of Italy’s notable postwar cinema was ‘neo-realist’. This is an inaccuracy. Neo-realist films were only made for a very breif period, from c 45 to 53, and although a lot of subsequent films incorporated neo-realist techniques (location shooting, unprofessional actors etc) they weren’t, strictly, neo-realist. Fellini and Visconti, in particular, strike me as being an almost polar opposite to neo-realist, especially in their later films.
(b) I have to confess that many of the films mentioned here really, well, really don’t interest me that much. There’s some good stuff being made in Italy at the moment, but Sorrentino only gets a brief mention and Salvatores doesn’t feature at all. Of course, I’m only going by what I’ve read about them and that’s hideously unfair, but…