Professional / Visual Arts & Film Studies Essay


New Italian Cinema

From the last decade of the nineteenth century and the beginning of the First World War (notably in Rome and Turin), Italian national cinema evolved rapidly, gaining a significant share of movie audiences worldwide, notably for its epic films set in classic settings. The beginning of the war decimated the sector; however, with the rise of the totalitarian government, interest in the industry increased before the Second World War, with the creation of the movie studio complex in Cinecittà ("Cinema City"); the creation of Luce (the government agency tasked with making documentaries and newsrooms) and the founding of a significant national movie school in Rome, the Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia. Unlike its equivalents in communist Germany or Russia, the Italian industry was not entirely controlled by political propaganda, and in reality, some of the industry's leading nationalist personalities preferred to emulate Hollywood's movies rather than promote an exclusively political film. During this time, prominent directors such as Vittorio De Sica, Alessandro Blasetti, and Mario Camerini (all of whom kept working following the end of the war) emerged. Throughout the Fascist era, the cinema educated many people interested in pure film making, which had to play an essential role in the dramatic renaissance of Italian cinema after 1945. (Peter Bondanella 2012)

Italian expressionism exploded onto the international stage with the end of the war. Figures including Giuseppe De Santis, Luchino Visconti, and Roberto Rossellini, have earned international recognition for their "practical" representation of current economic and social challenges in Italy.

In the 1950s, several young stars (including Pietro Germi, Federico Fellini, Michelangelo Antonioni, and Rossellini) tried to move past the type of programmatic, social realism advocated by Communist theorists throughout France and Italy. In the 1960s, the generation of younger personalities (Francesco Rosi, Gillo Pontecorvo Bernardo Bertolucci, Marco Bellocchio, and Pier Paolo Pasolini) turned to their Italian neorealist roots and French cinema abroad for influence. In the same period, but less appreciated by film theorists and reviewers, Italian cinema started producing a vast amount of extremely lucrative plays that could be identified as genre movies or B films, to use the Hollywood term. Next, the peplum or epic “sword and sandal” movie starring international bodybuilders was widely famous in the late 1950s and 1960s and spread rapidly. The spaghetti western, a prevalent genre that generated nearly five hundred films in a short time and almost immediately revolutionized the image of a classic Hollywood movie, followed this trend closely.

Nonetheless, brilliant directors and engineers have continued working. In the past decade, several fresh faces have brought box office appeal and luster to the national cinema's handling of new themes (gender and race identification in multi-ethnic and multicultural Italy, extremism, violence, and the Mafia). These themes have evolved in the representation of daily reality in the region by Italian cinema. (Peter Bondanella 2012)

What Makes Italian Cinema so Special

In Spaghetti Westerns and fantasy and horror films from people like Dario Argento, Italian animation has a unique concept of style, and it has brought us some of the best film composers in history in Ennio Morricone (who once won an Oscar for The Hateful Eight).

The first Italian actor to step into the public spotlight was by no means, Benigni. Italian culture has always been an American filmmaking topic for decades, but since its emergence, Italian film making has affected foreign cinema, especially American filmmaking. In the 1970s, Argento's 'Giallo' work directly inspired the John Carpenter's Halloween, which then influenced the whole renaissance of the 'slasher' horror sub-genre. In the historical context, there is a notable reverence for Fellini's presence most times, and more than hidden. (Alex Arabian 2017)

It's already been identified that Visconti's 'Ossessione' was the first unnecessary American remake. It's something that has jumbled the artistic cogs of Hollywood, the need to reinvent any great international film, Americanizing its plots, culture, and characters, especially over the past three decades. It's the beneficial residual effect of a nation built on imperialism, and the concept of exploiting and monetizing anything within control.

Many may not realize is that in the movement of modern American films, foreign film making of the old days has also subliminally reappeared. Because this article touches more on Italian cinema let's concentrate on the impact Neorealism has had on foreign movies in decades that followed. With American director Jim Jarmusch and his above-mentioned films, Cigarettes, and Down by Law and Coffee in 1986, Neorealism began to make a resurgence in the sense of post-modernism in cinema.

The French New Wave artistic trend, going into the 1990s, reflected that of Italian Neorealism style and theme, and also that of the American experimental film making organization, resurrected in the 1990s by Kevin Smith and Richard Linklater before Jim Jarmusch continued it. Linklater's Slacker and the Before Trilogy (Before Sunrise, Before Dusk, Before Midnight), Smith's Clerks and Mallrats, and Jarmusch's Ghost Dog are significant contributions to the American renaissance of Neorealism by their narrative style and intentional timing. (Alex Arabian 2017)

It is worth noting, though, that the sociopolitical landscape from which the Americanized form of Neorealism originated was significantly distinct from that of Italian Neorealism. Italian Neorealism was much more politicized, while the research of Smith and Linklater, in particular, emphasized the vapid depressive alienation of metropolitan America in the 1990s.

Italian Neorealism focused on a political and social consciousness mentality. American Neo realist developments throughout the past 30 years, bear a mindset of contemplative life-examination and, if you like, emphasis on personal satisfaction. Italian filmmakers have had to fight poverty, repression, and an authoritarian fascist government, driving Italian filmmakers' mutual radical communist support over the next several decades. In the 90s, American actors had the advantage of working in an environment filled with commercialism among the white middle class, because they had the benefit of selecting their topics more openly.

Although Neo realism charged socio-politically, Mumblecore relies more on conversation and character dynamics than narrative, offering an insightful insight into the emotional relationships of its protagonists. Based on history, it makes a lot of sense that these films were shot out of mutual fear in Italy during the Second World War. At the same time, mumblecore represented absolute intentional disregard for the upper class.

Though recent mumblecore variations like the Win It All by Joe Swanberg indicate that mumblecore has become much more coherent and mature in content. Ironically, one of the mumblecore's new faces, David Gordon GreenNew Italian Cinema, will eventually try to revive some of the most popular horror movies ever.

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