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Italian neorealism

Related: everyday life - 1940s - Italian cinema - realism in film

Inspired: French new wave (cinematic genre)

Similar: kino pravda (film movement) - French cinéma vérité (film movement) - documentary film (film format)

Precursors: naturalism (literature)

Open City (1945) - Roberto Rossellini [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]

Silvana Mangano in
Bitter Rice / Riso Amaro (1949) - Giuseppe De Santis


Italian neorealism is a film movement lasting from about 1943 to 1952. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Italian_neorealism [Jan 2006]

Italian neorealism is a film movement lasting for about a decade shortly after World War II.

The movement is characterized by realistic plots filmed in long takes on location, preferably using many non-actors for secondary and sometimes primary roles. Italian neorealism typically describes the difficult economical and moral conditions of Italy, the changes in the mentality of the people and in the everyday life after the war: the defeat, the poverty, the desperation (Open City is an exception: it is set during the war and deals with resistance efforts). Because Cinecittŕ (the main Italian studios) were occupied by the refugees, films were shot outdoor, on the devastated roads of a defeated country. This genre was soon instrumentally used for political purposes too, but the directors were generally able to keep a distinguishing barrier between art and politics. As a contrasting scheme with previous tendencies, Italian Neorealism refuses therefore the false depiction of world that was common in the canons of Telefoni Bianchi, even if it isn't ideally directed toward picaresque.

The name comes from the literary genre of realism, especially after the works of some authors of the end of 19th century, in Italy best known by the verismo, notably for Giovanni Verga's works.

Most famous Italian neorealist films include Umberto D., The Bicycle Thief and Shoeshine by Vittorio De Sica (written with scenarist Cesare Zavattini) and Open City by Roberto Rossellini. Many other works indeed were produced by several other authors.

Some of Pier Paolo Pasolini's works in the 1970s were considered part of a new neorealist sub-genre, even if Pasolini's attention to picaresque was this time openly declared and evident. The neorealist content would then be in an accessory description, spectacular and perhaps documentary, of some elements of true common life in Italy during and after the so-called economic "boom" of the 1960s.

In recent times other movies have been produced that deeply recall the neorealist canons, including works by Gianni D'Amelio and others. Arguably, something of neorealism can be found in most Italian cinema and often also in TV fiction.

Italian neorealism was inspired by French cinema verite (and deeply inspired the French New Wave), German Kammerspiel, and influenced the American documentary movement. Its effects can be seen as recently as the Danish Dogme 95 movement. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Italian_neorealism [Aug 2004]

Pink neorealism and Comedy
It has been said that after "Umberto D." nothing more could be added to neorealism. Was it for this or for other reasons, effectively neorealism formally ended with this film. Following works turned toward lighter atmospheres, perhaps more coherent with the more satisfactory general conditions, and this genre was called the pink neorealism. It was the filone that allowed better "equipped" actresses to became real celebrities: the encouraging figures and measures of Sophia Loren, Gina Lollobrigida, Silvana Pampanini, Lucia Bosé, together with other types of beauty like Eleonora Rossi Drago, Silvana Mangano, Claudia Cardinale, Stefania Sandrelli populated the imagination of Italians just before the so-called "boom" of the 1960s. Soon the pink neorealism was replaced by the Commedia all'Italiana (Italian Comedy), a unique genre that, born on an ideally humouristic line, talked instead very seriously about important social themes. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cinema_of_Italy [Apr 2005]

Ossessione (1943) - Luchino Visconti

Ossessione (1943) - Luchino Visconti [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]

The first film in the Italian neorealist tradition.

Ossessione (Luchino Visconti, 1943) is generally considered to be the first Neorealist film. It is also Luchino Visconti's first feature film, and the first of several adaptations of James M. Cain's novel, The Postman Always Rings Twice. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ossessione [Nov 2005]

See also: 1943 - Italian film - Neorealism - adultery - Luchino Visconti

Riso Amaro/Bitter Rice (1949) - Giuseppe De Santis

Silvana Mangano in
Bitter Rice (1949) - Giuseppe De Santis [Amazon.com]


One of Italy's most commercially successful films, Bitter Rice packed theaters around the world despite being banned by the Legion of Decency in the United States. Though intended as a scathing indictment of harsh conditions endured by women laboring in Italy's rice fields, the film's enormous popularity was largely attributed to the erotic appeal of young Silvana Mangano. The former Miss Rome became a star overnight for her sultry debut as an impoverished yet voluptuous laborer who turns down the chance to emigrate to a better life in South America in favor of a steamy affair with her best friend's lover. Ironically, Marxist writer and director Giuseppe De Santis, one of the founders of Italy's post-World War II neorealist movement, virtually brought the genre to an end with Bitter Rice by demonstrating that sex was a far greater draw than social criticism.

Umberto D. (1955) - Vittorio De Sica

Umberto D. (1955) - Vittorio De Sica [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]

The last film in the Italian neorealist tradition.

See also: Italian cinema - neorealism - 1955 - European cinema

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