Masters of Two Arts

Masters of Two Arts: Re-creation of European Literatures in Italian Cinema

Carlo Testa
Copyright Date: 2002
Pages: 336
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.3138/9781442677111
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  • Book Info
    Masters of Two Arts
    Book Description:

    Carlo Testa demonstrates that while pairings of famed directors and writers are commonplace in modern Italian cinema, the study of the interrelation between Italian cinema and European literature has been almost completely neglected in film scholarship.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-7711-1
    Subjects: Film Studies

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-2)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 3-24)

    Many, in fact potentially innumerable, are the variously overlapping subsets of which the corpus of Italian cinema can be said to consist. It seems to me that among these the Rusty Tin Lion (or Bear, or Palm) for the one most consistently neglected by scholars ought to be awarded to the large group that, as a first approximation, could be called the European legion in the peninsula: the films that directly or indirectly recreate works of European literature.¹

    One reason for this critical oblivion may not be particularly difficult to discern and, to an extent at least, to rationalize. Those...

  5. Part One: Epigraphic Re-creations
    • 1 GOETHE and ARCHIBUGI Italy, the Illegible Land: Mignon Has Left (1988)
      (pp. 27-32)

      In whichever way we may wish to identify geographically the utopian region that serves as a background toWilhelm Meister’s Years of Apprenticeship(Wilhelm Meisters Lehrjahre, 1796), there can be little doubt that in Goethe’s epoch-makingBildungsromanthe Italian rarefied landscape acts as the ideally tractable and tameable space for the young protagonist’s growth in apprehending and understanding life.²

      As in every novel of apprenticeship, trial, and education, the conceptual basis for Goethe’s pedagogical journey is what I would describe as a hermeneutic metaphor. The ideal balance between activity and passivity, between learning and guidance – or, in slightly more...

    • 2 KAFKA and FELLINI Soteriology, Cinecittà-style: America and Intervista (1987)
      (pp. 33-54)

      In therépublique des lettres, all artistic sympathies have equal dignity, but some seem to be warmer than others. It is, for example, hardly surprising to see with what love Francesco Rosi, a southern European to a fault, is attracted to the southern heritage that inspired his rendition ofCarmenor of García Márquez’sChronicle of a Death Foretold(Cronaca di una morte annunciata, 1987). Likewise, the artistic affinity that led Visconti to go beyond the borders of Italian culture and delve into the inner struggles of the ‘poor folk’ of Dostoevsky’sWhite Nightsrequires little hermeneutic effort, as does...

  6. Part Two: Coextensive Re-creations
    • 3 GOGOL and LATTUADA Fantastic Neorealism: The Overcoat(1952)
      (pp. 57-76)

      Something is definitely the matter with the protagonist of Nikolai Gogol’sThe Overcoat(Shinel′, 1842), Akaky Akakievich; and most of that matter, commentators concur, is fecal. But there is also another, opposite side to the facts:A-kakyis at the same time the Non-evil being, the meek victim of social persecution² – an innocent humanoid, degraded by his imperfect condition of contraption (one would be hard pressed to say creature), abandoned by the light of God.³

      Over time, typically Gogolian contradictions of just this kind have created never-ending difficulties in our understanding of the great Russian author and made it...

    • 4 TOLSTOY and the TAVIANIS The Interminable Path of History: Father Sergius and The Night Sun (1990)
      (pp. 77-98)

      At the end of the TV-soaked 1980s and against the backdrop of a strikingly unengaged, ‘post-political’ Italian society, the Tavianis approach one of the most revered literary figures in their private pantheon and interrogate him on the subject of solitude. Contrary to what they had done in their earlierSaint Michael Had a Rooster(San Michele aveva un gallo, 1971), re-created from Leo Tolstoy’s novellaThe Divine and the Human(Bozheskoe i chelovecheskoe, 1906), the two directors now deal not with a politically motivated solitude, but with an existential one, related to the loneliness of a visionary individual in a...

  7. SADE and PASOLINI Requiem for a Utopia: Salò or the 120 Days of Sodom (1975)
    (pp. 101-122)

    Klossowski and Barthes have made such strong cases for viewing the Marquis de Sade as a utopianist/eutopianist that it has by now become almost obligatory to read the divine Marquis in that transcendent context. For Klossowski, Sade pursues the ideal of the ‘integral man,’³ in which the height of freedom can only be attained by a paroxysmal ‘corruption taken to its limit’⁴ that leads to the splendidly flourishing utopia/eutopia of a ‘permanent insurrection.’⁵ For Barthes, Sade is to be inscribed in the visionary-regulatory tradition that stretches from Loyola to Fourier. Systematically unleashing the senses within a minutely codified ritual –...

  8. Part Three: Mediated Re-creations
    • 5 MÉRIMÉE, BIZET, and ROSI The Consummation of Meridionalism: Carmen (1984)
      (pp. 125-142)

      The novellaCarmen, published in 1845, was a product of French romanticism – and of Prosper Merimée’s idiosyncratic literary taste. Inspired by travels through Spain undertaken by its author in the 1830s, and spiced with his ever-present wit,Carmenis a novella about Spanish mores, a gypsyfemme fatale, the ultimate impossibility of assimilating passion into social coexistence, and thus ultimately about the irredeemable dangers of desire. The text’s combination of a ‘centripetal’ pull toward its subject matter, which led to identification, with an only too obvious ‘centrifugal’ vector, creating ironic distance from it, caused Mérimée to be viewed, in...

    • 6 PASTERNAK, LEAN, and MORETTI Hermits and Revolutionaries: Palombella rossa (1989)
      (pp. 143-158)

      Very much like the Sacher-Torte of which so many Morettian protagonists are inordinately fond,Palombella rossaconsists of the stratification of diverse components.² The film alternates personal and autobiographical layers with others of a social and political nature, and glazes them over with a third (albeit uncommon) object of addiction: water polo. In the process of portraying the tantrums of an unusual Italian Communist, it particularly delves into an intriguing exploration of what I would like to call, with an oxymoronic expression, the dilemmas of ‘antidogmatic faith’: in the historically polarized Italian polity, an article as rare among artists as...

  9. Part Four: Hypertextual Re-creations
    • 7 STENDHAL and ROSSELLINI The Masterpiece Fights Back: Vanina Vanini (1961)
      (pp. 161-182)

      Contrary to a widespread misperception, Stendhal’sVanina Vaninidoes not belong to the collectionChroniques italiennes, the latter title being appropriately reserved for a cluster ofrécitsthat Stendhal re-created in the 1830s on the basis of original Italian manuscripts obtained from the Caetani family. These stories, and these only, are a homogeneous unit derived from Italian Renaissance sources.Vanina Vanini, which had been written and published at the end of the previous decade (1829), stands apart from them in a twofold sense: the setting of the events was for the author a contemporaneous one; and the core of its...

    • 8 MANN and VISCONTI One Sentry Falls: Death in Venice (1971)
      (pp. 183-202)

      An ageing intellectual from Munich, Gustav Aschenbach – or ‘von’ Aschenbach, a particle earned by his rise as a canonic literary figure in Kaiser Wilhelm’s Germany – takes a trip to Venice, dislikes Italy and Italians, but cannot bring himself to leave because of his attraction to Beauty: in the instance, the beauty embodied in a fellow tourist, a Polish boy vacationing on the Lido with his family. Aschenbach eats Italian strawberries, becomes ill, and eventually dies, possibly of cholera (but causality is left ironically imprecise by the narrator). ‘And later that same day a respectfully shaken world received the...

  10. Conclusion
    • On Readings: Perfect/Imperfect, Difficult, and More Difficult
      (pp. 205-218)

      Let us assume that the re-creation of literature in cinema were an exact science, with operations characterized by a set of properties allowing for univocal equations of the type 2 + 2 = 4, in turn susceptible to undergo univocal reversibility as 4 — 2 = 2. Would such a type of convertibility between texts bedesirable? The answer might well be a matter of tastes – philosophical tastes, that is. Would wewantto bind ourselves to what would then be a definitive reading of any given text? In some very real sense, the lack of ambiguity that science...

  11. Notes
    (pp. 219-320)
  12. Filmography
    (pp. 321-326)
  13. Works Cited
    (pp. 327-350)
  14. Index
    (pp. 351-366)