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Giuseppe De Santis

Giuseppe De Santis

Copyright Date: 1996
Pages: 220
  • Book Info
    Giuseppe De Santis
    Book Description:

    Vitti draws on his extensive personal interviews with De Santis as well as on the latter's previously unpublished writings. This volume captures the intelligence, passion, aesthetic flair, and occasionally fiery temperament of this important filmmaker.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-7535-3
    Subjects: Film Studies

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Foreword: Giuseppe De Santis: An Introduction
    (pp. ix-xxii)
    Ben Lawton

    Sometime in spring 1989 I received a call from Antonio Vitti, the author of this volume. He told me he had met Giuseppe De Santis and wanted to arrange the Italian film director’s first North American tour, and asked if I would be interested in participating. More specifically, he wanted to know if Purdue University would be interested in co-sponsoring the trip. My answer, qualified by the usual fiscal constraints, was immediate and enthusiastic. De Santis is the director ofRiso amaro(1948; Bitter Rice), a film which, during my childhood in Italy, had conjured up powerful and tantalizing erotic...

  4. Preface
    (pp. xxiii-xxvi)
  5. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xxvii-xxviii)
  6. [Illustrations]
    (pp. None)
  7. Part I: A Biographical Profile

    • 1 De Santis’s Early Years: From Fondi to Rome
      (pp. 3-6)

      Giuseppe De Santis, son of Oreste De Santis and Teresa Goduti, was born in Fondi, a small town ten kilometres from the Tyrrhenian Sea, on 11 February 1917. The future movie director spent his adolescence basking indolently in the sun, like a lizard, feeding on prickly pears which grew in bunches along the ditches and falling in love with peasants’ and workers’ daughters, as he recalls in an article published in 1969.¹ During De Santis’s youth, Fondi had about ten thousand inhabitants but was an important crossing on the route between Rome and Naples, the two largest cities of southern...

    • 2 A Member of the Cinema Circle
      (pp. 7-14)

      In the early 1940s, theCinemacircle included Michelangelo Antonioni; Domenico Purificato; Dario, Gianni, and Massimo Puccini; Carlo Lizzani; Pietro Ingrao; Francesco Pasinetti; Antonio Pietrangeli; Giuseppe De Santis; Mario Alicata; as well as Luchino Visconti, who in 1941 published the famous article ‘Cadaveri’ which immediately became a sort of manifesto for the younger members of the group. That same year Luchino Visconti had also written, for another journal, ‘Tradizione ed invenzione’ (Tradition and Invention), an article accompanied by beautiful illustrations by the painter Renato Guttuso. In it, Visconti expressed his desire to make a film based on Giovanni Verga’s novel...

    • 3 A Dream Comes True: From Cinema to Ossessione
      (pp. 15-24)

      De Santis aspired to become a fiction writer. Without going as far as the critic Alberto Farassino, who reads the future movie director’s earlier writings as a preparation for filmmaking, one can identify an attraction for visualization in De Santis’s essays and reviews published inCinema. In ‘Sogni del cineasta’ (Dreams of a Filmmaker), which appeared in 1941, De Santis writes about his dream of making films.¹ In another early article, ‘Stampe’² (Prints), the effort to communicate through images is evident. The article uses reproductions of eighteenth-century prints to discuss children’s fashion and costumes, and the captions contain only a...

  8. Part II: The Filmmaker and His Film Stories

    • 4 De Santis behind the Camera
      (pp. 27-35)

      At the time of his cinematic debut in 1947, De Santis had not yet fully formulated the definition of theoretical Neorealism that he was to write in the 1950s,¹ but from his first film it is evident that he was moving towards a realism of content rather than a rigid notion of forms or fictional documentary. In makingCaccia tragica(Tragic Pursuit), he was conscious that his cinematic approach was different from the one seen in the early films of Rossellini and De Sica.² His personal and cultural background was different from theirs, and his political commitments led him to...

    • 5 And Then Came Silvana: Riso amaro (1949)
      (pp. 36-51)

      In late October 1949, in the pages of the Communist paperL’Unità, Davide Lojola started the first national debate on a film. The majority of the Italian critics involved showed their unpreparedness to deal with a film as exuberant asRiso amaro(Bitter Rice), which was soon to become a worldwide commercial success. The criticism was levelled at the credibility of the story and at the improbable fusion of a melodramatic love story and a socially committed theme.

      The main cause of the critics’ bewilderment was the protagonists’ overt sexuality, which motivated their actions, and the explicit eroticism displayed by...

    • 6 Myth and Reality among the Shepherds of Ciociaria: Non c’è pace tra gli ulivi (1950)
      (pp. 52-61)

      In 1949, De Santis finished his third filmNon c’è pace tra gli ulivi(No Peace under the Olives), produced by Domenico Davanzati, and distributed by Lux. The story was based on a news item written for the local Roman newspaperIl tempoby the journalist Galluppi. As in his previous films, De Santis wrote the treatment in collaboration with his friend Gianni Puccini, and they wrote the script with Carlo Lizzani. The nationally known poet Libero de Libero wrote the words for the folksongs and the dialogue.Non c’è pace tra gli ulivi, a visually beautiful film, is based...

    • 7 The Stairway of Dreams and Illusions: Roma, Ore 11 (1952)
      (pp. 62-69)

      In 1952, unable to find a producer¹ for ‘Noi che facciamo crescere il pane,’ a saga about the exploitation of the southern peasant, De Santis shotRoma, Ore 11(Rome, 11 O’clock), soon acclaimed² as his best film to date in terms of content and balance. The story is based on a tragic event that occurred at Via Savoia 31, in Rome, 15 January 1951, which shocked the public. On that cold, winter day, a building staircase collapsed under the weight of about two hundred women who had travelled there from almost every section of the city to be interviewed...

    • 8 Could an Italian Male Marry an Everyman’s Woman? Un marito per Anna Zaccheo (1953)
      (pp. 70-77)

      After the critical recognition givenRoma, Ore 11, De Santis once again tried to film ‘Noi che facciamo crescere il pane,’ his saga about the peasants’ rebellion for land and reforms in Calabria, but he was unable to find a producer, even in 1953, when he was at the peak of his career (Goffredo Lombardo, director of Titanus Studio, gave him credit for the supervision of two minor films with the sole aim of promoting them, although De Santis never worked on the productions).¹ Elio Petri recounts that, as he was working with Gianni Puccini and De Santis on finding...

    • 9 Honeymoon on a Bicycle: Giorni d’amore (1954)
      (pp. 78-86)

      In the conformist atmosphere generated by the growing power of a centrist Christian Democrat government, artistic freedom of expression was restricted. State control of funding placed a damper on creative activities and led to self-imposed censorship. Italian cinema was living through the most difficult years since the fall of Fascism.¹ In this period of overall artistic decline, so-called Rosy Neorealism, which institutionalized optimism along with cheerful misery and political escapism, dominated the collective imagination of the national audience. Most of the leading personalities of early Neorealism were paying their dues to the general state of artistic regression. The theoretician Umberto...

    • 10 A Fable of ‘I Lupari,’ a Vanished Breed: Uomini e lupi (1957)
      (pp. 87-95)

      In the late 1950s, Giuseppe De Santis was unable to find financial backing for his new film on the life of the communist union leader Giuseppe Di Vittorio,¹ one of the forces behind land-reform strikes in the South, and was forced to continue filming minor stories which, under different social, cultural, and economic conditions, he would never have made. The financial situation was so bleak that the Italian film industry could not afford to take risks on politically controversial films. In November 1955, producer Renato Gualino announced his intention to withdraw Lux Film Studios from film production. On 2 May...

    • 11 De Santis’s Conception of Cinematic Realism: Cesta Duga Godinu Dana/La strada lunga un anno (1958)
      (pp. 96-110)

      The treatment, written in 1954, was originally called ‘Chiaravalle va in pianura’ (Chiaravalle Goes to the Valley), but was later changed to ‘La strada nella valle’ (The Road in the Valley). The script was finished during the same year but filming did not begin for another four years. It was finally shot (in Ultrascope) in Istria, a region in the former Yugoslavia (now Croatia), with the financing of Jadran Film of Zagreb¹ and Avala Film of Belgrade and was produced by Ivo Vrhovec. The film was released with the Serbo-Croatian titleCesta Duga Godinu Dana(The One-Year-Long Road) and was...

    • 12 The End of the Bourgeois Family or Repugnance for a Transformed Society? La Garçonnière (1960)
      (pp. 111-118)

      De Santis’s return to Italy afterCesta Duga Godinu Dana(1958; The One-Year-Long Road) was met with professional adversity and ostracism. In spite of the international recognition it received, his Yugoslavian film was never seriously distributed in Italy, and consequently was never reviewed by film critics.¹

      To make things even worse, De Santis’s new project never materialized. With the collaboration of the nationally known Neapolitan writer Carlo Bernari, his disciple Elio Petri, Ugo Pirro, and Tonino Guerra, De Santis had written a story which subsequently became a script about Pettotondo (Round Breast), the legendary Apulian prostitute who never wanted to...

    • 13 March On or Die: Italiani brava gente (1964)
      (pp. 119-132)

      In the 1960s, Italian cinema witnessed a widely acclaimed revival of historical themes. The box-office success of two films in particular - Mario Monicelli’s controversial comedyLa grande guerra(1959; The Great War) and Luigi Comencini’sTutti a casa(1960; Everybody Home!) spurred on this new cinematic movement. Monicelli’sLa grande guerra, is a controversial film that explores the role of the ordinary man in the First World War. Luigi Comencini’s film also deals with a historical event; however, it treats the occasion in a tragicomic manner. These war films and tragicomic films dealing with past and recent historical events...

    • 14 Impotence as a Metaphor of the 1970s’ Baffling Reality: Un apprezzato professionista di sicuro avvenire (1972)
      (pp. 133-142)

      In 1971, seven years after makingItaliani brava gente(Italiano brava gente), De Santis (with the financial collaboration of his friend Giorgio Salvioni) founded a cooperative, Film Nova, to produce a film based on a story they had co-written, ‘La giornata di dolore dell’avvocato Arcuri’ (The Grievous Day of the Attorney Arcuri). The director expected to complete the film in about two months’ time so he could finally start, in Yugoslavia, his long-awaited project on the poet Ovid’s exile from ancient Rome.¹ De Santis had spent one year in Romania and two years researching historical documents and reading Ovid’s works...

  9. Part III: The Working Classes Declassed

    • 15 On the Margin: Some Reasons for a Long, Unbroken Silence
      (pp. 145-156)

      The destiny of Giuseppe De Santis as a film director is a strange one. Lauded, first, as a film critic forCinema(especially for reviews of films by Rossellini, Blasetti, and De Sica, and articles that foretell trends in postwar Italian cinema);¹ then, as assistant director to Visconti, Vergano, and Rossellini² and, finally, for his directorial debut withCaccia tragica(Tragic Pursuit) in 1947. His first film was warmly received by Italian critics, who praised the artistry and masterly technique of the young director. Some young intellectuals, already his collaborators in writing forCinemaandFilm d’oggi, along with the...

    • 16 From the Specific to the General: Some Concluding Considerations
      (pp. 157-162)

      De Santis’s films, contrary to what the new generation of Italian film critics has written and publicly stated on several occasions, need no rehabilitation or moral and critical reparation.¹ De Santis is a Neorealist auteur, regardless of how the term is applied or defined.² Even if they did not always applaud or completely understand his films, the critics of the late 1940s and 1950s generally dealt with his work respectfully, whether with approval or disapproval.³ He was never excluded from the Italian postwar cinematic debate on Neorealism. De Santis’s films fall within the two main currents of postwar Italian cinema....

  10. Notes
    (pp. 163-186)
  11. Bibliography
    (pp. 187-200)
  12. Filmography Giuseppe De Santis Born in Fondi, on II February 1917
    (pp. 201-210)
  13. Index
    (pp. 211-220)