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The Unmaking of Fascist Aesthetics

Kriss Ravetto
Copyright Date: 2001
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 304
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  • Book Info
    The Unmaking of Fascist Aesthetics
    Book Description:

    Amid the charged debate over whether—and how—the Holocaust can be represented, films about fascism, nazis, and the Final Solution keep coming. And in works by filmmakers from Bertolucci to Spielberg, debauched images of nazi and fascist eroticism, symbols of violence and immorality, often bear an uncanny resemblance to the images and symbols once used by the fascists themselves to demarcate racial, sexual, and political others. This book exposes the "madness" inherent in such a course, which attests to the impossibility of disengaging visual and rhetorical constructions from political, ideological, and moral codes. In a brilliant analysis with ramifications far beyond the realm of film, Kriss Ravetto argues that contemporary discourses using such devices actually continue unacknowledged rhetorical, moral, and visual analogies of the past.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-9249-1
    Subjects: Film Studies

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-20)

    At the end of the twentieth century, numerous attempts to “settle accounts,” “come to terms with,” and “work through” fascism, nazism, and the “Final Solution” have garnered public attention throughout both the Western media and the West’s high academic circles. For example, recent political and scholarly discourses have demanded that the nations and peoples who fostered and supported fascism acknowledge their “moral responsibility.” This question of responsibility has also become a question of “financial accountability” wherein industries like the Swiss banking industry, IG Farben, Deustche Bank, Alliance, and Bertelsmann, to name a few, have not only been accused of profiting...

  5. 1. Between Remembering and Surviving
    (pp. 21-52)

    SinceThe Night Porter(1974),Salò(1975), andSeven Beauties(1976) were produced during Europe’s volatile and politically unstable “anni di piombo” / “die bleierne Zeit” (“the leaden years,” 1972–1980), they enter into the politics of rethinking fascism and nazism in a period when the issue of remembering (especially memorializing the Holocaust) was finally beginning to be addressed in Europe, together with a growing concern over the popularity of neofascist and neonationalist parties and their deep-seated involvement in covert political actions and organizations. The renewed interest in the events of World War II set off the “fascist-debate” among primarily...

  6. 2. Feminizing Fascism
    (pp. 53-96)

    This chapter explores differences and similarities between postwar and fascist encoding of the relationship between political ethics and sexuality. Although the object of this chapter is to look specifically at postwar films that follow their neorealist predecessors in transforming the fascist construction of sexuality from an image of excessive masculine virility to one of excessive feminine or feminizing degeneration, such aesthetic feminizations and sexualizations recall various discourses circulating at the fin-desiècle, which are anchored to the image of the femme fatale. Therefore, in order understand the implications of such aesthetic and discursive references to fin-desiècle notions of feminine sexuality, it...

  7. 3. Salò: A Fatal Strategy
    (pp. 97-148)

    Released weeks after Pier Paolo Pasolini’s brutal murder on 2 November 1975,Salòremains shrouded by the spectacle of his death. Because it was his final film,Salò’sposthumous release elicited an array of biographical readings, ranging from that of Rocco Mangia, the defense lawyer for Pino Pelosi (Pasolini’s alleged murderer), who used the film as evidence of Pasolini’s so-called sadistic intent toward his client, to that of Italo Calvino, who likened Pasolini to “the perverted gentlemen of the court ofSalò,” since, like these gentlemen, “money conditioned [Pasolini’s] relationship to the subproletariat youth.”² Lifetime friends such as Giuseppe Zigaina...

  8. 4. Mixing Memory with Desire
    (pp. 149-186)

    BecauseThe Night Porterhas been accused of representing a plethora of abjections— “a terrifically decadent X” (Russell Davis); both “sleazy and slow moving” (David Sterritt); “a thinly disguised fascist propaganda film that glorifies sadism, brutality and exaggeratedmachismo, [whose] barbarism rests not only in its audacity to extol fascist principles, but also in its attempt tolegitimizethe death of millions of innocent victims at the hands of the nazi machine” (Henry Giroux)³—the film provokes intense emotional, ideological, and moral responses. These reactions in turn attest to the prevalent emotional investment in representations of nazism and the “Final...

  9. 5. Fammi campà: Survival without Omertà
    (pp. 187-226)

    In an attempt to question how power relations are in fact socially produced—especially the hierarchy of binary oppositions, including gender, race, and class oppositions that persist in the re-representations of nazism and fascism—Lina Wertmüller thwarts the process of morality and rendering gender, sexuality, and national/regional identity as functions of ideology. She subverts ideological practices by first reversing traditional gender coding and then hyperbolizing and exaggerating an array of conventional stereotypes, including political ideologies, Italian and German sexual and national identities, and images of nazism and fascism. Playing with Felliniesque images and comedic style, as well as thematic concerns...

  10. Conclusion
    (pp. 227-234)

    Since the making ofSalò,The Night Porter, andSeven Beauties, hundreds of films have produced on the subject of fascism, nazism, and the “Final Solution”, yet many tend to emulate historical modes of interpretation (for example, the American docudramaHolocaust[1978], Claude Lanzmann’sShoah[1985], and Francesco Rosi’sThe Truce[La Treuga, 1997]), often reinstalling historical narratives into the project of Enlightenment or humanist discourses (Steven Spielberg’sSchindler’s List[1993], Michael Verhoeven’sMy Mother’s Courage[Mutters Courage, 1995], and Roberto Benigni’sLife Is Beautiful[La vita è bella, 1997]) or returning to the debauched images of nazi and fascist...

  11. Notes
    (pp. 235-268)
  12. Bibliograpy
    (pp. 269-284)
  13. Index
    (pp. 285-292)
  14. Back Matter
    (pp. 293-293)