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Brutal Vision

Brutal Vision: The Neorealist Body in Postwar Italian Cinema

Copyright Date: 2012
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 320
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  • Book Info
    Brutal Vision
    Book Description:

    Film history identifies Italian neorealism as the exemplar of national cinema, a specifically domestic response to wartime atrocities. Brutal Vision challenges this orthodoxy by arguing that neorealist films—including such classics as Rome, Open City; Paisan; Shoeshine; and Bicycle Thieves—should be understood less as national products and more as complex agents of a postwar reorganization of global politics.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-8024-5
    Subjects: Art & Art History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-xii)
    (pp. xiii-xxxiv)

    Late twentieth-century thinkers often repeat a fateful parable of how World War II destroyed the photographic image. “After the camps,” according to this parable, the camera image could only reveal its own inadequacy. The unprecedented death toll of World War II confounded the camera; the scale of the Holocaust, Hiroshima, and Nagasaki exceeded what its lens could capture. A diverse group of thinkers that spans three decades and includes Susan Sontag, Hayden White, Alain Resnais, and Jean Baudrillard describes the war’s violence as having triggered the catastrophic breakdown of all traditional means of visually representing reality. The suffering caused by...

  5. 1 AN INEVITABLY OBSCENE CINEMA: Bazin and Neorealism
    (pp. 1-68)

    André Bazin’s writings exemplify mid-twentieth-century arguments that locate cinema’s representational richness in the photographic mechanics of image production. In the epigraph to this chapter, Bazin proposes that because cinema is based on the photograph and its physical relationship with the real, the film image is inherently more graphic than other kinds of pictures. This suggests that some images are more explicit than others, a seemingly redundant locution that implies that some photographs are more photographic than others. In turn, it means that certain films are more filmic than others. Indeed, while Bazin sees nearly all cinema as inherently photographic, he...

    (pp. 69-108)

    Life magazine predicted in 1952 that Italian cinema would pose an increasing commercial threat to Hollywood’s domination of the U.S. market if Italy continued to produce both “provocative films” and “provocative beauties.”¹Lifeeven went so far as to trace the recent American success of these European imports to the apparently contradictory lures of the realist image: the “raw honesty” of films like Rossellini’sRome Open Cityderives,Lifeargues, from both their “moral conscience” and their “frank treatment of sex and violence.” Here neorealism provokes American spectators in two ways: it forces them to confront the urgent relevancy of...

    (pp. 109-148)

    In his 1999 documentaryMy Voyage to Italy, Martin Scorsese describes his personal devotion to Italian cinema. The film begins with the director sharing a memory from his childhood in the late 1940s and early 1950s, when every Friday night, his extended family gathered to watch the Italian films broadcast on television. In his narration, Scorsese argues that seeing these films introduced him to cinema’s potential to engage its audiences with social experiences and political realities outside of themselves. Exactly which images allowed the act of spectatorship to attain such significance?¹ Scorsese’s voice-over claims it was those uniquely “powerful” and...

  8. 4 SPECTACULAR SUFFERING: De Sica’s Bodies and Charity’s Gaze
    (pp. 149-184)

    Vittorio De Sica described his filmBicycle Thievesas “dedicated to the suffering of the humble.”¹ He said that hisShoeshinearose from the desire to bring attention to “the indifference of humanity to the needs of others.”² Over the course of the 1940s and early 1950s, De Sica developed a mise-en-scène that he hoped would redress this growing inconsequentiality of human life by challenging the way that most audiences saw the world around them. As Cesare Zavattini, his collaborator and the scriptwriter on many of his best-known neorealist films, put it, “The question is: how to give human life...

  9. 5 NEOREALISM UNDONE: The Resistant Physicalities of the Second Generation
    (pp. 185-214)

    Ordinarily, when the diegesis of one film overtly duplicates the diegesis of an earlier film, the cohesive homogeneity of fictional cinema implodes. Without an industrial rubric of star persona, adaptation, or sequeling, this form of diegetic repetition involves a disruptive intertextuality that departs from any conventional definition of realism. Yet well before the uncanny appearance of a fiction in another fiction came to be seen as postmodernist pastiche, a group of Italian films made in the 1950s and 1960s drew conspicuous comparisons between themselves and earlier neorealist classics through a series of stylistic quotations and restagings. In this chapter, I...

    (pp. 215-232)

    This book emerged from an encounter with a film. It was not an Italian film but rather the well-known HIV/AIDS documentarySilverlake Life: The View from Here(Peter Friedman and Tom Joslin, 1993). That film raised questions for me about using the image of a suffering body to up the ante of political discourse.Silverlake Life’sbodies are of course inscribed by a different set of historical discourses than those inRome Open City. This documentary is made from a series of video diaries kept by Tom Joslin, a gay filmmaker struggling with the final stages of AIDS, and by...

  11. NOTES
    (pp. 233-266)
  12. INDEX
    (pp. 267-284)
  13. Back Matter
    (pp. 285-285)