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Cinema and Fascism

Cinema and Fascism: Italian Film and Society, 1922–1943

Steven Ricci
Copyright Date: 2008
Edition: 1
Pages: 248
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  • Book Info
    Cinema and Fascism
    Book Description:

    This study considers Italian filmmaking during the Fascist era and offers an original and revealing approach to the interwar years. Steven Ricci directly confronts a long-standing dilemma faced by cultural historians: while made during a period of totalitarian government, these films are neither propagandistic nor openly "Fascist." Instead, the Italian Fascist regime attempted to build ideological consensus by erasing markers of class and regional difference and by circulating terms for an imaginary national identity.Cinema and Fascisminvestigates the complex relationship between the totalitarian regime and Italian cinema. It looks at the films themselves, the industry, and the role of cinema in daily life, and offers new insights into this important but neglected period in cinema history.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-94128-1
    Subjects: Film Studies

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Preface
    (pp. xi-xiv)
    (pp. 1-18)

    Italian cinema is one of the past century’s most influential, artistically innovative, and politically engaged cultural forms. Since the inception of film studies, few other national cinemas have received as much sustained critical interest. It has served as a frequent site for mapping debates on cultural theory and has occasioned major theoretical investigations into issues such as the aesthetic properties of realism, cinema as artistic form, historical narration in relation to historical memory, art cinema, and concepts of authorship, cultural production, and ideology. That said, on perhaps no other terrain have the terms and conditions for such investigations shifted as...

    (pp. 19-51)

    It is a paradox that the study of Italian cinema from 1922 to 1943 represses historical knowledge of the relationship between that cinema—its texts and institutional practices—and political life.¹ In fact, until the late 1970s, most national film histories conscientiously ignored virtually everything which fell in between the acclaimed international successes of a few Italian silent film epics and the critical esteem afforded to neorealist films after the Second World War. In other words, there was an almost forty-year gap within the body of scholarly writing about the history of Italian films. As a consequence, films which followed...

    (pp. 52-76)

    Historians traditionally mark the rise of fascism to power by a series of dramatic political events that took place between 1922 and 1925. On October 29, 1922, King Victor Emmanuel III formally invited Benito Mussolini to become the country’s twenty-seventh prime minister. In December of the same year, Mussolini founded the Grand Council of Fascism and appointed himself its permanent president. The Acerbo election laws, passed in July 1923, effectively abolished proportional representation within the remnants of Italian parliamentary government.¹ In the April 1924 elections, which had been preceded by unparalleled Fascist terror tactics, the Fascist composite ticket was awarded...

    (pp. 77-124)

    One of the most visible aspects of the fascist regime in Italian civic life was its sponsorship and organization of both professional and amateur sports. The June 11, 1934, edition ofIl Messaggero(one of Italy’s largest daily newspapers) carried the following feature articles on its front page: “Two 35,000-ton battleships will begin construction by the end of the year,” “New important experiments by Guglielmo Marconi,” and “Il Duce applauds architects of the new Florence train station.” Yet all three were dwarfed by the full-page headline and accompanying photograph: “Italy conquers the World Football Championship—The game with Czechoslovakia was...

  9. FOUR ITALY AND AMERICA: Fascination and (Re)Negotiation
    (pp. 125-155)

    In the previous chapter we discussed the regime’s various attempts to construct a new social order through its civic programs. We have suggested that these programs influenced film spectatorship even for the commercial cinema. This chapter explores another coordinate for reading the fascist project, specifically the presence of American culture and Hollywood cinema. Any mapping of the fascist/Italian world has to accommodate what is also outside the prescribed symbolic boundaries. But how would a nongeographical cultural map “contain” America? As we have seen, the regime was both attracted to the Hollywood institutional model and also concerned about how its texts...

    (pp. 156-177)

    Throughout the twenty years of fascist rule, Italian audiences primarily saw mainstream Italian and American feature films in combination with LUCE newsreels. The timing and nature of the state’s intervention in the Italian film industry reflected the evolution of fascist political economy. During its first nine years, the state neither monopolized the industry nor did it set up a unified hierarchical system of control over cinema production. Its most significant foray into the cinema was the establishment of the Istituto LUCE in 1925. But apart from this single and significant exception, the state generally followed a mercantilist, almost laissez-faire approach...

  11. EPILOGUE. Resistance and the Return of the Local
    (pp. 178-186)

    The multi-institutional dynamics between political discourse and cinema that were consolidated during the twenty years of fascist governance have left a trail and continue to influence contemporary Italian cinema. At a micro level, for example, dubbing is still the law of the land. But, more importantly, the institutional traces of the fascist experience also point to the possibility of cultural resistance. The case of Massenzio poses intriguing questions about political accounts of cinema culture, the state-sponsored organization of leisure activities, the inescapable relationship between the Italian and American cinemas, and culture-wide struggles for the establishment of “authoritative” readings of cinema...

  12. Notes
    (pp. 187-206)
  13. Selected Bibliography
    (pp. 207-218)
  14. Index
    (pp. 219-233)
  15. Back Matter
    (pp. 234-234)