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Dante, Cinema, and Television

Dante, Cinema, and Television

Edited by Amilcare A. Iannucci
  • Book Info
    Dante, Cinema, and Television
    Book Description:

    TheDivine Comedyof Dante Alighieri (1265-1321) is one of the seminal works of western literature. Its impact on modern culture has been enormous, nourishing a plethora of twentieth century authors from Joyce and Borges to Kenzaburo Oe. Although Dante's influence in the literary sphere is well documented, very little has been written on his equally determining role in the evolution of the visual media unique to our times, namely, cinema and television.Dante, Cinema, and Televisioncorrects this oversight.

    The essays, from a broad range of disciplines, cover the influence of theDivine Comedyfrom cinema's silent era on through to the era of sound and the advent of television, as well as its impact on specific directors, actors, and episodes, on national/regional cinema and television, and on genres. They also consider the different modes of appropriation by cinema and television.Dante, Cinema, and Televisiondemonstrates the many subtle ways in which Dante'sDivine Comedyhas been given 'new life' by cinema and television, and underscores the tremendous extent of Dante's staying power in the modern world.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-7370-0
    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. ix-2)

    Danteʹs cultural predominance in the modern world is enormous. In institutes of higher learning, Dante studies abound, while numerous Dante commentaries and periodicals flood the scholarly market (lannucci, ʹThe Presence of Italian Literature ... Abroadʹ 22ff). Moreover, translations of Danteʹs works continue to occupy the skills of eminent scholars and translators, maintaining, in the process, the pleasure of the reading public and the profitability of printing houses the world over. However, it is in the sphere of literary activity that Danteʹs impact on the modern world has been felt most acutely (cf. Havely 1ff). Dante has thus deeply affected the...

  5. Dante and Hollywood
    (pp. 3-20)

    The influence of Dante has continued to demonstrate rare staying power to the present day. In the literary world that influence is pre-eminent. In 1929 T.S. Eliot declared that ʹDante and Shakespeare divide the modern world between themʹ (51), and in his preface toDante among the Moderns, Stuart Y. McDougal adds, some sixty years later, that ʹDanteʹs impact on the major writers of the modern world has far exceeded that of Shakespeareʹ (ix). Such influence has bestowed upon Dante the status of cultural icon, and he is regarded by cultural commentators, such as Harold Bloom (46), as the very...

  6. Early Cinema, Danteʹs Inferno of 1911, and the Origins of Italian Film Culture
    (pp. 21-50)

    In describing the massive impact of film on the culture of the previous century, Raymond Williams observes:

    Film was to become the central art form of the twentieth century, but it took a long time – longer in some nations and in some classes than in others – for this centrality to be recognised in relation to already established culture. From its marginal beginnings, within both the content and the institutions of popular culture, it made its way to a qualitatively different position: not only or even primarily because of its individual qualities as art, but mainly because of the...

  7. The Helios-Psiche Dante Trilogy
    (pp. 51-73)

    ʹThe audacity of the cinema is opening up boundless new horizons,ʹ enthused Giulio Capra-Boscarini (3), with high expectations of film versions of the Florentine poetʹsPurgatoryandParadise. And they would arrive soon enough, although they would not come from the producer of the 1911 colossal version of theInferno, Milano Films. Instead, they would emerge from what we can only call a black hole in the history of cinema – a black hole surrounded by a penumbra of mystery.

    On 25 October 1980La Torre, a local paper in Velletri in the Alban Hills south of Rome with a...

  8. Back to the Future: Dante and the Languages of Post-war Italian Film
    (pp. 74-96)

    It is becoming well known among Italianists that Danteʹs inquiry into, map of, and innoculation against most of the signifying possibilities we creatures of discourse have created in the West has offered filmmakers, no less than writers, a remarkably rich discursive universe in terms of which to locate themselves. But, given the disciplinary boundaries in the North American university, it has been more difficult to persuade non-Italianist film theorists that the languages of Italian cinema, however they may participate in the movements, strategies, or periods associated with ʹmodernismʹ or ʹpostmodernism,ʹ also problematize such insulating categories through their consistent engagement with...

  9. Beginning to Think about Salò
    (pp. 97-105)

    When analysing films based on written narratives (other than screenplays, naturally), one always runs the risk of oversimplifying the cinematic critique, basing it on points of intersection and divergence between the original and filmic texts (Marcus 1–25). Delineating Dantesque allusions in Pier Paolo Pasoliniʹs films is a relatively easy exercise, as Pasolini borrows repeatedly from theDivine Comedy, in spirit and in kind, from his first film,Accattone(1961), to his last,Salò o le 120 giornate di Sodoma(1975). This paper is less an attempt to enumerate theseaccennito Dante than a means of returning to an...

  10. The Off-Screen Landscape: Danteʹs Ravenna and Antonioniʹs Red Desert
    (pp. 106-128)

    Modern Italian cinema, mirroring national culture, often centres on geographic regions with their physical features and on cities with their defining monuments. It was the neo-realists, departing from stagy boudoirs and drawing rooms typical of ʹwhite telephoneʹ movies in the 1930s, who came out of the studios into real towns and countrysides to establish the importance of place in film. In this they took their cue from local colour integral toverismo, the late nineteenth-century literary school that defined those directors after the Second World War as the ʹnew realistsʹ. As early as Viscontiʹs proto–neo-realistOssessione(1942), setting was...

  11. Spencer Williams and Dante: An African-American Filmmaker at the Gates of Hell
    (pp. 129-144)

    This essay looks at a unique moment in the reception of Dante: the imitation of theInfernoin the filmGo Down, Death!(1944), by the independent African-American filmmaker Spencer Williams. Williams, by one account ʹthe most unsung hero of [the] entire eraʹ of early black filmmaking (Jones 173), estranged much of the black intelligentsia for his part in the controversial television comedyAmos ʹnʹ Andy, in which he played the leading role of Andy Brown.¹ Consequently, his substantial body of work is not as well known today as it might be.² Spike Lee, in a recent piece on ʹBlack...

  12. Television, Translation, and Vulgarization: Reflections on Phillipʹs and Greenawayʹs A TV Dante
    (pp. 145-152)

    In July 1990, Channel 4 Television in the United Kingdom broadcastA TV Dante, co-directed by Peter Greenaway and Tom Phillips. When term recommenced at Oxford the following October, I remember that the four episodes were the subject of some comment in tutorials and not much of it was favourable! Of course, this negative reaction was the result of expectations of ʹtextual fidelityʹ engendered by the long tradition of BBC literary adaptations, such as the recent productions ofSense and SensibilityandMiddlemarchseen in the United States on PBS (Marcus 15–17). In other words, viewers expected a dramatization...

  13. Dopo Tanto Veder: Pasoliniʹs Dante after the Disappearance of the Fireflies
    (pp. 153-165)

    In this essay, I propose to offer a general description of the significance of Danteʹs work for a single Italian filmmaker and writer, Pier Paolo Pasolini. Pasolini was a profoundly important poet, novelist, and filmmaker, who produced his work within a span of years from the end of the Second World War until his mysterious assassination in 1975. It seems to me that, in the Italian culture of the last century, there is no other figure who so often returned to Dante – especially the Dante of theInferno. And certainly, among Italian filmmakers, no one has greater debts to...

  14. ʹNon Senti Come Tutto Questo Ti Assomiglia?ʹ Felliniʹs Infernal Circles
    (pp. 166-175)

    It is no doubt advisable, before attempting to explore the relationship between Danteʹs and Felliniʹs circles, to express oneʹs uncertainty about the qualification ofle proprie penne. Luckily,la vista nova, and the relationship between the image and the circle, are referred inParadiso33 to something much more complex, no less than the mystery of incarnation, while the less formidable theme of Danteʹs influences on Felliniʹs cinema has been already and quite persuasively recognized and described by, among others, Barbara K. Lewalski, Peter Bondanella, John Welle, Ben Lawton, and Amilcare lannucci.¹ Even Pier Paolo Pasolini, while emphasizing the importance...

  15. Dante and Canadian Cinema
    (pp. 176-188)

    Canadian cinema, like the cinema of other countries, has two broad periods, the silent one from 1896 down to 1929 and the sound one extending from 1929 to the present day.¹ The silent period sees, at its outset, the appearance of documentary films, which were then followed, especially after 1912, by a proliferation of fiction films, especially wilderness and adventure stories, filmed by numerous studios located in very unlikely places from Halifax to Victoria. The sound period witnesses the intervention in film of government, first in 1939 with the foundation of the National Film Board of Canada under the leadership...

  16. Dante and Cinema: Film across a Chasm
    (pp. 189-212)

    Dante and cinema? TheCommediaand cinema? The discussion hardly has begun, but several film artists have already spoken first, and spoken of an abyssal chasm of time. These hazardous notes concern three ʹartistʹs filmsʹ by Stan Brakhage, Michelangelo Antonioni, and Bruce Elder.¹ The first hazard is that these notes cannot be remotely responsible to the immense reserve of philological and interpretative scholarship on Dante. Another is referring to ʹartistʹs filmsʹ (Brakhageʹs coinage), a term without critical currency in cinema studies, where such works are slotted as ʹavant-gardeʹ or ʹexperimentalʹ cinema. But that draws a genre ghetto around films, and...

  17. Dante by Heart and Dante Declaimed: The ʹRealizationʹ of the Comedy on Italian Radio and Television
    (pp. 213-224)

    Toward the end of the month of July 1998, the municipal government of Florence organized a series of evening cultural and theatrical performances, to be presented in the cityʹs public squares. As part of the series, Roberto Benigni, newly returned from his now world-famous cinematic successes, gave a recitation ʹby heart,ʹ to use his own expression, that is, from memory, of the fifth canto of theInferno, that of Paolo and Francesca. This was not the first time the artist had performed such a feat. For some years before, on the television programBabele(a program of literary and cultural...

  18. Notes on Contributors
    (pp. 225-228)
  19. Index of Films
    (pp. 229-234)
  20. Index of Names
    (pp. 235-245)