We cannot verify your location
Browse Book and Journal Content on Project MUSE

A Cinema of Poetry

Aesthetics of the Italian Art Film

Joseph Luzzi

Publication Year: 2014

A Cinema of Poetry brings Italian film studies into dialogue with fields outside its usual purview by showing how films can contribute to our understanding of aesthetic questions that stretch back to Homer. Joseph Luzzi considers the relationship between film and literature, such as the cinematic adaptation of literary sources, and more generally the fields of rhetoric, media studies, and modern Italian culture. The book balances theoretical inquiry with close readings of films by the masters of Italian cinema: Roberto Rossellini, Vittorio De Sica, Luchino Visconti, Michelangelo Antonioni, Federico Fellini, Pier Paolo Pasolini, and Bernardo Bertolucci, among others. Luzzi's study is the first to show how Italian filmmakers address such crucial aesthetic issues as the nature of the chorus, the relationship between symbol and allegory, the literary prehistory of montage, and the place of poetry in cinematic expression—what Pasolini called the "cinema of poetry." While Luzzi establishes how certain qualities of film—its link with technological processes, capacity for mass distribution, synthetic virtues (and vices) as the so-called total art—have reshaped centuries-long debates, A Cinema of Poetry also explores what is specific to the Italian art film and, more broadly, Italian cinematic history, which lends to this national cinema its unique aesthetic perspectives. In other words, what makes this version of the art film recognizably “Italian"?

Published by: The Johns Hopkins University Press

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication, Quote

pdf iconDownload PDF (61.7 KB)

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF (71.2 KB)
pp. xi-xvi

This book follows a generally chronological structure. The two chapters in part 1, “Neorealist Rhetoric and National Identity,” show how certain films grouped under the term neorealism established cinematic discourses that illuminate our understanding of concerns in the history of art while reflecting...

read more

Introduction: Toward a Poetics of the Italian Art Film

pdf iconDownload PDF (189.8 KB)
pp. 1-16

On 19 August 1916 Giovanni Verga wrote to his screenwriter that he was taking matters into his own hands: “Ho creduto meglio di stendere io stesso la trama delle scene . . . onde evitare uno dei soliti pasticci chilometrici che fanno assomigliare la cinematografia al romanzo di appendici per analfabeti”...

Part One: Neorealist Rhetoric and National Identity

read more

Chapter One. The Chorus of Neorealism

pdf iconDownload PDF (265.8 KB)
pp. 19-35

“Non ho formule e preconcetti,” Roberto Rossellini claimed when asked to look back on his fabled postwar cinema; “ma se guardo a ritroso i miei film, indubbiamente vi riscontro degli elementi che sono in essi costanti, e che vi sono ripetuti non programmaticamente, ma, ripeto, naturalmente. Anzitutto...

read more

Chapter Two. Beyond Beauty: Cinematic Allegory and the Question of Italy

pdf iconDownload PDF (254.9 KB)
pp. 36-50

That cinema appeared so much later than its sister arts had, as one might expect, both advantages and disadvantages. Because film lacked the authority of poetry, painting, and music, it faced the ongoing challenge of establishing its aesthetic value to its predecessors. The challenge was intensified by the widespread prejudice that cinema, the offspring of technology and capitalism...

Part Two: Cinemas of Poerty

read more

Chapter Three. Rossellini’s Cinema of Poetry: Voyage to Italy

pdf iconDownload PDF (264.5 KB)
pp. 53

Though the vast bibliography on Roberto Rossellini contains relatively few items that address the issue of adaptation, his work during the so-called Ingrid Bergman years (1949–55) anticipates and synthesizes many of the era’s concerns about film’s interrelations with literature. The critical lacuna is not...

read more

Chapter Four. Poesis in Pasolini: Theory and Practice

pdf iconDownload PDF (189.7 KB)
pp. 70-86

Not surprisingly, the early reception of Pier Paolo Pasolini’s notions on the cinema di poesia (cinema of poetry), first elaborated in a paper at the Pesaro Film Festival in 1965, was divided to the extreme.1 The most common resistance regarded Pasolini’s positing of an identity between the language of...

Part Three: Aesthetic Corsi and Ricorsi

read more

Chapter Five Threat of the Real: Fact and Image in Antonioni

pdf iconDownload PDF (260.2 KB)
pp. 89-106

The career of Michelangelo Antonioni provides a Janus-faced perspective on the history of Italian film. As the innovative auteur whose work in the 1950s and 1960s cleared new pathways for filmmakers overwhelmed by a neorealist heritage, his films reassert the value of experimental approaches reminiscent...

read more

Chapter Six. Chiasmus, Italian Style: Rhetoric and Ideology in The Leopard and The Conformist

pdf iconDownload PDF (199.9 KB)
pp. 107-123

In her study of Italian identity after political unification in 1861, Suzanne Stewart-Steinberg explores the traits that impeded the formation of a national self, including the Italians’ supposed lack of interiority, their scioltezza or elasticity in acting and thinking, and their love of rhetoric (1–19). The...

read more

Chapter Seven.Verbal Montage and Visual Apostrophe: Zanzotto’s “Filò” and Fellini’s Voice of the Moon

pdf iconDownload PDF (145.8 KB)
pp. 124-142

It has become a commonplace to follow Federico Fellini’s own words on the question of film’s relationship to the sister arts and view him—like the man he called his cinematic father, Roberto Rossellini—as an antiliterary director. After all, Fellini insisted that any attempt to link literature and film represented...

read more

Epilogue: Art Film Redux: Cinepoetics in the New Millennium

pdf iconDownload PDF (276.4 KB)
pp. 143-160

By the turn of the millennium, a once-mighty Italian film industry had long been mired in crisis. In 2001 box-office numbers dropped by fifty percent from the previous year, and in 2005 the Berlusconi government slashed funding of the nation’s principal arts program by forty percent.1 The fate of...


pdf iconDownload PDF (197.8 KB)
pp. 161-188

Works Cited

pdf iconDownload PDF (134.5 KB)
pp. 189-204


pdf iconDownload PDF (481.5 KB)
pp. 205-211

E-ISBN-13: 9781421412962
E-ISBN-10: 1421412969
Print-ISBN-13: 9781421411668
Print-ISBN-10: 1421411660

Page Count: 256
Illustrations: 34 b&w illus.
Publication Year: 2014