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Global Neorealism

The Transnational History of a Film Style

Saverio Giovacchini

Publication Year: 2011

Intellectual, cultural, and film historians have long considered neorealism the founding block of post-World War II Italian cinema. Neorealism, the traditional story goes, was an Italian film style born in the second postwar period and aimed at recovering the reality of Italy after the sugarcoated moving images of Fascism. Lasting from 1945 to the early 1950s, neorealism produced world-renowned masterpieces such as Roberto Rossellini's Roma, città aperta (Rome, Open City, 1945) and Vittorio De Sica's Ladri di biciclette (Bicycle Thieves, 1947). These films won some of the most prestigious film awards of the immediate postwar period and influenced world cinema.

This collection brings together distinguished film scholars and cultural historians to complicate this nation-based approach to the history of neorealism. The traditional story notwithstanding, the meaning and the origins of the term are problematic. What does neorealism really mean, and how Italian is it? Italian filmmakers were wary of using the term and Rossellini preferred "realism." Many filmmakers confessed to having greatly borrowed from other cinemas, including French, Soviet, and American.

Divided into three sections, Global Neorealism examines the history of this film style from the 1930s to the 1970s using a global and international perspective. The first section examines the origins of neorealism in the international debate about realist esthetics in the 1930s. The second section discusses how this debate about realism was "Italianized" and coalesced into Italian "neorealism" and explores how critics and film distributors participated in coining the term. Finally, the third section looks at neorealism's success outside of Italy and examines how film cultures in Latin America, Africa, Asia, and the United States adjusted the style to their national and regional situations.

Published by: University Press of Mississippi

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix

We thank the Nathan and Jeanette Miller Center for Historical Studies at the University of Maryland, College Park, for precious help in the organization of the conference that started the process that this book completes. At the University Press...

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Introduction: The Geography and History of Global Neorealism

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pp. 3-15

Among the terms that cinema scholars, critics, and filmmakers have developed in the course of the twentieth century, few if any have had the staying power of neorealism. Since 1943, when Umberto Barbaro took the term from literary analysis and employed it to describe...

Part 1

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pp. 17-67

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Before the (Neorealist) Revolution

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pp. 19-36

Continuity or discontinuity? This is the central dilemma of much of twentieth- century Italian history. Is there continuity or discontinuity between fascism and the Christian Democratic regime that followed it? Was fascism a real revolution, just as the...

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Soviet-Italian Cinematic Exchanges, 1920s–1950s: From Early Soviet Film Theory to Neorealism

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pp. 37-51

In the Soviet Dictionary of Film (Sovetskii kinoslovar’, 1970), the entry on Italian neorealism concludes, “Having emerged under the influence of Soviet cinema (theoretical works by Eisenstein and Pudovkin, and cinematic works by Dovzhenko, among others), neorealism...

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The Role of Documentary Film in the Formation of the Neorealist Cinema

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pp. 52-67

The importance of the debates on the nature of realism in art and mass culture and on the role of nonfiction films in the formation of the fascist culture forces scholars not only to reevaluate the role of the documentary in the Italian context but also to rewrite the narrative of the genesis...

Part 2

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pp. 69-159

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“The Exalted Spirit of the Actual”: James Agee, Critic and Filmmaker, and the U.S. Response to Neorealism

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pp. 71-86

Credit the U.S. film industry with early and powerful recognition of post– World War II Italian cinema. The Hollywood Motion Picture Academy in 1947 awarded its first-ever special Oscar for a non-English-language film to Sciuscià (Shoeshine, 1946), stating that “the high quality...

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Marketing Meaning, Branding Neorealism: Advertising and Promoting Italian Cinema in Postwar America

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pp. 87-102

The New York premiere of Roberto Rossellini’s Roma, città aperta (rechristened Open City for its American release) in the early months of 1946 in many ways signaled a turning point in the critical and popular reception of international cinema in the United States. Foreign...

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Neorealism: Another “Cinéma de Papa” for the French New Wave?

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pp. 103-124

When the expression that would come to designate a group of bold, young French filmmakers first appeared in the French weekly L’express,1 Italian neorealism already belonged to the history of film. “Neorealism—The New Wave”: critics immediately associated the two movements...

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“With an Incredible Realism That Beats the Best of the European Cinemas”: The Making of Barrio Gris and the Reception of Italian Neorealism in Argentina, 1947–1955

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pp. 125-140

The silhouette of a mounted policeman rapidly crosses the screen. Surrounded by smoldering piles of garbage, a man is desperately climbing a street lamp. He is escaping in a dark night; a dense fog rises from the asphalt. He is dressed as a...

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Living in Peace after the Massacre: Neorealism, Colonialism, and Race

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pp. 141-159

In a lecture he gave in the late 1980s at Purdue University, neorealist director and communist intellectual Giuseppe De Santis argued that neorealism had no fathers but only “a great mother, the Resistance.”1 Thirty years earlier, in 1951, the director had suggested...

Part 3

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From Italian Neorealism to New Latin American Cinema: Ruptures and Continuities during the 1960s

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pp. 163-177

This essay revisits the influence exerted by Italian postwar neorealist films on the so-called New Latin American Cinema (NLAC) of the 1960s. The connections between the two phenomena are as obvious and as visible as they are complex, and they have given...

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Importing Neorealism, Exporting Cinema: Indian Cinema and Film Festivals in the 1950s

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pp. 178-193

In 1946, when V. Shantaram made his war-effort film, Dr. Kotnis ki amar kahani, a biopic about a doctor who went with an Indian medical mission to China shortly after the Japanese invasion, he filmed it in two versions, Hindi and English, with the latter intended...

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Neorealism and Nationalist African Cinema

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pp. 194-208

African cinema emerged in the second half of the twentieth century. The first African film, Mouramani, a short narrative on a man and his dog by Mamadi Touré, appeared in 1955. It was followed by an explosion of films in the 1960s. All were informed by an aggressive...

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Documenting the Social Reality of Brazil: Roberto Rossellini, the Paraíban Documentary School, and the Cinema Novistas

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pp. 209-225

Roberto Rossellini visited Brazil in August 1958 after the Brazilian government invited him to plan a semidocumentary about Northeastern Brazil. Josué de Castro’s books on the politics of hunger, specifically...

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Neorealism Iranian Style

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pp. 226-239

Neorealism has had a long and distinctive history in Iranian cinema. Some of the best filmmakers were influenced by its philosophical tenets and stylistic features, and domestic and foreign critics made much of the impact of Italian neorealism on Iranian authorial...

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Epilogue: Neorealism, Cinema of Poetry, and Italian Contemporary Cinema

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pp. 240-256

As this collection of essays on international cinema demonstrates, neorealism demands a new reading that frees it from the few reassuring rules on which it was supposedly based. The dangers of creating -isms are well known. Even the most unconventional movement...


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pp. 257-259


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pp. 260-272

E-ISBN-13: 9781617031236
E-ISBN-10: 1617031232
Print-ISBN-13: 9781617031229
Print-ISBN-10: 1617031224

Page Count: 272
Publication Year: 2011