Jumat, 24 Agustus 2012

Neo-Realism in World Cinema

Neo-Realism, a movement in Italian cinema that emerged in the 1940s, its desire being to recover coherence between images, narrative, and reality. Despite differences in the styles of individual writers and directors, it is possible to extract certain common elements, for example the abandoning of fantastical narratives, the preference given to outdoor locations rather than shooting in studios, the use of non-professional actors, and the attempt to present a less varnished view of the political and social issues of a country in a period of great change.

It is thought that the term "Neo-Realism" was first used in 1943 by the editor Mario Serandrei in reference to Ossessione (1943), the first film by Luchino Visconti. The director, who based his film loosely on the novel The Postman Always Rings Twice by James Cain (brought to the screen again under its original title in 1946 by Tay Garnett and again in 1981 by Bob Rafelson) set the film not in the United States but in the valley of the River Po, and by abandoning the studio and shooting in an expressive, black-and-white, documentary style he obtained an authenticity that contrasted radically with the sophisticated artificiality of studio-bound Cinecittà productions of the late 1930s-the so-called "white telephone" films, named after the distinctive props of their glamorous sets.

In 1943 Vittorio De Sica filmed I Bambini ci Guardano (The Children are Watching Us), but "l'école italienne de la libération", as the French define Neo-Realism (emphasizing the connection between its rise and the end of fascist rule), did not truly emerge until two years later with the making of Roma, Città Aperta (1945; Rome, Open City, directed by Roberto Rossellini), now the symbol of the rebirth of Italian cinema. The film was shot in the streets of Rome during the last days of the German occupation, with material often recovered from discarded propaganda films in which Rossellini himself had been forced to collaborate in the preceding years.

After Roma, Città Aperta (which alongside amateur actors presented two actors who became icons of Italian cinema, Anna Magnani and Aldo Fabrizi), there followed a boom that in the space of just a few years produced some of the greatest works of post-war Italian cinema: Paisà (1946) and Germania, Anno Zero (1947; Germany, Year Zero), also by Rossellini; La Terra Trema (1948; The Earth Trembles, adapted from the classic novel I Malavoglia by Giovanni Verga) and Bellissima (1951) by Visconti; Sciuscià (1946; Shoeshine), Ladri di Biciclette (1949; Bicycle Thieves), and Miracolo a Milano (1951) by De Sica.collaborating with Cesare Zavattini; and Riso Amaro (1948; Bitter Rice, a social melodrama set in northern Italy that launched the careers of Silvana Mangano and Vittorio Gassman) and In Nome della Legge (1949; In the Name of the Law, a Sicilian-style Western) by Pietro germi.

The heyday of Neo-Realism ended in the early 1950s. Rossellini continued to make a few films of merit: Il Miracolo (1948; the first part of a diptych called L'Amore, Marcello Pagliero directing the second part, Una Voce Umana), with Anna Magnani and a very young Federico Fellini in an acting role; Stromboli, Terra di Dio (1949; Stromboli); Francesco, Giullare di Dio (1950; Francis, God's Jester), scenes from the life of St Francis; Europa '51 (1951); and Viaggio in Italia (1954; Journey to Italy, starring Ingrid Bergman, who was married to Rossellini at the time)-after which Rossellini abandoned fictional films to concentrate on documentaries and work for television.

Visconti directed Senso (1953; The Wanton Countess), a film that signalled his passage from Neo-Realism to Realism, from the so-called "poetica del pedinamento" (poetics of everyday life and the normal man) to the resumption of the romantic tradition of the 19th-century novel, transposing the environment and psychology of characters to the medium of cinema. However, his later classic Rocco e i Suoi Fratelli (1960; Rocco and his Brothers), while eschewing Neo-Realist production, editing, and narrative techniques, still dealt with themes and situations of poverty and struggle that make its descent from the Neo-Realist tradition clear.

With Umberto D (1952), a great Neo-Realistic work and perhaps his most accomplished after L'Oro di Napoli (1954; The Gold of Naples), Vittorio De Sica paved the way for a more marketable cinema and a less dramatic Realism, without sacrificing quality of production. According to historical convention, the period of Neo-Realism that began with Ossessione ended with Umberto D.

In many cases, emerging new genres borrowed elements from Neo-Realism but without inheriting its profound sensibilities. As an example one can cite the whole series of popular films in which characters are often little more than caricatures inspired by Neo-Realism. Among these were Pane, Amore e Fantasia (1953; Bread, Love and Dreams, Luigi Comencini), starring Vittorio De Sica (in front of the camera) and the first appearance of Gina Lollobrigida, and Poveri ma Belli (1956; Poor but Beautiful, Dino Risi)-films in which, whether set in the country or the city, the practice of reducing characters to psychological stereotypes, as the "white telephones" cinema had done, was recreated.

In many cases, emerging new genres borrowed elements from Neo-Realism but without inheriting its profound sensibilities. As an example one can cite the whole series of popular films in which characters are often little more than caricatures inspired by Neo-Realism. Among these were Pane, Amore e Fantasia (1953; Bread, Love and Dreams, Luigi Comencini), starring Vittorio De Sica (in front of the camera) and the first appearance of Gina Lollobrigida, and Poveri ma Belli (1956; Poor but Beautiful, Dino Risi)-films in which, whether set in the country or the city, the practice of reducing characters to psychological stereotypes, as the "white telephones" cinema had done, was recreated.

In comedy, the heredity of Neo-Realism is noticeable, for example, in the series of films adapted from the stories of Giovanni Guareschi based on the character Don Camillo. The Don Camillo series, starring Fernandel as the priest Camillo and his love-hate relationship with the Communist mayor Peppone, played by Gino Cervi, were filmed by directors such as Julien Duvivier, achieving record takings in Italy throughout the 1950s.

The legacy of Neo-Realism was not limited only to the genre of the heart-rending, comic, sentimental films. Confirmation of this lies in the fact that, beyond differences in style, the movement created a true "school" where the structure of reality and the way in which to present it were investigated, and it was under this influence that a new generation of directors emerged who would constitute the nucleus of Italian cinema in the 1950s and 1960s, among them Fellini and Michelangelo Antonioni.

Michelangelo Antonioni

Michelangelo Antonioni is regarded as one of the best known directors of Italian films. After starting off in the Neo-Realist style, he developed his own characteristic style, which includes fantasy elements. His films include Blow-Up (1966) and Zabriskie Point (1969).

What is Neo Realism... What does it mean... how it has influenced world cinema

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