Italy Cinematography in the 1960’s Part 1
According to Localcollegeexplorer, the writer and poet, of Bolognese birth and Friulian training, was the most important new author expressed by the decade of the ‘dolce vita’ and the economic boom, of songs and protest, of difficult journeys from South to North and of primacy (still not absolute) of the city on the countryside. It was the most lively decade, beyond any easy hagiography, on an artistic and cultural level, as well as a political one; the one in which the number of cinematographic works produced increased considerably and so did that of the spectators. A real golden age of Italian cinema, as defined by an attentive scholar such as P. Bondanella (1983), full of multiple and significant beginnings, starting with that of Pasolini himself. Without actual technical experience, he immediately revealed a great affinity with cinematographic writing, and with the tragic path of a borgataro (Accattone, 1961) he transferred his poetry and prose to the screen, as well as his remarkable qualities of sensitivity and pictorial taste, also fueled by the school by R. Longhi. Scanned by the music of JS Bach, Accattone seems to reveal an innocence of the gaze, an almost total availability of its author towards the matter of representation. The ‘Masaccesque’ and ‘Caravaggesque’ faces of the young Roman underclass are also found in Mamma Roma (1962), which also marked another great test of Anna Magnani, while the relationship between that world of township and misery and its representation on screen – and between these and painting – are at the center of La ricotta (1963), an episode within a collective work, RO.GO.PA.G., extraordinary example of artist self-reflection, with reconstructions in the form of tableaux vivants of works by Rosso Fiorentino and Pontormo. Between the stones of Matera and Ionian Calabria Pasolini shot The Gospel according to Matthew (1964), punctuated by pictorial quotations from the Italian fifteenth century and messianic phrases. The militant and provocative intellectual that he was, Pasolini could not fail to reflect on the figure of the cleric even in the form of a film; Thus was born Uccellacci e uccellini (1966), the philosophique count in which the tragicomic and the grotesque of the world are seen through the figures of Totò and Ninetto Davoli. To this ‘strange’ couple Pasolini also entrusted two splendid short films, The Earth seen from the Moon (episode of the collective film Le streghe, 1967) and What Are Clouds? (episode of the collective film Capriccio all’italiana, 1968), both fundamental apologues on life and death. Finally, the director moved towards the decline of the decade with a reinterpretation of the classic myth, Oedipus re (1967).
With Pasolini Bernardo Bertolucci took his first steps, who from a story of his ‘master’ created La commare Secca (1962), a cross-section of an underclass Rome that nevertheless tries to immediately detach itself from the Pasolini influence, for example. preferring enveloping and repeated camera movements to the recurring frontal shots and close-ups of the director of Accattone. More ‘Pasolinian’, if anything, is the following Before the revolution (1964), one of his best works, a somewhat Stendhalian film, analogous to a Bildungsroman. The new generations, expression of the turmoil of the Sixties, entered the cinema with Bertolucci and Marco Bellocchio. After a few short films, the latter prevailed with the iconoclastic analysis, often conducted with crooked and alienating shots, of a provincial bourgeois family environment, whose members are affected, with only one but ‘monstrous’ exception, from various types of defects: Fists in the Pocket (1965). Film that revealed the propensity to the grotesque of the first Bellocchio, confirmed by some passages of the following China is near (1967), where the ‘political’ dimension of the assumption is more evident, but less effective from a formal point of view. A few years earlier, in Franco’s Spain, Marco Ferreri had made his debut with a caustic and surrealist spirit, author of two bizarre films, El pisto (1958) and El cochecito (1960), apologues on the senselessness and the utilitarian value of human action, in which Ferreri already revealed his predilection for singular figures or even freaks (the crippled first film, the paralytic protagonist of the second) and for situations revealed in their most paradoxical and demystifying side. A path followed in his first Italian film, L’ape regina (1963), where the grotesque is very wisely calibrated in a crescendo that takes the initial assumption to its extreme consequences. Ferreri’s universe is constantly inhabited by figures conceived on a realistic basis, but promptly turned into ‘monstrous’ implications. A gallery featuring monkey women (The Monkey Woman, 1964), plastic dolls and automatons (Wedding March, 1966), up to the fetishist engineer (Michel Piccoli) of what is perhaps the most important work of this director, Dillinger is dead (1969), a slow scan of gratuitous and alienating acts, where the images of old films seem to reveal that everything is already happened in Ferrerian lucid nonsense. If it can be said of Dillinger’s Ferreri that he is outside or beyond history, almost in an after-history, within history and also within the chronicle, it remains Francesco Rosi, former assistant to Visconti and author, with The Challenge (1958), of a first work full of a sense of rhythm and narrative tension. But it was with Salvatore Giuliano (1962) that a remarkable sense of images and montage could also be appreciated. With this work Rosi developed the technique of the documentary effect, obtained also thanks to the use or remaking of repertoire pieces, inserted with great skill in the narrative fabric, while an effect of reality or live shooting is felt in some sequences of Hands on the city (1963), a courageous reflection on political corruption. The taste for the documentary value of cinema also belongs to Gillo Pontecorvo, who perhaps got it from frequenting Joris Ivens in his youth.