James Hay – Popular Film Culture in Fascist Italy – The Passing of the Rex (1987)

This is the first comprehensive examination in English of Italian cinema during the Fascist era. James Hay discusses the films of the 1920s and 1930s in terms of the popular culture and cultural policy of the times. The hundreds of films produced during this period have generally been discredited as propagandistic or as “white telephones” by both film and social historians. Hay, however, argues that this interpretation is much too simplistic. He demonstrates that this popular film culture was the result of a growing public “literacy” of film and of the interaction of cultural, social, and political transformations. This study uses popular cinematic narratives and images to discuss how Italians began to see themselves as a nation and as a cultura popolare.
Popular Film Culture in Fascist Italy is profusely illustrated with photos from films such as Grandi magasini and Squadrone bianco as well as popular classics such as Amarcord Continue reading

Alessandro Blasetti – Palio (1932)

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IMDb:

An anticipation of Blasetti’s style. A great movie about the Siena Palio. Guido Celano (Zarre) is a very good actress and Leda Gloria too. The Tuscany environment is very well depicted. The performing style is influenced by the period, but it is quite good anyway. It is a very uncommon movie and the best representation of Palio, a religious and sporting event in Siena. Blasetti, then, after Il Palio and Terre Sole, start a wonderful career as director and will anticipates the “neorealism” with his 1942’s movie “Quattro passi fra le nuvole”. Very impressive the opening scene with Zarre riding a horse in the Siena countryside. Continue reading

Michelangelo Antonioni – Gente del Po AKA People of the Po Valley (1947)

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“Paste Magazine” wrote:
by Sean Gandert

“Gente del Po” is very much a neo-realist work of its period, even though it’s completely a documentary rather than just having the trappings of reality. The film follows a family of fishers through their day-to-day life, inflecting a semblance of narrative onto things at the end by explaining a journey into town as a trip for medicine, but for the most part, the film is simply descriptive. Of course, Antonioni has never been particularly known for his narratives, which usually consist of little more than pretty young people angsting around, but here the difference is that the family doesn’t even approach characterization, described only as “a man, a woman, and a girl.” Continue reading

Mario Soldati – Piccolo mondo antico aka Old-Fashioned World (1941)

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Plot:

Franco, a young man of noble descent, decides to marry Luisa, daughter of a humble clerk, against his grandmother’s will. But a terrible tragedy upsets the life of the newly married couple: their little daughter Ombretta drowns in Lake Como and Luisa goes to the brink of madness… Continue reading

Guido Brignone – Maciste all’inferno AKA Maciste in Hell (1925)

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Scifilm wrote:
Maciste is tempted by the devil, and ends up trapped in hell when he elects to fight him.

Bartolomeo Pagano played Maciste in the 1914 movie CABIRIA; he must have liked the character; he ended up playing him repeatedly in a variety of movies over the next twenty years. I do wonder about the character’s position in time; CABIRIA took place in ancient Rome, but even if I’m not sure when this movie takes place, it’s certainly a much later period of time; Maciste wears a suit and tie through most of this, and at one point he is tempted with some shots of very modern cities indeed. Nonetheless, the fantasy element is very strong; the scenes in hell are great, with a huge cast of demons and fiends, including a couple of giant demons, a flying dragon, and some great special effects. It’s based at least partially on Dante’s “Inferno”, and it includes both Lucifer, Pluto and Proserpine as characters. I would love to have seen some of the other early Maciste movies just to see what the character’s story was, but this one and CABIRIA are the only ones I know exist for sure. It’s definitely worth a look for people interested in creative visions of hell; the movie apparently served as an inspiration both for Mario Bava and Federico Fellini. Continue reading

Alessandro Blasetti – Terra madre (1931)

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PLOT SYNOPSIS
After many years in the city, the Duke Marco, accompanied by his lover Daisy and by a cohort of frivolous and condescending friends, pays a visit to the country estate in which he grew up, and that he now owns after his father’s death. The Duke slowly comes to acknowledge how deeply connected he feels towards the ancestral land and its humble people, but he is torn between his duties as a landowner and the whims of Daisy, who pushes him to sell the estate to an unscrupulous businessman. To complicate matters, the Duke gets increasingly fond of Emilia, the young and outspoken daughter of the head farmer. Continue reading

Mario Camerini – Gli Uomini, che mascalzoni! AKA What Scoundrels Men Are! (1932)

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Summary:
(imdb user review)

“Author: janus-12 from vicenza, italy

In this movie we can find the best of italian movie-makers of 30’s (the age of “telefoni bianchi”, the “white phones”, in relation to comedies in which Wh.-Ph. were often used): Camerini as director, Vittorio De Sica, who worked as actor but years after will be one of the most relevant directors in the world, Bixio & Cherubini who wrote one classic song of italian music “Parlami d’amore Mariù” (“Mary, speak about love to me”). The plot is easy, the scenario is in an old Milan, but… seeing this movie means going back in years in which… love was the most important thing. ” Continue reading