Nino Oxilia – Rapsodia satanica aka Satan’s Rhapsody (1915)

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Rapsodia Satanica (1915) was the last film directed by Nino Oxilia and is undoubtedly one of the finest achievements of the early Italian cinema. In it, Oxilia spins a variation on the Faust myth, embodied here by the diva Lyda Borelli. Typical of extravagant D’Annunzian aestheticism at its height, Rapsodia Satanica was one of the summits of what was later called the “tail coat film.” Diametrically opposed to the “cinema of reality” practiced by Serena, Martoglio and others, “tail coat films” set their melodramatic stories in the salons and villas of the upper middle class and the aristocracy, deploying narrative structures contrived to showcase their actors and especially its actresses. This had the effect of accentuating their physical presence and turning them into stars – probably the first stars in movie history. The success of the “dive” contributed to the development of motion picture grammar in its special use of the close-up.
Written by Anthony Kobal Continue reading

Roberto Rossellini – La vispa Teresa (1939)

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Scalera had obtained backing for a series of animal shorts and needed someone to make them. Roberto plunged in enthusiastically. He arrived at Ladispoli with animals of all sorts distributed among pockets and cages and started sixteen documentaries, no less, all at once. A slew of titles were annouced. La foresta silenziosa (“The quiet forest”), Primavera (“Spring”), Re Travicello, and La merca; and perhaps ll brutto idraulico (“The ugly plumber”). Fellini recalls finding Roberto at Scalera kneeling under small reflectors. “Inside a small enclosure made of nets and rope were a turtle, two mice, and three or four roaches. He was shooting a documentary about insects [La vispa Teresa?], doing one frame a day, very complex and laborious, with great patience.”
“He kept shooting for months,” Fellini adds, probably with his customary exaggeration. For in fact Roberto’s enthusiasm flagged quickly. Continue reading

Francesco de Robertis & Roberto Rossellini – La Nave Bianca aka The White Ship (1941)

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La Nave Bianca is a movie about a group of firemen on a Italian battleship, that takes part in a sea battle. During the battle one of the heaters is wounded and brought to the hospital ship, where he meets a nurse…
The film is intercut with documentary scenes from the movie La battaglia dello Jonio and the cast is completely non-professional. There has been an argument ever since about who directed the movie (Rossellini or de Robertis). A dissertation from 2002 (here on the tracker torrent) seems to decide this question finally in favour of Francesco de Robertis, who is most likely the writer of the script, main director and supervisor, whereas Rossellini merely took part in the production as learning assistant director. Continue reading

Roberto Rossellini – Il tacchino prepotente (1939)

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This is an anti-Fascist short Rossellini made in 1940.
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La vispa Teresa was rejected and, although Ferrara said that Il tacchino was distributed by Scalera under its working title, “La perfida Albione,” there were no press notices, and no one outside of Scalera is known to have seen it. According to Ferrara, Rossellini told him it was a satire in which “Perfidious Albion,” a big turkey representing England, goes around pecking at the hens representing the nations of Europe, until defied by a rooster representing Italy. “Rossellini detested it,” said Ferrara, “[though his] genius was such that he could achieve extraordinary effects out of nothing. He used to tell me, ‘It’s the only time that, through my weakness, I made a work of propaganda.’” Continue reading

Alessandro Blasetti – Resurrectio (1931)

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PLOT SYNOPSIS:
Desperate because abandoned by his lover (V. Alexandrescu), orchestra conductor hesitates: to kill himself, or kill her? He simply shoots the portrait of the lover and returns to conducting, helped in his “resurrection”, by a cute girl (L. Franca), who restores his will to live.
Second film by Blasetti, after the silent “Sun” (1929), and the only one for which he signs the script himself. Produced by Cines, it is the first Italian sound film but, deemed not commercial enough, was released after La canzone dell’amore (1930) by Righelli.
It is interesting at stylistic level, for the ambitious mixage of dialogs, music (Amedeo Escobar) and noises in parallel with experimental visual inventions. Continue reading

Vittorio De Sica – Maddalena, zero in condotta AKA Maddalena, Zero for Conduct (1940)

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Imdb comment:

This is definitely one of the best comedy ever made anywhere…In a Technical school girl students learn to write commercial letters to a Mr Doe in Germany…one day one of these letters is posted by mistake..the problem is that this Mr Doe really exists…The exquisite vittorio de Sica was a great performer before reaching stardom in 1946 with “the bicycle theft”…The movie is always charming ,never vulgar nor stupid and you really get off the movie theatre happy with yourself and life in general..Mussolini censors used Cinema to divert people in those black days…its is not the only movie of its kind but it is the best by miles..After 1960 Italian Directors like Fellini or Scola reacted strongly against this type of comedies..Now they dont seem to know how to make them anymore. Continue reading

Alessandro Blasetti – 4 passi fra le nuvole AKA Four Steps in the Clouds (1942)

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Originally released in 1942, Four Steps in the Clouds (Quattro Passi fra le Nuvole) was a major stepping stone in the starring career of Gino Cervi. The story begins as young unwed mother-to-be Maria (Adriana Benetti) desperately casts about for a means of avoiding disgrace. Making the acquaintance of good-natured Paolo Bianchi (Cervi), Maria persuades him to pose as her husband and meet her family.

Immediately ingratiating himself with Maria’s parents, Paolo plays his part so well that only a completely unforeseen disaster could spoil the charade. And when that disaster inevitably arrives, it is Paolo who comes to the rescue… Four Steps in the Clouds was superbly remade by Alfonso Arau in 1995 as A Walk in the Clouds, with Keanu Reeves in the Gino Cervi role Continue reading