For three years Rossellini and his son worked on a twelve-part series for Italian television about man’s search for food and the subsequent development of civilization.
sense of cinema wrote:
In 1963 Roberto Rossellini called a press conference and announced: “Il cinema è morto.” “Cinema is dead.”
Rossellini had lost confidence. For four years he refused to direct. He was through with art. Civilisation was collapsing from infantilism; film’s urgent task was to show the masses the map of human achievement. He marketed himself as a purveyor of educational materials. Cynics laughed as Rossellini begged funds from a steel company, Italsider, so that his son Renzo could direct the 4.5-hour The Iron Age (1964), and then convinced Jean Riboud and John de Menil to come up with $500,000 from Schlumberger, IBM, Gulf, and UpJohn so that Renzo could direct the 12-hour Italian-French-Egyptian-Roumanian Man’s Struggle for Survival celebrating the conquest of nature.
French TV came to the rescue, with a nudge from Jean Gruault: La Prise de pouvoir par Louis XIV, which was reportedly seen by 20 million French people the first week of colour broadcasting. Italy’s Christian-Democrats, not to be outdone by Guallists, replied with Acts of the Apostles. “Horizon 2000”, the new production company Riboud and de Menil had given Rossellini, was off and running.
Most of Rossellini’s movies are dedicated to history. There are 36 hours of TV dramatising the past, plus 19 features on Francesco, Garibaldi, the carbonari, Christ, and World War II. His Great Plan was to film the whole history of everything, but to have others do the directing. Fellini was immoral, he maintained, because Fellini preferred to go on making Fellini movies rather than direct one of Rossellini’s didactic subjects.
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