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Italian Cinema under Fascism

Amleto Palermi – Cavalleria rusticana (1939)


PLOT & Review:
(Contains some spoilers)

This film was not based on the famous one-act opera of Pietro Mascagni but rather on the original story by the Sicilian writer Giovanni Verga. It’s the story of Santuzza, her love Turiddu, and his passion for the married Lola that leads to his death in a duel when Lola’s husband Alfio exacts satisfaction. Santuzza’s curse leveled at unfaithful Turiddu, “A te la mala Pasqua!” (“Hope you have a bad Easter!”) is a memorable moment… as it was in Mascagni’s opera.

All Sicilian passion and emotion, the film is shot against authentic Sicilian backgrounds. There are wonderful colorful sequences of villagers riding in decorated traditionally decorated carts. Those scenes are so vivid you almost don’t notice the absence of color in this black and white film. Mount Etna looms in the background, suggestive of the smoking volcanic passions of some of the characters we see living near it. Read More »

Alessandro Blasetti – Retroscena (1939)



Review (amazon.com)
Un celebre baritono incontra sul piroscafo che lo conduce dall’America in Italia, una non meno celebre pianista. Costei è ricchissima e superba. Il baritono se ne innamora ma soffre per l’alterigia di lei. Poiché la ragazza ha beffato alcuni cantanti che si sono esibiti durante un concerto a bordo, il baritono si rifiuta di cantare, ed anzi, se la ragazza non promette di starsene rinchiusa nel camerino della Scala, egli è deciso a non partecipare alle recite liriche per cui è stato scritturato a Milano. Per quanto altezzosa la ragazza, che ricambia segretamente i sentimenti dell’uomo, si reca durante il suo debutto nel camerino di lui. Intanto un famoso critico nega qualunque valore al nuovo cantante, anche perché è geloso dell’interessamento che la ricca ereditiera dimostra per lui. Il cantante, d’accordo con la direzione del teatro, si presenta in una nuova opera sotto il nome di un suo collega polacco, di cui il critico è entusiasta. Durante l’intervallo egli, alla presenza di tutti, svela la propria identità al critico stesso che aveva tessuto pubblicamente le lodi dell’interprete straniero. Dopo questa vittoria egli ha modo di conoscere i veri sentimenti della ragazza di cui è innamorato. I due concluderanno l’avventura con il matrimonio. Read More »

Mario Camerini – Rotaie aka Rails (1929)



A young honeymooning couple are lured away to a seaside resort by a high-society sleazeball, who has plans to seduce the girl, while at the same time her hubby in desperation stakes all his money on the roulette wheels. Read More »

Roberto Roberti – Napoli che canta AKA When Naples sings (1926)



From il cinema muto italiano 1923-1931:
Si tratta di una antologia di canzoni napoletane, interprete dai maggiori cantanti dell’epoca, i quali seguirono alcune prime visioni, cantando direttamente sotto lo schermo.

This is an anthology of Neapolitan songs, singers from the major interpreter of the time, which followed some premieres, singing directly below the screen. Read More »

Vittorio Cottafavi – I nostri sogni AKA Our Dreams (1943)



Plot: Leo (Vittorio De Sica) is young man trying to make a living without any success. Through fortuitous circumstances, he is assigned by the director of a big firm to accompany for one night the daughter of the firm’s accountant, Titi (María Mercader). Leo pretends then to be the son of a tycoon, and takes her in a luxurious restaurant. Read More »

Raffaello Matarazzo – Treno popolare (1933)


Plot: Lina, Giovanni and Carlo take the Roma-Orvieto train for a trip to the countryside.

One of the beacon films of the European cinema of the Thirties. Celebrating the sound film as a rebirth of cinema, Treno popolare combines and harmonises, with genius, several characteristics of the cinema of the period. Talking pictures, of which it is too often said that they rendered cinema theatrical, also accentuated and stimulated realism. (…) This realism, born from sound and the possibility to make characters speak in their own langauage and with their true voices, here extends to a unanimist depiction of Italian society, and notably of the petite bourgeoisie of the time, portrayed with great veracity in its daily activity and behaviour. And the fact that the film is entirely staged in exteriors makes it possible to assign it its place – it precedes Renoir’s Toni by a year – as the first neo-realist work. Read More »

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



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. Read More »