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Moving Images

Issue cover
Cover Caption: From #Migrantes, unfinished graphic novel by Luca Serasini.

Áine O’Healy and Marguerite Waller, Editors | Leslie Elwell, Managing Editor

Vol.7: Moving Images

Queer Unhistoricism in a Transdisciplinary Frame: Luca Signorelli’s Male Nudes

This essay introduces the reader to the queer unhistoricism debates and then argues for the necessity of bringing them to bear on the work of Italian Renaissance painter Luca Signorelli.

Offscreen Space, From Cinema and Sculpture to Photography, Poetry and Narrative

This article takes the notion of "offscreen" space in cinema--designating elements of the film's diegesis not represented within the frame of the image, or within the "onscreen" space of the audiovisual sign--and generalizes that offscreen space to other arts, beginning with the David of Michelangelo and moving to the photography of Luigi Ghirri and the cinema of Antonioni and Bertolucci; and from there again to verbal artifacts of Leopardi, Manzoni, Gianni Celati, A. Tabucchi, A. M. Ortese, and Montale.  My thesis is that all arts make use of invisible offscreen space, and most interestingly this space is preter-diegetic, involving the work's unsaid, the space of readerly interpretation, and that of the historical-natural world recast or denaturalized in the work's representational or symbolic contents.  The appeal made by the piece is for criticism to confront more directly these offscreen spaces than it does in typically historicist criticism, so that the artworks' broadest semantic and ontological contexts come explicitly into interpretive purviews.

The Formation of a Heterotopia: An Inquiry into the Intermingling of Utopic Thoughts and Concrete Activities in Olivetti’s Ivrea

This essay explores the process by which the Olivetti factory and its related structures in Ivrea developed, especially under Adriano Olivetti from the 1930s through the 50s, into what could be regarded as a heterotopic space in keeping with the fundamental significance of the term as it was presented by Michel Foucault. Looking at four significant sources (or causes) of influence—Italian rationalism, Le Corbusier, the corporativist policies of Italian fascism, and Frank Lloyd Wright—the essay traces their respective roles in shaping the built environment of this relatively small subalpine Italian city. Specific projects discussed include the principal factory building and its numerous extension projects, Figini and Pollini’s workers’ housing units of 1935, the rationalist duo’s design of the social services building, and Piccinato’s Quartiere Bellavista.


"La casa va con la città": Lorenzo the Magnificent and the Arts, 1949

In this article, a Modernist and a Renaissance art historian analyze the 1949 exhibition of Renaissance domestic painting at the Palazzo Strozzi in Florence. Based on unpublished documents at the Ragghianti foundation in Lucca, we trace the genesis, development, and installation of the show, as well as responses to it on the part of the scholarly community and in the popular press. We look at a variety of interests that drove the planners, ranging from postwar politics, historic reconstruction, museology, local economy and tourism, to changing definitions of the family and women’s roles in the home. Finally, we uncover a link between the 1949 show and the establishment of the Palazzo Davanzati museum.

Anna Banti Stages Artemisia Gentileschi: Feminist Intersections of Painting and Theater

This article explores how Anna Banti recasts Artemisia Gentileschi on the modern Italian stage. In her only dramatic work, Corte Savella (1960), Banti harnesses the aesthetic power of Gentileschi's paintings to influence both the characters within the play and her twentieth-century audience beyond the fourth wall. By using Gentileschi’s paintings to drive her play thematically, aesthetically, and as a plot device, Banti provides a new interpretation of Gentileschi's artistic oeuvre, which prior to the early twentieth century had been largely dismissed. I argue that the way in which Banti interweaves Gentileschi’s paintings with the unfolding the play provides a unique platform for a pioneering reinterpretation of her artistic corpus from a feminist perspective, as well as new ways of understanding the intermedial intersections of visual and performing arts.


Playing with the Maternal Body: Violence, Mutilation, and the Emergence of the Female Subject in Ferrante’s Novels

Elena Ferrante’s texts explore new notions of feminine identity and rethink fundamental aspects of gender relations and social constructs, most prominently of motherhood. However, whilst her narrative depicts specifically female-centered experiences, her protagonists remain profoundly affected by the patriarchal structures and spaces that they set out to expose and subvert. A particularly productive way of approaching this tension in Ferrante’s works is through an analysis of her complex depictions of maternity, which stand at the center of the author’s textual negotiation of the troubled and discontinuous emergence of the female subject.

In a close reading of L’amore molesto (1992), La figlia oscura (2006) and the Neapolitan quartet (2011-2014), I will argue that Ferrante’s texts often filter the conflicts that afflict their female protagonists through the maternal body. My analysis will show that the latter is often affected by forms of dislocation or mutilation that synechdochically mirror the characters’ sense of existential unease. Ultimately, I will argue that Ferrante’s narrative does not simply reproduce the formlessness or subsumption that has dominated patriarchal appropriations of the female body, but it reframes and renegotiates the position of the feminine subject in patriarchal society from the perspective of a newly gained agency and creative power.


Lo schermo e il burattino: intermedialità e rimediazione tra teatro di figura e cinema muto

In questo saggio si mette in luce la relazione esistente tra il il cinema delle origini e il teatro di figura in Italia, includendo marionette, burattini e animazione d’oggetto. Già nelle sue forme più primitive il cinema incrocia alcune convezioni estetiche e spazi sociali del teatro di figura, e intrattiene con esso un rapporto che di rivalità e rispetto. Si tratta di un rapporto che continua e si evolve nei primi anni dello sviluppo dell’industria cinematografica, quando le antiche tradizioni del teatro popolare risultano impiegate all’interno del nuovo medium per accrescerne il potere espressivo. Questa prospettiva mostra come il cinema abbia dato nuova vita al teatro di figura introducendolo all’interno del suo tessuto estetico, complicando quindi l’idea comunemente condivisa di una “scomparsa” di questa forma di teatro popolare. Il saggio trova il nodo centrale di questa relazione intermediale nel gusto per il meccanico il miniaturizzato, e nel potenziale riflessivo del burattino, soffermandosi su casi quali L’inferno (1911), Pinocchio (1911), Cabiria (1914) e in modo particolare sul primo film di animazione italiano, La guerra e il sogno di Momi (1917).

What is Italian Cinema?

The success of films like the Oscar-winning La grande bellezza (The Great Beauty, Paolo Sorrentino), the family-friendly comedy Sole a catinelle (Buckets of Sunshine, Gennaro Nunziante) and the poetic documentary Sacro GRA (Sacred GRA, Gianfranco Rosi), all released in 2013, confirms the continued and perhaps surprising vitality and variety of Italian cinema. This variety tended to be ignored in what might be called the Standard Model of Italian cinema history, which emphasized the realist and auteurist traditions in Italian cinema. In this article I range across contemporary, classic and lesser-known Italian cinema by analyzing the means and priorities that have been employed when studying it in the Anglophone academy. My title, “What is Italian cinema?,” intentionally recalls Bazin (and I refer also to Deleuze and “world cinephilia”), but an additional clause might read, “and how do we think we know?”. The second half of the article considers the contents of three edited companions to Italian cinema (one recently published and two forthcoming) in order to grasp the current concerns of Italian cinema studies and so to signpost the state of knowledge about Italian cinema, at least as it exists in English. I suggest throughout some methods and approaches for better grasping the variety of Italian cinema over its history, but I finish by noting that the Pantheon of World Cinema has also distilled Italian cinema to neorealism and the “golden age” auteurs and so has obscured both the range and the particularity of Italian cinema.

Planes, Trains, Automobiles, Bicycles, Spaceships and an Elephant: Images of Movement from Neorealism to the commedia all’italiana

This paper looks at literal forms of mobility in the commedia all'italiana, forms that proliferate (as my tongue-in-cheek title suggests) in the 1950s and 60s. The automobile in particular was a moving image in many senses: it was an image of the literal movement that characterized the Italian peninsula in the postwar period, an emblem of the newfound socio-economic mobility that emerges at the same time, and finally an image that was understood to move the audience, to elicit an emotional reaction. Scholarship on the commedia has long recognized the importance of the automobile, but here I argue two points: (1) the automobile is in fact only one form of "moving image," one image of mobility, deployed in the cinema of the 1950s and 60s, and should be understood particularly in terms of the "moving images" offered by neorealism in the 1940s and 50s, and (2) scholarship on the commedia has regularly described its "love affair" with the automobile, but the emotions elicited by images of mobility in the commedia are in fact much more fraught: anxiety, fear and anguish are frequently the emotions at the heart of their comedy

Marking Their Territory: Male Adolescence Abroad in Recent Italian Teen Film

Due to its alignment with popular culture, the teen film is often considered a feminized genre or mode, one ideally addressed to, and consumed by, a primarily female audience. And yet, a number of recent Italian teen films privilege the male experience of adolescence and, as a result, draw the gendered paradigm of the genre into question. In this article, I examine the representation of adolescent masculinity in four films produced over the course of about a decade: Giovanni Veronesi’s Che ne sar à di noi [What Will Become of Us] (2004), Francesca Archibugi’s Lezioni di volo [Flying Lessons] (2007), Francesco Falaschi’s Last Minute Marocco [Last Minute Morocco] (2007), and Luigi Cecinelli’s Niente può fermarci [Nothing Can Stop Us] (2013). The young men in these films prove their masculinity, and demonstrate their willingness to conform to society’s norms, by engaging in heterosexual intercourse during journeys abroad. When they eventually break off their relationships with women and create homosocial utopias, however, they express their suspicion of, and dissatisfaction with, heteronormative coupledom and marriage. The preference for male-male friendships suggests a significant alteration of the classical melodramatic denouement which so often privileges the heterosexual couple and the promulgation of the heteronormative family. The male adolescents of these films thus use women strategically, calling on them to make them men—often, though not solely, through sexual intercourse—before casting them aside on their way to adulthood.


“Quando si ama qualcuno lo si ama per qualcun altro”: Francesca Comencini’s Retelling of Svevo’s Zeno

In her 2001 film based on two chapters of Italo Svevo’s La coscienza di Zeno, Le parole di mio padre, Francesca Comencini combines a realistic mise-en-scène with an oneiric and turbulent filmic syntax, presenting Zeno Cosini’s relationship with his dying father and his involvement with the Malfenti family after his father’s death. The essay explores the use of filmic enunciation, rather than linear narrative, to depict Zeno’s relationships with Giovanni, Ada, Alberta and Augusta Malfenti, and their relationships with each other. It argues that such a technique, which employs minimal dialogue, intense use of close-ups, darkness and blurring – and is comparable to the non-commercial style theorized by Lyotard as “acinema” – allows the director to focus on all the characters (and not simply Zeno), specifically as regards the struggle with the father figure and the related struggles of artistic expression and the negotiation of familial and erotic love.

“They are as we once were”: Trope of Resemblance in Early Italian Cinema of Immigration (1990-2005)

This article examines the response of Italian cinema in the 1990s and early 2000s to the phenomenon of mass immigration from the global south. It specifically focuses on the invocation of neorealism in order to mobilize a trope of semblance which compares new immigrants with Italian emigrants of previous generations, stating “they are as we once were.” However, the actual statistical record shows this trope to be a sleight of hand, a misremembering based on historical erasures that are so ingrained in Italian culture as to go unnoticed, and which feed upon long standing discriminatory hierarchies between the North and the South.

Anachronism, Displacement, Trace. "Scarred Images" and the Postcolonial Time Lag

This essay takes up the question of postcolonial haunting through an analysis of experimental/art films on colonialism and contemporary immigration by Nikolaj Bendix Skyum Larsen (2014); Pier Paolo Pasolini (1970); Yervant Giankian and Angela Ricci Lucchi (1986); and Dagmawi Yimer (2015).