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IT3: Italian Cinema

This paper is available for the academic year 2023-24.

The significance of Italian cinema to Italian cultural life is inestimable, and Italy’s influence on the world is probably felt more strongly in cinema than in any other art form. Italian cinema played a crucial role in the development of an early international film culture in the first two decades of the twentieth century. Cinema was promoted vigorously under Fascism, as a weapon of the state, while the postwar filmmaking associated with Neorealism was an explicit means of breaking with the Fascist past. In late 1950s and 60s Italian cinema was a vital resource for narrating and criticising the dizzying consumerism of those years. Italian art cinema made an enormous impact on filmmaking worldwide in the 60s and 70s. More recent Italian cinema draws from this rich legacy to explore the conditions of the nation and its porous borders in an era of increasing multiculturalism, global precarity, and technological change. The paper carries students from the very beginning of cinema as an art form to the present day, and engages them in the study of film theory and the practice of close film analysis.



Topics for 2022-23 are as follows:

The paper will typically cover some or all of the following topics in Italian cinema history:

  • Italian early cinema: nationhood, modernity, spectacle
  • Fascist cinema: melodrama and everyday life
  • Neorealism: aesthetic and political regeneration
  • The Economic Miracle: consumerism and its discontents
  • Italian art cinema: cinemas of poetry and alienation
  • Postwar popular genres: commedia all’italiana and horror
  • Postmodern impegno
  • Neo-neorealism and neo-spectacularism: contemporary perspectives


Preparatory reading: 

Bertellini, Giorgio. Italian Silent Cinema: A Reader. John Libbey, 2013.

Brunetta, Gian Piero. The history of Italian cinema : a guide to Italian film from its origins to the twenty-first century. Princeton UP, 2009.

Ghiat, Ruth Ben. Fascist modernities : Italy, 1922-1945. University of California Press, 2001.

Marcus, Millicent. Italian film in the light of neorealism. Princeton UP, 1986.

Miccichè, Lino. Cinema italiano : gli anni '60 e oltre. Marsilio, 2002.

Overbey, David, ed. and trans. Springtime in Italy : a reader on neo-realism. Archon Books, 1978.

Pinkus, Karen. The Montesi Scandal. University of Chicago Press, 2003.

Reich, Jacqueline and Piero Garofalo. Re-Viewing Fascism. Italian Cinema, 1922-1943. Indiana University Press, 2002.

Sitney, P. Adams. Vital Crises in Italian Cinema. University of Texas Press, 1995.

Sorlin, Pierre. Italian national cinema, 1896-1996. Routledge, 1996.


Teaching and learning: 

Weekly one-hour lecture. Attendance is expected at all lectures.

Students are expected to screen up to two films per week and keep up with reading.

Supervisions and/or seminar will typically take place once every two weeks.


Lecture Topics and Prescribed Screenings:

The following list of 16 films (one for each week of MT and LT) is intended for guidance only. There will be variations in any year.

The precise list of films for each year will be made available at the start of the academic year. 

1. Topic: Early Italian Cinema

Screening: Cabiria (G. Pastrone, 1914)

2. Topic: Fascist Documentary and Everyday Life in the 1920s and 30s

Screening: A Variety of newsreels from Istituto Luce + Il ventre della città (Francesco Di Cocco, 1933)

3. Topic: Fascist Feature Filmmaking

Screening: I grandi magazzini (M. Camerini, 1939)

4. Topic: The realist turn

Screening: Ossessione (Luchino Visconti, 1943)

5. Topic: The Neorealist moment

Screening: Roma, città aperta (R. Rossellini, 1945)

6. Topic: Neorealism: Aesthetics, Theory, Criticism

Screening: Ladri di biciclette (Vittorio De Sica, 1948)

7. Topic: Il boom and its discontents

Screening: La dolce vita (F. Fellini, 1960)

8. Topic: Italian Art Cinema

Screening: L’avventura (M. Antonioni, 1960)

9. Topic: Critique and Allegory

Screening: Mamma Roma (Pier Paolo Pasolini, 1962)

10. Topic: Commedia, all’italiana

Screening: I mostri (Dino Risi, 1963)


11. Topic: Reworking the past

Screening: Il conformista (B. Bertolucci, 1970)

12. Topic: Gender in the 1970s

Screening: Travolti da un insolito destino nell'azzurro mare d'agosto (Lina Wertmüller, 1974)

13. Topic: Italian Horror

Screening: Profondo rosso (Dario Argento, 1975)

14. Topic: Italian Avant Garde and Experimental Cinemas

Screening: Works by Paolo Gioli, Alberto Grifi, etc.

15. Topic: Postmodern impegno

Screening: Palombella rossa (Nanni Moretti, 1989)

16. Topic Contemporary perspectives

Screening: Le meraviglie (Alice Rohrwacher, 2014)


For the It.3 Moodle site, please see here


Students will sit a three-hour examination in the Easter term. The exam will require that students answer three questions as follows:

Answer three questions. For each answer write between 1,200 to 1,300 words.

Candidates are expected to show knowledge of texts from three or more of the topics taught for this paper. 

Candidates for this paper may not draw substantially on material which they have used or intend to use in another scheduled paper. Candidates may not draw substantially on the same material in more than one question on the same paper.

The exam will test students' thorough engagement across the paper. Thus, each question will require an engagement across more than one topic covered on the paper. 

The paper may also be examined by Long Essay.

Course Contacts: 
Dr John David Rhodes