“LEADEN TIMES” OF ITALIAN CINEMA

The Italian cinema of the 60s and 70s should not be reduced to the visual fireworks of Fellini, the subtle psychodramas by Antonioni, Pasolini’s  mythological chronicles or Visconti’s neo-classical frescoes. It encompasses the rare civil ardor of films which are generally known as “political cinema”. Or the cinema of “leaden times”. The starting point of this period can be set in 1968, when a wave of student demonstrations, terrorist attacks, political murders swept over the country. The film critic Danila Kuznetsov wrote: “The Communists on the left and the Neo-Fascists on the right were trying to reform the existing political system by radical and bloody means. The ruling Christian-Democratic party formed an alliance with the Mafia to fight the Communists. The Communist party in Italy was the most numerous and active in all of Western Europe, many filmmakers were among its members. It was only natural that in such a complicated situation filmmakers could not remain silent. Thus the phenomenon of the Italian political cinema was born”. But the chronological and political boundaries of this influential movement are much broader. The unquestionable harbinger was “Hands Over the City” (1963) by Francesco Rosi, who went on to make several remarkable films which transcend the purely political genre – “The Mattei Affair”, “Lucky Luciano”, “Illustrious Corpses”. His famous “Salvatore Giuliano”, dealing with the struggle against the Mafia in the late 40s, easily blends in with these movies which have the fearless pursuit of truth as the main plot device. The younger generation of viewers will be interested to see some works which are very familiar to the older generation like Damiano Damiani’s film “Confessions of a Police Captain” (heavily censored in the Soviet Union) which won the main award at the Moscow Film Festival in 1971, and his later series “La piovra” which was enormously popular. We decided to turn our attention to this period because the authors of those uncompromising films give us an example of the ways cinema can oppose state corruption and secondly, we can see how skillfully dramatic real-life events could be reworked into striking examples of intricate scriptwriting and directing.  Those films were lauded by the Juries of the Cannes, Venice, Moscow film festivals and even the American Academy (“Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion”, Elio Petri). It is no accident that the best parts in their careers were played by Gian Maria Volonté, Franco Nero, Mario Adorf, Martin Balsam, Riccardo Cucciolla, Giancarlo Giannini, Mariangela Melato, Claudia Cardinale, Florinda Bolkan and many others in those movies by Francesco Rosi, Damiano Damiani, Elio Petri, Lina Wertmüller.