If Visconti, De Sica, Antonioni, and Fellini dominated the cinema of the period, their international prestige coincided with the rise of an extremely talented group of younger men and women whose early works were indebted to neorealism but characterized by more ideological intentions. The best examples of such works are Il Vangelo secondo Matteo ( The Gospel According to Matthew , 1964) by Pier Paolo Pasolini (1922–1975); Battaglia di Algeri ( The Battle of Algiers , 1966) by Gillo Pontecorvo (b. 1919); Prima della rivoluzione ( Before the Revolution , 1964) by Bernardo Bertolucci (b. 1940); La Cina è vicina ( China Is Near , 1967) by Marco Bellocchio (b. 1939); Salvatore Giuliano (1962) by Francesco Rosi (b. 1922); Il Posto ( The Sound of Trumpets , 1961) by Ermanno Olmi (b. 1931); Indagine su un cittadino al di sopra di ogni sospetto ( Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion , 1969) by Elio Petri (1929–1982); Padre Padrone ( Father and Master , 1977) and La Notte di San Lorenzo ( Night of the Shooting Stars , 1982) by Paolo Taviani (b. 1931) and his brother Vittorio (b. 1929); Il Portiere di notte ( The Night Porter , 1974) by Liliana Cavani (b. 1933); and Pasqualino Settebellezze ( Seven Beauties , 1976) by Lina Wertmüller (b. 1926).
Sophia Loren transcended illegitimacy and poverty to become the most famous film star in Italy. After working for Italian pulp magazines, Loren debuted in the movies as an extra in Federico Fellini's Luci del varietà ( Variety Lights , 1950) and then as a slave girl in Mervyn LeRoy's Quo Vadis? (1951), shot by MGM in Rome. She first attracted serious attention in a filmed version of the Verdi opera Aïda (1953), in which she lip-synched Renata Tebaldi's singing. Loren's busty physique made her one of Italy's most famous maggiorate (sweater-girls), along with Gina Lollobrigida and Silvano Mangano.
At first Loren's beauty overshadowed her very real talent as an actress. In Vittorio De Sica's L'oro di Napoli ( The Gold of Naples , 1954), her performance already commands respect. With the help of her husband, producer Carlo Ponti, Loren played a number of Mediterranean roles for Hollywood films, including Stanley Kramer's The Pride and the Passion (1957) and Melville Shavelson's Houseboat (1958), in which she worked with Cary Grant. In 1957 Loren and Ponti married in Mexico, but Italian divorce law did not recognize the marriage. As a result of marital and financial problems, the couple became the target of Italian paparazzi, and Loren even spent several weeks in an Italian prison in 1982 for tax evasion, a crime that only increased her popularity in Italy.
Loren's Hollywood films with such major stars as Grant, Alan Ladd, Anthony Perkins, and William Holden gave her international visibility. She appeared in both epic costume dramas, such as Anthony Mann's El Cid (1961) and The Fall of the Roman Empire (1964); in westerns, such as George Cukor's Heller in Pink Tights (1960); and in romantic comedies, such as Charlie Chaplin's A Countess from Hong Kong (1967) and Robert Altman's Prêt-à-Porter ( Ready to Wear , 1994). No doubt, her Hollywood exposure helped her win an Oscar ® for Best Actress in Vittorio De Sica's La Ciociara ( Two Women , 1960), in which she played the courageous mother of a teenaged girl during World War II. Two other De Sica films showcased Loren's talent for film comedy, pairing her with another Italian film icon, Marcello Mastroianni: Ieri, oggi, domani ( Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow , 1962), winner of an Oscar ® for Best Foreign Film; and Matrimonio all'italiana ( Marriage, Italian Style , 1964).
Loren delivered the greatest performance of her late career for director Ettore Scola in Una Giornata particolare ( A Special Day , 1977), in which she plays an unglamorous and world-weary housewife in fascist Italy, who falls for Mastroianni, only to discover that he is a homosexual. Loren received two career awards: an Oscar ® from the American Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (1991), and a Golden Lion from the Venice Film Festival (1998).
L'oro di Napoli ( The Gold of Naples , 1954), La Ciociara ( Two Women , 1960), Ieri, oggi, domani ( Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow , 1962), The Fall of the Roman Empire (1964), Matrimonio all'italiana ( Marriage, Italian Style , 1964), Una Giornata particolare ( A Special Day , 1975), Prêt-à-Porter ( Ready to Wear , 1994)
Harris, Warren G. Sophia Loren: A Biography . New York: Simon & Schuster, 1998.
Masi, Stefano, and Enrico Lancia. Italian Movie Goddesses . Rome: Gremese, 1997.
Olmi's touching examination of the loneliness of a young office worker named Domenico in The Sound of Trumpets seems closest to the tone of Christian humanism that neorealist films frequently espoused. In its use of nonprofessional actors, its emphasis upon expressive deep-focus shots in office interiors, and its concentration
upon moments of crisis in the protagonist's life where film time coincides with elapsed narrative time, this simple masterpiece owed an obvious debt to De Sica. Olmi's L'Albero degli zoccoli ( The Tree of the Wooden Clogs , 1978), one of many examples of successful films financed by Italian state television Radiotelevisione Italiana (RAI), an increasingly important source of funding for major Italian works or for co-productions with other national cinemas, returned to a neorealist recreation of peasant life on a farm near Bergamo at the turn of the nineteenth century, employing nonprofessional peasants from the area who speak their local dialect. Its three-hour length allowed Olmi to recreate the slow rhythms of life in a pre-industrial peasant culture much as Visconti did earlier in The Earth Trembles .
In contrast to Olmi's simple touch, Rosi moved beyond neorealist presentation of nonrhetorical facts to what he termed a "documented" method of making films. Salvatore Giuliano was less a work of fiction than an investigation ( inchiesta ) into the ambiguous historical circumstances surrounding a Sicilian bandit whose career, under the director's close scrutiny, reflected the machinations of the Christian Democratic party, as well as the Mafia. Rosi combined a documentary style with a series of ingenious flashbacks to present a legal brief against Italian political institutions. It was the first of many Italian political films with an anti-establishment tone that appeared during the next two decades. He continued the richly documented briefs against the political system that he began with Salvatore Giuliano in a series of excellent works: Lucky Luciano (1974) was a probing look into the link between American politicians and the rise of the Mafia in Sicily; Cadaveri eccellenti ( The Context , 1976) contained a chilling Kafkaesque parable about the connection between political power and corruption in Italy, adapted from the novel Il Contesto by Leonardo Sciascia, where the image of the Mafia is transformed into a universally comprehensive metaphor for corrupt, absolute power everywhere in the world. Most indebted to the simple storylines of neorealist narrative was Rosi's Tre fratelli ( Three Brothers , 1981), a view of contemporary Italian life seen through the lives of three brothers who return to southern Italy for the funeral of their mother.
Like Rosi, Pontecorvo employed a documentary style in The Battle of Algiers , with a narrative structure that used flashbacks and flash-forwards to provide critical commentary on the "facts" the film presents. His careful recreation of a case history of Third World revolution owed an important debt to the style of Rossellini in his early war films and employed a variety of techniques—highly mobile, hand-held cameras employing fast film stock; telephoto lenses common in television news reporting; duplicating the negative of the film in the lab to reproduce the grainy, documentary texture of Paisan —to produce a hybrid style indebted not only to Rossellini's photography but also to Eisenstein's special form of ideological montage. Rossellini's neorealist model may also be discerned in Father and Master and Night of the Shooting Stars by the Taviani brothers. The first work was based upon an autobiographical account of how an illiterate Sardinian shepherd struggled to become a professor of linguistics. The acquisition of standard Italian thus became a metaphor for the acquisition of full citizenship in modern Italian society. The Night of the Shooting Stars is a postmodernist reinterpretation of Italian neorealism, a remake of Rossellini's Paisan . The Taviani brothers set Rossellini's realistic depiction of the meeting of American GIs and the partisan Resistance during World War II within a child's world of fantasy and imagination.
Although Bertolucci, Bellocchio, and Pasolini were indebted to Rossellini, they were also influenced by the aesthetics of Berthold Brecht (1898–1956) and the cinematic practice of Jean-Luc Godard and the French New Wave. Their relationship to their neorealist heritage was therefore far more ambiguous than might be suggested by
simple influence. Pasolini accepted many of the features of neorealism—nonprofessional actors, on-location shooting, contemporary themes, natural lighting—but rejected any attempt to create naturalist cinema that would ignore the mystery of life embodied in religion. He described his love for reality as "philosophical and reverential," not naturalistic. For Pasolini reality included mythology, religion, and dream. The style he developed in The Gospel According to Matthew , a biblical film made by a Marxist atheist, can be best described as pastiche, mixing the most disparate cultural and thematic materials. Nothing is more striking about this highly original work than its editing and sense of rhythm, for it is with a continuous process of rapid cuts and the juxtaposition of often jarring images that Pasolini forces us to experience the life of Christ through a new perspective. In his later films, such as Medea (1969) or The Decameron (1971), Pasolini moved beyond any simple neorealist vision of society and employed literary texts as platforms to launch his theories about how modern capitalist societies have destroyed the virtues of his beloved lower class characters from non-industrial and economically underdeveloped cultures. In the first film, he interpreted Euripides's play as a mythic portrait of the exploitation of the preindustrial regions of the Third World (Medea's world) by Western capitalism (Jason's world). In the second film, Pasolini transformed Boccaccio's panoramic portrait of Florentine middle-class, mercantile culture into an amusing portrayal of the way in which the sexual freedom enjoyed by lower class types from Naples represents a form of human liberation not possible in modern industrialized society.
Bertolucci and Bellocchio presented a fresh view of Italian politics in their youthful works. With Before the Revolution Bertolucci adapted Stendhal's The Charterhouse of Parma in a poetic and highly lyrical study of a young bourgeois intellectual from Parma who toys with Marxism and eventually prefers a safe, middle-class marriage to revolution or an incestuous love affair with his aunt. Fabrizio, the protagonist of the film, is clearly a reflection of many of Bertolucci's own personal concerns, and like Bertolucci, he suffers from the "nostalgia for the present." He lives in an era before the revolution and is doomed, like so many of Bertolucci's characters, to embrace the coming workers' victory but never to take an active role in it. Bellocchio's artistic perspective is angry and provocative rather than lyrical and elegiac. While Bertolucci's Fabrizio retreats into the protective womb of the Italian family, China Is Near attacked the very institution of the family itself, as Bellocchio portrayed a thoroughly dislikable middle-class family in a satire of Italian political corruption. The result was a political allegory attacking the historic compromise between the right and the left in Italy, viewed from the microcosm of a small, provincial family. Bertolucci's The Conformist (1970), perhaps his most beautiful work, employed a complicated plot with frequent flashbacks and reliance upon psychoanalytic theories indebted to Wilhelm Reich on the link between homosexuality and fascism, to analyze the birth of a fascist mentality. Bertolucci's mature grasp of his craft was evident in the famous tango scene between two women, with its quickly shifting camera angles, positions, graceful motions, and skillful editing. Bertolucci's controversial Last Tango in Paris (1972) continued his exploration of psychoanalytic themes, with a masterful performance by Marlon Brando as an American expatriate who has a deadly love affair with a young girl in Paris.
Elio Petri's Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion , blending an ideological message with suspense and slick commercial presentation, was awarded an Oscar ® for Best Foreign Film. It combined the generic conventions of a police thriller with those of a more abstract, philosophical parable in the manner of Kafka. Like the film inquiries of Rosi, Petri's cinema aimed at a fundamental critique of Italian political power. Two Holocaust films by Cavani and Wertmüller presented radically different views of Nazi concentration camps, the most extreme form of political power ever exercised. In The Night Porter , Cavani narrated a controversial story about a female camp inmate who has an affair with a Nazi officer and then reunites with him years later in a sado-masochistic love affair ending in death in postwar Vienna. It is, as the Nazi says, a "Biblical" story, because the young woman asked for the head of another inmate who was annoying her and then danced nude for her Nazi lover in imitation of Salomé. In an entirely differenẗller's Seven Beauties (1975), for which she received the first Oscar ® nomination for a female director, moves in from wartime Nazi Germany to prewar Fascist Italy (Naples). Its main character is a Neapolitan dandy who lives by his wits but whose nefarious deeds eventually cause him to be sent to the eastern front and ultimately to a concentration camp. There, in order to survive, he desperately seduces the obese commandant of the camp, who then forces him to murder his and comic vein, Wertmu best friend in order to save his own life. Wertmüller's film thus portrays a man whose sole reason for living is to survive, even at the expense of neglecting all moral values. Both The Night Porter and Seven Beauties explored the moral implications of survival in the evil world of the Gunskirchen Lager concentration camp.