Italy



THE THIRD WAVE: A NEW GENERATION FOR THE TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY

A third generation of Italian directors is slowly appearing as younger artists begin to test their strength at the box office and at international film festivals. Their success may well hold out the promise of another Italian "Renaissance" in the cinema in the new century. This group may be described as the "postmodern" generation, since their works so often cite other films in the Italian or Hollywood cinematic traditions. Such new faces include Benigni; Gianni Amelio (b. 1945), Maurizio Nichetti (b. 1948), Nanni Moretti (b. 1953), Giuseppe Tornatore (b. 1956), Gabriele Salvatores (b. 1950), Silvio Soldini (b. 1958), Marco Tullio Giordano (b. 1950), Giuseppe Piccioni (b. 1953), Gabriele Muccino (b. 1967), and Ferzan Ozpetek (1959). Benigni's Life Is Beautiful combined comic techniques learned from Charlie Chaplin's The Great Dictator (1940), Fellini's visual style, and Wertmüller's Seven Beauties to create a moving but tragicomic vision of the Holocaust. Nichetti married visual techniques learned from television advertising with a parody of De Sica's neorealist classic Bicycle Thieves in The Icicle Thief (1989). Giuseppe Tornatore's Cinema Paradiso (1989) owed much to both Fellini's example and the history of Italian cinema, and like Scola's We All Loved Each Other Very Much, it viewed contemporary Italy through the prism of the cinematic past, garnering an Oscar ® for Best Foreign Film and enormous audiences all over the world in the process. Salvatores's Mediterraneo (1991), another recent Oscar ® winner for Best Foreign Film, employed formulas from the commedia all'italiana (particularly the satires of patriotism in The Great War and Everybody Home! ) to produce a funny account of inept Italian occupiers of a Greek island in World War II. Salvatores's most recent I'm Not Scared (2003) has been widely praised as a moving thriller. Nanni Moretti is perhaps the most idiosyncratic and most talented of this entire generation, producing bittersweet comic works that are closer to film essays than to fictional films. His Dear Diary (1994) won the Grand Prize at the Cannes Film Festival: it combined ideas about simple storylines from Zavattini's neorealist theory, political ideas from Pasolini's work, and Fellini's choice of the "mockumentary" genre form. His more recent work, The Son's Room (2001), the winner of the Palme d'Or at Cannes, moved from Moretti's usual egocentric but sympathetic narcissism to treat the devastating effects of a young boy's loss on his parents. Piccione's Not of This World (1999); Muccino's The Last Kiss (2001) and Remember Me, My Love (2003); and Soldini's Bread and Tulips (2000) are all worthy successors to the glorious commedia dell'italiana tradition. Monica Stambrini's Gasoline (2001), a lesbian thriller that was a hit at various film festivals around the globe, may be the debut of another Italian feminist director that is even more outrageous than Lina Wertmüller and as equally talented. A number of excellent works by Gianni Amelio— Open Doors (1970), The Stolen Children (1992), Lamerica (1994), and The Way We Laughed (1998)—and by Marco Tullio Giordano— One Hundred Steps (2000) and The Best of Youth (2003)—all offer eloquent testimony that Italian cinema's penchant for social realism has not disappeared.

Perhaps the most unusual of the new faces to appear on the horizon is Turkish-born director Ferzan Ozpetek, whose films are resolutely Italian in character, language, and style but whose Levantine origins are also apparent in their themes: The Turkish Baths (1997), Harem (1999), His Secret Life (2001), and Facing Windows (2003). His ability to work within the Italian film industry while coming from another national culture recalls the success of another recent Italian hit with an international flavor, Il Postino—The Postman (1994), directed by non-Italian Michael Radford. Incorporating a moving performance by a dying Italian comic star, Massimo Troisi (1953–1994), Il Postino was Italian in every conceivable respect but its director's nationality. Perhaps one way Italian cinema may survive into this new century is to become more international and less deeply rooted in native traditions of cinematic art. But such a globalization of Italian cinema would deprive the world of one of the most original and unique film traditions to have arisen in the centuryold existence of the cinema.

SEE ALSO National Cinema ; Neorealism ; Westerns

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Peter Bondanella



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