Loyola University Chicago

John Felice Rome Center

Litr 267 / IntS 267 / IFMS 267 -  italian film History


Instructor: Prof. Flaminio DiBiagi

Meeting Days: Tuesday (viewing) & Thursday (lecture)

Meeting Times: 7:00 - 9:30 pm for viewing of films; 10:55 am - 12:10 pm / 5:10 - 6:25 pm for lecture

Course Description
This course is a survey of the development of Italian Cinema, from its origins to the present, focusing on major genres (such as mythological, Fascist propaganda, Neo-realism, Comedy Italian Style, spaghetti Westerns, political movies), mostly relying on significant directors (such as Rossellini, De Sica, Antonioni, Fellini). The Italian movie industry and its central topics will be followed through the decades, against the backdrop of a changing society; from the Belle Epoque to the WWI crisis, from the Fascist idea of "strongest weapon" to the outburst of a new post-war democracy, from the "economic miracle" to the shifting realities of the Eighties.

The course is therefore specifically based on Italian movies; they will be presented as "samples" and analyzed in class in chronological order; hopefully they will provide a deeper knowledge both of the Film Industry and the Film as an artistic form of expression in Italy. Class discussions focus mostly on a "textual" analysis of the films, but they imply a general background understanding of Italy. In fact, the course maintains an historical / sociological perspective in its setting, since many of our movies can also be considered a peculiar "reservoir" of information about Italian history, lifestyle, culture, politics, economic situation and social transformations in the 20th century. As in a sort of "on location" course, we'll "see" and compare the movies to the society they represent: the Country and its cinematic expressions, the image and the mirrors.

While no knowledge of Italian is required, all films are in Italian with English subtitles.

Attendance is a must (at every single lesson there will be an official sign-up sheet). Students are expected to come to each class well prepared and having read the textbooks. Any assigned material should be read thoroughly for the class day indicated. During projections, all students are expected to pay attention to the film, take notes, and then contribute to the following in-class discussion. Films will be only shown once, in class, usually on Tuesday, but times may vary depending on the length of the movie (expect subtitles, some extra-long, challenging movies, some simultaneous translations in class!). Screenings will be introduced and followed by lectures and class discussions (usually on Thursday), with comments, questions, etc.

Each screening will provide

  • a) background information on the director
  • b) historical, political, cultural perspectives
  • c) textual analysis of the film.

Discussions focus on a narrative-literary-formal-thematic-aesthetic-stylistic analysis of the film, as the course satisfies a core literature requirement.

Peter Bondanella, Italian Cinema from Neorealism to the Present, New York: Continuum, 2001
Many other photocopied handouts will be distributed in class and these will also be considered study texts.
Optional supports will be on reserve at the circulation desk in the Rome Center library under the instructor's name. Students should often refer to those texts as well, particularly
Louis Giannetti Understanding Movies
Geoffrey Nowell-Smith, The Companion to Italian Cinema
John Moscowitz, Critical Approaches to Writing About Film
Ira Konigsberg, The Complete Film Dictionary, etc.

Final grade is actually the result of reading texts, attending classes, studying, "being alive and thinking." Anyhow, the following scale & percentages will be used to determine the student's grade:
SCALE: A = 100-93; B+ = 92-91; B = 90-85; C+ = 84-83; C = 82-77; D+ = 76-75; D = 74-70; F = below 70
PERCENTAGES: Mid-term exam = 20%; Final exam = 30%; Reviews/Quizzes = 20%; Final Paper = 20%; Class discussion / participation = 10%

Extra Information
Exams will require tasks such as identification, definition, questions, control of data, writing brief essays. Midterm and final exams will include and cover textbooks, reading materials, films, and all topics presented or discussed during lectures. To perform well on these exams, students must make an effort to come to class regularly.

Film reviews must be two pages long (Times New Roman font #12, double-spaced). Students are requested to use a proper academic vocabulary and apply the technical terminology (refer to Understanding Movies and The Complete Film Dictionary). Reviews should not be a summary of the film but a personalized "reading" (i.e., a critical interpretation and evaluation). Criticism must always be grounded on specific scenes, events, lines, characters, images, acting skills, cinematic styles, camerawork, director's point of view, etc., of the film reviewed. When using some scholar's idea in building their criticism, students must directly refer to their source by quoting the author's name, title of the book, date, page.

The final paper is to be a personal research paper and should develop a specific analysis in at least six pages (Times New Roman font #12, double-spaced). Students can choose a genre or a director, analyzing and comparing in a proper cultural / historical perspective one or two more of his films. In finding a topic, students are requested to consult and discuss with the instructor before final approval of a basic one-page outline.

Active class participation is very important for success in a course such as this; therefore, students are encouraged to discuss and intellectually interact with the instructor and all other colleagues in class. Attendance is required, especially since out "texts" are films presented only in class once. Please be aware that your absence will not only weaken your performance but also influence your grade: unexcused absences will lower your final grade by 2% for each missed class. Students should be familiar with the honor code of University life, abide by its standards at all times, and expect similar behavior from their peers.

Note: Some extra classes might be scheduled on Fridays, and those can be used for projections as well (check "Program").

Program of Readings and Films
Week 1: introduction, syllabus, policies/tools, requirements, technical terms, optical devices, Film Before Film [documentary]
Week 2: beginnings, silent Era, Italian pioneers, Cabiria [Pastrone, 1914]
Week 3: The Last Diva [documentary], Last Days of Pompeii & Odyssey [clips], Fascism and cinema, Bengasi [Genina, 1942] [clips], Il Signor Max [Camerini, 1937] [clips], introduction to Neorealism
Week 4: Open City [Rossellini, 1945], introduction to De Sica
Week 5: Bicycle Thief [De Sica, 1948]
Week 6: other Neorealist directors/films, Bitter Rice [DeSanctis, 1949] [clips], legacy of Neorealism, review/recap
Week 7: Midterm Exam
Week 9: L'avventura [Antonioni, 1960]
Week 10: 8 1/2 [Fellini, 1963], introduction to westerns, In nome della legge [Germi, 1949] [clips]
Week 11: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly [Leone, 1966], introduction to Comedy Italian Style
Week 12: Divorce Italian Style [ Germi, 1961]
Week 13: We All Loved Each Other So Much [Scola, 1974]
Week 14: "peplum," "horror," and other sub-genres, the "Political Movies:" Investigation on a Citizen Above Suspicion [Petri, 1970] [clips]
Week 15: Cinema Paradiso [Tornatore, 1989], THANKSGIVING BREAK
Week 16: the 80's, the 90's, and recent developments, TV system, laws, TV and Movies, conclusions, evaluations
Finals' Week: Final Exam