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Women's Sexuality in Italian Neorealist Cinema

A look at the roles and responsibilities of actresses in 1950s Italian Cinema.
by

Shelby Kay-Fantozzi

on 17 October 2012

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Transcript of Women's Sexuality in Italian Neorealist Cinema

Women's Sexuality
in Italian Neorealist Cinema Anne Kelsey & Shelby Kay-Fantozzi What? When? Big Names Final Thoughts Sophia Loren in Two Women Lucia Bose in Story of a Love Affair Anna Magnani in Everything Ever Silvana Magnano in Bitter Rice Why is 50s Italian cinema permeated to such an obsessive degree by the female body and eroticism?
What is dangerous or threatening about empowered women in postwar Italy? Why are these women social outsiders, killed off at the end, or playing themselves? Why do they always have a "foil" in a "gold digger" type?
Why the "elemental" adjectives: earthy, fiery, volcanic?
Helpful or harmful to women?
A bridge between Mussolini-era portrayals and 1960s emancipation?
Or the birthplace and perpetuation of the stereotypical Italian woman? Visconti, Rossellini, De Sica,
Antonioni, Pasolini, De Santis Anna Magnani, Sophia Loren, Silvana Mangano, Lucia Bosé, Gina Lollobrigida, Silvana Pampanini, Barbara Bouchet, Eleonora Rossi Drago,
Claudia Cardinale, Stefania Sandrelli Riso Amaro
Silvana, the stereotypical working woman, shows petty theif Francesca the ropes of rice planting/weeding in rural Italy.

Italian Femininity: naturalness, body ‘of the earth,’ in harmony with the landscape

American critics: Film won acclaim only for its "volatile earthiness" The end of WWII to the beginning
of the economic boom (60s) locations instead of sets - the figure in the landscape
real people instead of actors [or theater actors]
against type casting decisions
long takes, few close-ups
themes: working class, poverty, and post-WWII economic/moral questions "Against-type" cast to play the mother in De Sica’s Two Women

Became internationally acclaimed Hollywood star in the 1960s La Ciociara
An emotional melodrama directed by De Sica starring Loren as a mother trying to protect her daughter from the horrors of Postwar Italy
De Sica tried to “strip her of her star mannerisms and transform her into a lower-middle-class ‘mamma’”
Wasn’t necessarily successful at this, it is said that Two Women is what The Bicycle Thief would have been if De Sica had made it with Cary Grant. However, Loren did win the Academy Award for Best Actress for this performance Won 1947 Miss Italia beauty pageant

Managed to reach the height of her career starring in Neorealist films in spite of a perceived lack of “authentic” womanhood

Starred in multiple Antonioni films during the 1950s, most notably Cronaca di amore and La signora senza camelie Cronaca di un Amore

Antonioni’s first feature film, a mix of neorealism and film noir

Deals with the tension surrounding the wealth disparity in Italy postwar

Neither a critical nor a financial success

Inverts the emphases of Neorealism: beauty and sexuality are Paola’s primary commodities
Real life was a new source for the recruitment of actors - Magnani came from theater. A physical actor - for her, ‘face and body are language’

Played working class women, but attained celebrity doing it

The paradoxical ideal of Italian femininity: exuberant, carnal, Mediterranean, extroverted, mature, maternal, erotic

Always played "well constructed" characters: authentic and true to life. What About Women? We are shown class/sex issues of postwar Italy, including stereotypes and what was "at stake"
These women were metonymic--the reflections demanded on them are meant to be applied to all working class women
The landscape of New Italy was built on their bodies [Grignaffini]
"Danger" of sexuality in tension with motherhood "...The female body, intact and uncontaminated by the look of fascist ideology, a creature of the earth, rich with joyous sensuality, generous in its proportions, warm, and familiar: a body-landscape, along whose outline you could read the future of the nation that had to start again from scratch. "
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