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Neorealism, genre and nostalgia: Italian urban modernity in Renato Castellani’s Sotto il sole di Roma

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The article centres on Italian Neorealist cinema and its crucial role in negotiating the positioning of Italy in the transnational post-war scenario. Recent scholarship on the topic has come to challenge many deeply rooted assumptions about Neorealism, claiming that the disproportioned attention paid to this particular filmic trend has proven in the long term to be an hindrance to a full comprehension of the Italian visual culture of the period. I seek to contribute to such a renewed understanding of the ideological and aesthetical issues at stake in the definition of Neorealism. It is indeed very important to underscore that the innovations brought about by Neorealist films (connected in particular to the diffusion of location shooting practices) must always be framed in the context of a lively relationship with popular genre cinema. The article thus focuses on the close reading of one specific filmic text, Sotto il sole di Roma (1948). Castellani’s film proposes an original blending of Neorealist techniques, melodramatic structures and comedic tones: an hybridization of genres representing in itself a most apt correlate to the moment of flux Italy and Italian cinema were experiencing at the time. The film’s use of Rome’s ‘Non-synchronous’ and ‘Heterotopic’ spaces can be read as an attempt to come to terms and overcome fascism’s agendas about history, community, and, last but not least, masculinity. While offering a very ironic interpretation of Italy’s deeply conflicted route to modernity, Castellani’s film also reflects on (personal as well as national) identity as the result of a performance: a performance in which loss and nostalgia play a major role.
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Keywords: Italian Cinema; Neorealism; genre; nostalgia; queer; urban space

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Universit√† di Napoli ‘L’Orientale’

Publication date: June 1, 2017

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