may 2019, arsenal cinema

Commedia all’italiana

A particular form of socio-critical entertainment emerged at the end of the 1950s in Italy: the subversive comedy broke with the gratification and optimism of the genre, instead using satire and precise observation of daily life to reflect the social upheavals of the era. In the 1960s, the commedia all’italiana developed into one of the most important and successful genres of the Italian film industry. The films were not only extremely popular among the public, but also acclaimed at major international festivals, where they won numerous best director, actor and screenplay prizes. Juggling tragedy and comedy, the films narrate Italy’s cultural history from the end of the war to the 1970s, telling a story of poverty and regional economic imbalances, of the problems related to the shift from an agrarian to an industrial society and to the economic miracle, such as rural exodus and urbanization, uprooting, the rapid decline of traditional values and institutions, consumerism, increased motorization, gender inequality and new sexual freedoms. The films were characterized by a lack of respect towards authority and institutions; biting satire was applied to mock the family, patriarchy and the church and to criticize bigoted moral attitudes and backwards marriage laws. Irony, sarcasm, anger, despair, melancholy and humor came together to form a unique form of comedy, in which happy endings were rare. Outstanding representatives of the genre include the directors Dino Risi, Pietro Germi, Luigi Comencini, Mario Monicelli, Antonio Pietrangeli and Luigi Zampa, as well as the auteur team Age & Scarpelli, who wrote the screenplays for a number of comedies, eight of which feature in our selection. The actors Alberto Sordi, Vittorio Gassman, Marcello Mastroianni, Ugo Tognazzi, Nino Manfredi, Stefania Sandrelli and Claudia Cardinale gave the commedia all’italiana its characteristic face.

In cooperation with the Italian Cultural Institute we will screen 21 highlights of the genre made between 1958 and 1974. The retrospective will be accompanied by two introductions and two lectures.

may 2019, arsenal cinema

Magical History Tour – 
The Kammerspielfilm

With a concentration on a small number of characters and spaces, a focus on inner conflicts and a clear restricted timeframe, the key components of the “Kammerspiel” film genre that came about in the 1920s appear ascetic. But often a particular sense of drama emerged from the extreme paucity of place, time and plot that was conveyed and intensified by the subjectifying use of light and by a moving camera, which in the protagonists’ immediate vicinity recorded the tiniest changes in gestures and facial expressions. The film movement, which was inspired by the modern stage design ideas Max Reinhardt had implemented from 1906 onwards on a new Berlin stage that was also called Kammerspiele, experienced its first (perhaps the only one in a classical sense) peak at the beginning of the Twenties and marked the transition from Expressionist film forms to realistic trends. Its resonance in film history is varied, ranging from standard reverential homages to earlier examples of the genre to creative variations on it (or individual aspects). Subjective as always, we have brought together a few for this month’s Magical History Tour.