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Italian films have won great popularity among ordinary people from the first days. Italians loved the film production for its dynamism. They went to watch the movies with the whole families, all the cinemas seemed a reminiscent of the usual trade fair booths. The low cost, accessibility, and easy understanding of the body language made the films a favorite pastime of Italians. And then Italy became a major consumer of the French film companies.
A good income of the theater owners could not leave indifferent those Italians who were in close contact with a photo, and could easily navigate the simple process of filming. One of them was Arturo Ambrosio, an owner of the photo supply store in Milan, he made his own firm in 1906 and started producing the filming of the documentary scenes. At the same time, Alberini and Santoni began filming in Rome. Alberini has interested in the problem of moving images for a long time, and he patented his system of the imaging camera in 1896. Alberini’s first film was released in 1905, it was called The Capture of Rome (1 h, 250 m) and filmed the heroic feat of Garibaldis. Lack of creative staff forced the Italian directors to entice employees of the largest French companies: Pathé and Lumiere Brothers (Celli 67).
The first Italian films The Arrival of the Train at Milan Station and Umberto and Margherita of Savoy Walk in the Park were filmed in 1885. At the beginning of 1896 were shown the first films of the Lumiere brothers in Italy. However, the year of birth of Italian cinema is 1904, when the first studio of documentary films was founded in Italy in Turin. At the same time appeared the first movies, producing films on historical and literary subjects.
One of the best operators of Pathé, Gaston De Vel was invited by the filmmaking company to come in Rome in 1906. He was followed by experienced decorators, Dumesnil and Bass. Mr. Vel became an artistic director of this filmmaking company. Disturbing about the rise of Italian filmmaking and fear of competition, Pathé opened a branch in Italy Film D'Italiano in 1909, and started a production of the famous films: The Lady of the Camellias, Carmen, King Lear, Rigoletto. He considered that these films should weaken the position of the Italian film industry. However, the calculations of Pathé did not materialize. The largest studios of Italy have already formed their own staff directors, cameramen, writers, and actors by the time of his organization of the Italian branch. The Italian film dealers could beat Pathé not only in local but also in foreign markets (Richard 123).
Italy occupied a leading position in filmmaking in 1912-1913. However, this rise was rapid and short-lived. In 1914-1915, it has already outlived its "golden age", having stunned not only Italian, but also foreign audiences by the beauty of the first movie stars, hilarious Adventures of Ketinetto by the French comedian A. Dida. Such films as Camo Vadis by E.Guatstsoni and Cabiria by Dzh.Pastrone enjoyed a huge commercial success, and they overshadowed truly great pictures, Lost in the darkness by N. Martoldo and Assunta Spina by G.Sereny, which became the first milestones in the Italian realist cinema.
Cinematography crisis began simultaneously with the First World War, and Italian films have disappeared from the world screen for more than 20 years after the establishment of the fascist dictatorship in 1922. Most directors filmed pseudo-hits, comedies, melodramas from the life of high society. Before the Second World War and during the war began to appear truthful, candid pictures, such as Crying of Christ’s bride byD. Pozzi-Bellini, Four Steps in the Clouds by A.Blazetti, Obsession by L.Viskonti, Children are watching us by V. De Sica. These films heralded the beginning of neorealism (Marcus 87).
Neorealism became the most significant event in the Italian artistic culture of the 40-50's., and influenced the development of post-war cinema. Having emerged in the wake of the Resistance, in the upsurge of the democratic movement, neorealism united various filmmakers, but especially young people, mostly newcomers, who had common idea of fascism, in an effort to tell the truth about the real life of Italy and its people.
The manifesto of the new Italian cinema became a film by Roberto Rossellini (1906-1977) Rome, Open City, permeated by the spirit of the anti-fascist unity and the fervor of an artistic discovery of real Italy. The first films of neorealism (Paisà by R. Rossellini, The sun also rises by A.Vergano) drew stories and heroes from the resistance movement. The following were such movies: A tragic Hunt, Bitter Rice, No Peace Under the Olive Trees, Rome, Eleven O'Clock by J. De Santis, Bicycle Thieves, Umberto D by De Sica, La Terra Trema by L.Viskonti etc. They described problems of unemployment, poverty, social injustice and post-war chaos. The same issues were raised in the neorealist comedies: Cops and Robbers by M. Monichelli, Two penny hope by R. Kastellani and the satirical cinema tale Miracle in Milan by Vittorio De Sica.
Neorealism made revolution not only in the Italian poetry, but also in the manner of acting. The world popularity has rightfully deserved A. Manyani’s art (1908-1973), an outstanding actress of Italian theater and cinema, E.De Filippo was not only an actor but also the famous playwright and director, M. Dzhirotti, R.Vallone, Dzh.Maziny, S.Mangano, A.Fabritsi, one of the great comedians was Toto. They have truly embodied the national characters on the screen, created unforgettable images of the ordinary Italians (Marcus 34).
Neorealists laid the foundation of the contemporary Italian cinema, but the process of developing traditions of neorealism was not easy. The early 50's was a time of political and economic crisis in Italy, the onset of Catholic reaction. Some directors were working in the tradition of the classic neorealism. However, their films have lost that revolutionary fervor. The Italian authorities have launched a campaign against neorealism. They pursued the progressive film directors and organized a mass production of fake-films, copying an external form of the neorealist films. Those films were deprived of social, critical content.
The search for new ways of development of Italian cinema followed the path of deepening the analysis of relationships between people, alienation in the modern world in the 50's. In these films were reflected one of the leading trends in Western cinema, the psychological study of the modern person, the social motives of his conduct, the feelings of confusion and disunity among people. Fellini’s movies are about that (Movie Road, Nights of Cabiria, Sweet Life, Eight and a half), Antonioni's movies (Chronicle of a Love, Scream); "trilogy of loneliness and miscommunication" - Adventure, Night, Eclipse.
The late 50's - 60's was the period to overcome the economic crisis and the "economic miracle" boom. The Italian film making industry was gaining strength: its economic power was reflected in the record figure of the annual production of films. It was the time of the debuts, the flourishing creativity of the leading artists and the new genres. Many film directors reverted back to the anti-fascist theme, trying to reflect further on the recent past: Rossellini’s General Della Rovere, Vanchini’s Long night in1943. The main films had sharp social issues. Those are the films of Fellini and Antonioni, in which a society of "general welfare" became a society of universal fragmentation and lack of spirituality. One of the best films of Visconti is Rocco and His Brothers. It is about the plight of the peasant family, who moved to the city. The first two movies of P. P. Pasolini The Beggar and Mamma Roma opened a new page in the history of the Italian cinema, associated with the work of the famous director, poet, writer, scholar and writer. He came with his own theme, surprisingly emotional and expressive language, tragically controversial, rebellious attitude (Celli 79).
Another characteristic of the progressive trend of Italian cinema of those years is a satirical exposure of vices of bourgeois society of the boom period. Boom, Marriage Italian Style by De Sica, The Overtaking by D.Risi, Divorce Italian Style, Seduced and Abandoned, Ladies and Gentlemen by P. Germi are the most representative examples of this genre.
In the late 60's and early 70's began a general trend towards the politicization of art due to the worsening of the political struggle, the success of leftist forces and the youth protest movement. The films of B.Bertoluchchi, F.Rozi, M.Belokko and P.Taviani have earlier touched a subject of the youth protest against the bourgeois society and the theme of popular revolution, at that time developed new principles of documentalism combining with metaphor, generalization, and symbols. At the end of the 60’s began to develop the main genres of political films and reached the highest peak in the first half of the 70’s in Italy. The leading political film genres include detectives, the stories about judicial crimes and corruption of the state (The investigation is over – forget by D.Damiani, Case of Mattei, Hundred Days in Palermo by D.Ferrary), antifascist films (The Conformist by B. Bertoluchchi, All Loved Each Other by E.Scola). The political genre also includes historical-revolutionary films like Allonzanfan by Taviani brothers. The leading genres of political films are political comedies or political pamphlets: We Want the Colonels! by M. Monichelli, Property Is No Longer a Theft by E.Petri etc.
Since the mid 70's has began a crisis of Italian cinema. Political instability, permanent government crises, rampant terrorism and neo-fascism affected the mood and theme of the films. This period of the Italian cinema is characterized by the withdrawal from the explicitly political issues, from the aesthetic documentalism. The critique of capitalist reality is shown in the last films of Antonioni and Fellini, the movies of the "middle generation" directors, Bertolucci, Taviani brothers, Rosie, Scola and others. Such films as XX Century by Bertolucci, The Father of the Host, The Night of San Lorenzo, Chaos by Taviani brothers, The Tree of Wooden Clogs by E. Olmi persuaded the audience that the film directors had not lost a belief in the forces that could make these changes.
The creativeness of the directors encouraged to make their debut in the late 70's and early 80's: Dzh. Bertoluchchi (I Love You, Berlinguer, Secrets, Secrets), M.T. Dzhordana (I Love you, Damn, The Fall of the Rebel Angels ), Dzh. Amelio ( Heart Strike ), N. Moretti (Golden Dreams, Bianca , Mass-Is-Over ), comedians R. Benini and M. Troizi, realistic chronicles are combined with eccentric and burlesque in their films (Celli 89).
Thus, the audience was quite different at the cinemas, an upper-class people, artisans, workers, peasants and people of all ages came to watch the films. Reason for the popularity of the film industry was in the historical events and in the low price of admission tickets. There were a lot of challenges in the film industry in Italy: a cinematography crisis, which began simultaneously with the First World War, crisis in the 60’s and in the mid 70’s. These challenges influenced greatly the Italian film industry because many genres were created during or after these hard periods.