CONFERENCE: ITALIAN GENRE CINEMA
Famously director and writer Luigi Cozzi observed that the Italian film industry during the 1960s and 1970s took on the traits of the exploitation film, in that movie producers did not ask what your film was like, they asked what film your film was like. In this way, he argued, Italy could produce “Zombi 2”, but never “Zombi 1”. It was positioned as the land that made “The Last Shark” but not “Jaws”. This perception of Italian genre cinema as imitative has stuck and many have viewed Italian genre films as nothing but cheap rip-offs with little redeeming value. However, increasingly the seemingly frenetic mix of genres and sub-genres that made up much of cinema in this period has been reassessed. Many of the films have become cult hits and have been celebrated for all their excess and absurdity as well as their surprising beauty and inventiveness. This was a truly dynamic period of production, with Italy making more than 250 films a year at the height of the industry: the truly absurd, such as Andrea Bianchi’s “Burial Ground” (where actress Mariangela Giordano has her breast munched off by her zombified son) could sit alongside the mesmerizingly trippy “All the Colours of the Dark”. This may have been, in large part, a cinema of imitation but it was one where a number of talented practitioners, such as Mario Bava, Sergio Marino, Enzo G. Castellari could work with small budgets to create some of genre cinema’s most truly memorable films.
Dr. Russ Hunter (co-editor of “Italian Horror Cinema”) will provide an overview of the Italian genre film, looking at the dynamics behind an industry that variously produced spy thrillers, funky hardboiled cop films, hyper-violent thrillers, gore-drenched horrors, spaghetti westerns, zany sci-fi cinema as well as bawdy comedies. Dr. Alexia Kannas (author of “Deep Red”) examines the key features of the giallo, a uniquely Italian blend of lurid violence, inventive set-piece murders, pulsating soundtracks and sitting alongside often beautifully realised visuals. Dr. Jamie Sexton (author of “Cult Cinema”) will look at the contribution that two iconic composers, Ennio Morricone and Bruno Nicolai, made to the success of Italian genre films. Their soundtracks have, somewhat unusually, taken on cult status and contributed hugely to making Italian genre cinema both successful and memorable to the ear. Finally, Dr. Louis Bayman (co-editor of “Italian Popular Cinema”) explores the poliziotteschi, a series of gritty police dramas that mixed up high-speed car chases, kidnappings, bank robberies, high-powered shootouts and angry lone wolf protagonists with a sense of style that was distinctly Italian. Followed by a roundtable with director Sergio Martino and Manlio Gomarasca (author, editor, and journalist at “Nocturno”).