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Luchino Visconti

Cinema and sexuality

Cinema and homosexuality​

Film criticism

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ALFRED HITCHCOCK

Almost every relevant theoretical tradition of film studies has responded to the challenge of a confrontation with Alfred Hitchcock, possibly the most studied director of the entire film history: author theory, semeiotic, psychoanalysis, feminist film theory, and others tested their weapons on his works.  

In my forays into Hitchcock’s cinema I have particularly taken in consideration the representation of elements related to sexuality, a topic which has played a pivotal role in a large part of the literature on the director, especially after Laura Maulvey’s seminal essay Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema (1975). For instance, I analyzed the representation of women in relation to Hitchcock’s peculiar conception of melodrama in Vertigo (1958) [Cherchez la mère. Vertigo tra melodramma e trauma], and of marriage – along the lines of what Stanley Cavell has famously termed “comedy of remarriage” – in North by Northwest (1959) [Stanley Cavell interprete di Alfred Hitchcock] as well as in the less known Mr. and Mrs. Smith (1941) [Mr. and Mistress Smith: una tipica commedia americana di Alfred Hitchcock], almost ignored by Hitchcockian scholars.

Psycho (1960) has been the focus of my interest in Hitchcock: despite the countless studies appeared on the film, its breakthrough connection between sexuality, criminality and sickness seemed to be open to new considerations. In Alfred Hitchcock. Psycho I examined the film ambivalent relationship with both classical and modern cinema (parallel to its effort to maintain a connection with Hitchcock’s previous works, on the one hand, and to renew it radically on the other hand). The adaptation of Robert Bloch’s novel, which has been snubbed by film scholars, is at the core of the analysis.

I delved further into the issues related to gender and sexuality which give substance to Norman Bates and to his clash with Marion, as well as to the crisis of a reassuring neat distinction between sanity and illness, in a second book, Nell’ombra di Hitchcock: Eros, morte e malattia nell’eredità di Psycho, whose intent is to trace the roots of the extraordinary influence of Psycho to the cultural and ideological ambiguities resulting from the complex connection between sex, death and illness established by Hitchcock in the movie. The superimposition of these three elements has been capable of intercepting issues culturally so crucial of the past century as to have been the object of an endless series of reworks in the following 50 years. A few of them are analyzed in the book not only on a formal level, but also according to ever changing cultural contexts, knowledge of reference, and personal or political agendas, and they are substantial enough to offer a significant cultural cross section of five decades of western cinema. 

Among them I consider also Hitchcock’s Frenzy (1972) in the shadow of Psycho and of an intermediate unrealized project known as Frenzy or Kaleidoscope, depending on its stage of elaboration.

The television rewrites of Psycho are also consistent enough to permit to trace the evolution of seriality [«Do you (really) believe in evil?». Psycho, la serialità televisiva e il suo spettatore]. The book and this article are also meant to contribute to bridge a major gap in the huge literature on Hitchcock, which has surprisingly neglected his influence among colleagues, although common knowledge. 

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