"A new kind of gay film history ... a model of historical research."
Richard Dyer, King's College London
"An impressive contribution to queer/Italian studies."
John Champagne,author of Italian Masculinity as Queer Melodrama
CINEMA AND HOMOSEXUALITY
OUTCOMES OF THE RESEARCH
In a context like the Italian academia, in which cultural studies in general have faced a prolonged diffidence, until recently it has been almost unthinkable to address a topic like homosexuality, which in Italy has never been outlawed but has been culturally disqualified. Thus the large majority of the historical work has come from independent scholars, mostly journalists and militants, often easy to be discredited by an institution in charge of distributing authorizations on the basis of rigor. Nowadays, the importation with scarse discussion of queer theories risks to shift the problem instead of solving it, endorsing a theoretical speculation often self-referential at the expense of historical research and promoting subjective interpretations not only without foundation, but even uninterested in looking for it. The consequent state of the art, as far as Italian cinema is concerned, is discussed in the paper included in the proceedings of the first Symposium that took stock of the Italian situation, hold at University of Verone in 2015 [Cinema e omosessualità in Italia tra la seconda guerra mondiale e la nascita del FUORI. Appunti per una storia da (ri)scrivere].
The combination of cultural studies and philology in my research on Luchino Visconti was first and foremost an attempt to contrast the academic mistrust: indeed, since it was intended to rethink the transgressive component of the director’s work and public image, deeply intertwined with sexuality, homosexuality was meant to surface as a critical element.
Besides returning on Luchino Visconti, thanks to new documents, I later extended the scope of my investigation to a few case studies as diverse as Pier Paolo Pasolini’s Comizi d’amore (1964) [Parlavo vivo a un popolo di morti’...], Dario Argento’s Profondo Rosso (1975) [Gli ‘strani gusti sessuali’ di Carlo...], and Franco Brusati's Dimenticare Venezia (1979) [L’anti-diva, l’anti-autore e una certa idea del pudore...], and I traced a few brief historical overviews, particularly on catholic culture [Cattolici, cinema e omosessualità...], on censorship ['La figura è equivoca. Però…’...], and on the 1950s [Del tutto sconsigliabile per il nostro pubblico’...], a decade mistakenly considered of scarce relevance by previous critical surveys.
Through an extensive archival research and a thorough consideration of more than 600 films, the book Homosexuality and Italian Cinema (of which an Italian edition, revised and augmented, is also available) offers the first comprehensive overview of a topic totally disregarded by literature although anything but marginal in the cultural context of the after-war, when Italian cinema began to put sexuality at the centre of its own evolution. The books aims at extending the scope of the investigation beyond the critic model of the few non scholarly articles previously appeared in Italy on the topic (hence a debate limited to evaluate the representations), in favor of a method involving any other aspect of cinematic institution, from the industrial organization to audience, from censorship to criticism and stardom, with all their fallouts on dominant knowledge, popular culture and representations themselves. In this way the book aims at reconstructing a history which resulted not only from hatred and oppression, but also from hidden pleasures and unmentionable complicities.
Apart from the Italian case, within the wider scope of the relationship between cinema and sexuality, I addressed a few case studies, such as Mike Nichols' adaptation from Tony Kushner's Angels in America (2003) [‘That was Heaven’… and L’epica nel cinema moderno e contemporaneo] and contemporary queer cinema blending traditional narrative and aesthetics with pornographic depictions [Dall’abiura di Pasolini all’Hard-core Art]. I also wrote extensively on the way in which in Psycho (1960) Alfred Hitchcock tones down but does not abridge Robert Bloch’s novel suggestions about Norman Bates’ homosexuality [Alfred Hitchcock: Psyco]. Mixing the protagonist’s peculiar sexuality with homicidal tendencies and a mental illness drawn on the psychoanalytic theories, and contrasting him with a neurotic heroine who can hardly be identified as a simplistic healthy polarity, Hitchcock conceives a representation so malleable and ambivalent to be open to fifty years of uninterrupted rewritings, which are the subject of another book, Nell’ombra di Hitchcock. Among other things, the volume traces the fluctuations of Norman’s sexuality in the years, between disavowals and strong confirmations of its homosexual component, depending on the contexts and individual agendas.
Finally, I am interested in the ways in which homosexuality permeates film criticism, for instance as a source of an interest in cinema which does not hide its origin (as in the case of a pioneer of criticism like Parker Tyler [Desiderio e allucinazione…], whose first book, Hollywood Hallucination, I translated in Italian), or as a means “to capture speech”, in De Certeau's words, on the part of a social minority, both in a concealed form (for example with the film magazine Films and Filming [‘Una rivista equilibrata per spettatori intelligenti’…]) and in more explicit ways, through the magazines published by the gay right movements from the 1950s onward (see chap. 10 of Homosexuality and Italian Cinema). This is also the case of the ultraconservative press, so allergic to homosexuality that it deeply influences its discourses on cinema [Forzuti, fusti, maggiorati... and Alla corte di Re Luchino].