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"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

other researches


Luchino Visconti

Cinema and sexuality

Alfred Hitchcock​

Film criticism

see also


All books

All articles and book chapters




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].

In the last few years, I had more than one chance to think about the methodological aspects of my work, strongly defending historical research and philological rigour against the approximations of a large literature based, on the contrary, on the advent of theories (such as some variations of queer) and fashionable trends (like the political correctness) which defend and value, often aggressively, impressions, subjectivity, emotion and anachronism. Traces of this polemic can be found particularly in the book chapter Gay and lesbian e queer studies.

The 2022 PRIN (Reasearch Project of National Interest, funded by the Italian Ministry of University and Research) Cinema and the LGBTQ+ movements, from the first traces to institutionalization (1945-1989) of which I’m the P.I., will widen the knowledge on a crucial moment of this history and the period considered in the previous works, including the 1980s.



“L’esperienza artistica di Luchino Visconti in chiave performativa”, paper, Annual International Conference of the Associazione per gli Studi di Teoria e Storia Comparata della Letteratura Performance e performatività, Università degli Studi di Messina, 18 November 2010.

“The Long Way from Tactic to Strategy: the Case of Luchino Visconti”, paper, Annual International Conference of the American Association for Italian Studies, Universität Zurich, 25 May 2014.

“I cattolici e la pornografia”, paper, Symposium I cattolici e il cinema in Italia tra gli anni ’40 e gli anni ’70, Università degli Studi di Milano, 28 May 2014.

“Nino Rota al servizio di Visconti. Il caso di Rocco e i suoi fratelli”, invited paper, International Symposium Nino Rota. Le passioni del cinema, Università degli Studi di Pavia, Cremona, 4 June 2014.

“The Construction of Homosexuality in the Italian Documentaries (1959-1971)”, paper, Annual International Conference of the European Network for Cinema and Media Studies Creative Energies, Creative Industries, Università Cattolica di Milano, 19 June 2014.

“Negotiating the Representation of Homosexuality in Italian Cinema Between the Merlin Law and the Foundation of the Gay Rights Movement”, paper, Second International Alphaville – Journal of Film and Screen Media Conference, Deviate!, University College Cork, 4 September 2014.

“Dall’abiura di Pasolini all’Hard-core Art. Sesso dal vero e ideologia nel cinema queer contemporaneo”, paper, Louvain Research Center for Global and Comparative Studies International Symposium De Pasolini à Robert Lepage et John Grant. Le point de vue Queer en littérature, au cinéma, dans les graphic novels et dans la chanson, Université Catholique de Louvain, 4 October 2014. Proceedings

“La censura e l’omosessualità”, paper, conference La censura dell’osceno in Italia tra gli anni ’40 e gli anni ’70, Università degli Studi di Milano, 22 January 2015. Proceedings

“Il ruolo del cinema nell’elaborazione dell’omosessualità in Italia tra la seconda guerra mondiale e la nascita del FUORI”, paper, International Symposium Tribadi, sodomiti, invertite e invertiti, pederasti, femminelle, ermafroditi… Per una storia dellʼomosessualità, della bisessualità e delle trasgressioni di genere in Italia, Università degli Studi di Verona, 22 September 2015. Proceedings

“The Strange Vice of the Italian Giallo. The Exploitation of Homosexuality From I tre volti della paura to Tenebre”, paper, International Symposium The Strange Vice of Mrs. Wardh and the giallo, Austrian Historical Institute, Roma, 8 June 2015.

“L’epica nel cinema moderno e contemporaneo”, invited paper, second Laboratorio Malatestiano, L’epica dopo il moderno (1945-2015), Associazione Sigismondo Malatesta, Santarcangelo di Romagna, 26 September 2015.  Proceedings

“Cultura cattolica e cultura laica di fronte all’osceno: il caso dell’omosessualità”, paper, International Symposium I cattolici e il cinema in Italia tra gli anni ’40 e gli anni ’70, Università degli Studi di Milano, 9 June 2016. Proceedings

“Voci, tattiche e performance del pubblico omosessuale italiano tra secondo dopoguerra e anni Settanta”, paper, International Symposium Italy and Its Audiences: 1945 to the Present, Oxford Brookes University, 8 July 2016.

“The ‘unhurried modernization’ of the gialli: homosexuality between old knowledge and new pleasures”, paper, International Symposium Sex and the Cinema, University of Kent, Canterbury, 10 December 2016.

“Re Luchino e la sua corte. Visconti visto dalla stampa dell’estrema destra laica”, invited paper, Symposium Luchino Visconti oggi: il valore di un'eredità artistica, Università degli Studi di Trieste, 12 May 2017. Proceedings

“Ercole e la dolce vita. L’estrema destra, il culturismo e il modello maschile del peplum del boom”, paper, International Symposium Body Politics. Representing Masculinity in Media and Performing Arts, Università degli Studi di Torino, 6 June 2017. Proceedings

“‘Il Grande Maestro di vita avente per cattedra lo schermo’: giovani, cinema e omosessualità tra legge Merlin e ‘77”, invited paper, Symposium Giovani si diventa! La rappresentazione delle culture giovanili nel cinema italiano, Università degli Studi di Bari, 21 November 2017.

“Helmut Berger, Visconti e il movimento omofilo: strategie di appropriazione di un ‘corpo d’autore’”, invited paper, Symposium Corpi politici e politica dei corpi tra cinema e media in Italia intorno e oltre il ’68, Università degli Studi di Torino, 17 January 2018.

"Helmut Berger, a rebel under tutelage in the Italian star system", paper, international Symposium Stars et vedettes européennes de cinéma : figures de la norme et de la transgression, Université de Lausanne, 12 October 2018.

"Vecchi fusti e nuovi fusti: tipi e controtipi nei discorsi sul cinema della destra del dopoguerra", invited paper, Symposium Oltre l’inetto? Rappresentazioni plurali della mascolinità nel cinema italiano, Università degli Studi di Bari, 6 December 2018.  Proceedings

"L’onere della prova. Studiare i rapporti tra cinema e sessualità tra fonti, teorie e tradizioni accademiche", invited paper, Symposium  Storie del cinema. Gli strumenti alla prova dell’esperienza, Università G. D'Annunzio di Pescara, Chieti, 8 May 2019.

"Le due età di Helmut Berger", invited paper, Symposium Celebrity & Ageing: la vecchiaia nella cultura della celebrità, Università di Bologna, 15 November 2019.

"Pasolini, la politica e la pornografia”, Symposium Pier Paolo Pasolini tra letteratura, lingua e cinema 1922-2022, Stockholms Universitet, 11 February 2022.

“Storie di passione e ragioni della Storia. In margine al diario di un ragazzo del boom”, workshop di apertura del PRIN 2022 Il cinema e i movimenti LGBTQ+, dalle prime tracce all’istituzionalizzazione (1945-1989), Università di Torino, 24 May 2024.

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