Homosexuality and Italian Cinema: From the Fall of Fascism to the Years of Lead

Palgrave MacMillan, London 2017, pp. XVI, 272, 31 ill. (revised Italian edition, corrected and augmented, Omosessualità e cinema italiano. Dalla caduta del fascismo agli anni di piombo, UTET, Turin 2019)



This book is the first to establish the relevance of same-sex desires, pleasures and anxieties in the cinema of post-war Italy. It explores cinematic representations of homosexuality and their significance in a wider cultural struggle in Italy involving society, cinema, and sexuality between the 1940s and 1970s. Besides tracing the evolution of representations through both art and popular films, this book also analyses connections with consumer culture, film criticism and politics. It uncovers how complicated negotiations between challenges to and valorization of dominant forms of knowledge of homosexuality shaped representations and argues that they were not always the outcome of hatred but also sought to convey unmentionable pleasures and complicities. Through archival research and a survey of more than 600 films, the author enriches our understanding of thirty years of Italian film and cultural history.


“In this wonderfully researched, lucidly organised book, Mauro Giori does not so much take us beyond the internationally renowned gay cinema of Visconti and Pasolini as place this in the extraordinarily rich, elusive and thrilling cinema of its time. His book is more than a fascinating overview of homosexuality in Italian cinema in a period exciting equally for the richness of Italian cinema and the emergence of gay identities. It is also a new kind of gay film history, weaving together film texts with production and censorship, gossip and scandal, festivals, criticism and cinemagoing, all beautifully contextualised in relation to the politics and culture of the times. This is a model of historical research and a vibrant account of an astonishing moment in queer culture.”

(Richard Dyer, Professor Emeritus of Film Studies, King’s College London)

“This archival work unearths a broad range of texts, from newspaper articles and exposés, to gossip, to film reviews, to documents relating to the production history of a film, including why and how certain images of homosexuality were censored. […] Giori’s is a kind of polyphonic history, cinema and Italian homosexuality being distinct melodic lines that sometimes harmonize, sometimes create dissonance, and sometimes crisscross to be indistinguishable. Reading this study, one often feels a sense in which the history of post-war Italian homosexuality is the history of post-war Italian cinema, and vice versa.

One of the strengths of this highly readable, often witty book is precisely the author’s flexibility of approach. Working 'across' film theory and film history, film history and cultural history, queer theory and queer history, cinema studies and queer studies (and queer cinema studies), as well as close analysis and reception studies, Giori has produced an impressive contribution to queer/Italian studies. Homosexuality and Italian Cinema is not simply a survey of representations of homosexuality in post-war Italian film – in and of itself invaluable – but a history of continuities and ruptures in the discursive construction of Italian homosexuality. […] Rather than cast the history of homosexuality and Italian cinema as the gradual attempt by Italian film to release homosexuality from the shadows of silence and invisibility, Giori instead identifies 'cultural lines of force', paired oppositions that characterized the production and reception of cinematic images of homosexuality in the post-war period. He convincingly argues that, in each case, the dominant strategy to disqualify and delegitimize homosexuality made possible a reverse- discourse via which homosexuality could speak and was seen. […]

What Giori’s employment of a Foucauldian model ultimately makes possible is a certain restoration of the 'openness' of the historical moment, an attentiveness to the competing and conflicting strategies whereby homosexuality was both silenced and made to speak, the two moves dependent upon one another. […] Throughout his study, Giori is particularly attentive to Gérard Genette’s concept of paratext, those 'external' factors that 'encrust' the film and inform its reception, including conflicting social understandings of homosexuality. Specifically highlighting the long shelf life in Italy of both pederastic and third sex models of same-sex desire, Giori’s study reminds us that the incoherent coexistence of these two models productively undermines a historicist attempt to define univocally 'our modern sexuality.'”

(John Champagne in gender/sexuality/italy B, 2019)

Through 11 chapters and the analysis of countless films, Giori surveys a history of repression and strategies of resistance that, beginning in the 1950s and 1960s, have slowly changed attitudes towards homosexuality. The book analyses the work of auteurs as well as popular films; it discusses critical reception as well as social practices of filmic consumption.

(Marja Härmänmaa, Nicola Lucchi, The Year’s Work in Modern Language Studies, 2019)

"Omosessualità e cinema italiano si concentra sul periodo storico che va dalla caduta del fascismo agli anni di piombo, anni in cui 'in Italia il cinema è una cosa seria e occupa una posizione centrale nel sistema mediale […] Negli stessi anni anche la sessualità è una questione molto seria. Come altrove nella cultura occidentale, anche in Italia viene infatti caricata di un eccesso di significato', scrive Giori nella sua introduzione, sollevando una questione cruciale, e cioè che questo è 'particolarmente vero per l'omosessualità: nessun'altra variante della sessualità è stata caricata di un significato sociale nemmeno lontanamente paragonabile, né ha generato la stessa quantità di discorsi, rappresentazioni, ansie e reazioni'. […] Giori considera gli autori, la politica, il pubblico, la critica, c'è chi nega l'elemento omosessuale nell'analisi di un film o di un autore e chi legge tutto solo attraverso questa lente. Il libro di Giori, attraverso nove articolati capitoli e una ricca selezione iconografica, vuole non solo colmare un vuoto ma riequilibrare la discussione in un dibattito culturale perlomeno un po' distratto."

(C. Barbo, ViviCinema, October 2019)

Interview on the book (in Italian) on the website letture.org B


1     Introduction V

2     Silence

2.1 Who’s Afraid of Spagnolo? – 2.2 Buried in the Darkness – 2.3 Crime Narrative – 2.4 Under the Law of Silence

3     Enjoying the Darkness

3.1 A School of Homosexuality – 3.2 A Large Audience – 3.2.1 Mysteries Known also to Kids – 3.2.2 In Hundreds of Copies – 3.2.3 The Party of Homosexuals – 3.2.4 In the Last Rows – 3.3 A Special Relationship?

4     Undressing the Other

4.1 Homosexuals by Night – 4.2 The Rise and Fall of the Fusto

5      Luchinidi and Pasolinidi

5.1 Time to Speak – 5.2 Fellini’s Prophecy – 5.3 The Great League – 5.4 ‘Green’ Cinema – 5.5 Ragazzi di Vita – 5.6 A Milanese Pasolini – 5.7 Pink Tuxedoes

6      Love in the Time of Panic

6.1 Vicious Air – 6.2 Mentine and Guaglioni – 6.3 Fiction, the Whole Fiction and Nothing but the Fiction – 6.4 Episodic Laughs

7     Sexual Revolution, Italian Style

7.1 Swinging Italy – 7.2 From Lesbo to the Far West

8     Pornography of Death

8.1 The Return of Crime Narrative – 8.2 The Queer Homosexuals of Gialli

9     The Only Good Thing

9.1 The Rudeness of Italian People – 9.2 Ideology on the Screen – 9.3 Through the Keyhole – 9.4 Persons Who (Do not) Go to Bed Together

10    Homophiles and Gays Go to the Movies

10.1 The French Connection – 10.2 Politeness and Arousal – 10.3 Parricides from the Left

11    Conclusion: Martyrdom and Pleasure


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© 2018-2019 by Mauro Giori

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