"Equête serrée, passionnante, rigoureuse, qui rafraîchit nettement les études viscontiennes et les débarrasse de bien des poncifs. Merci de votre belle manière de parler de ce cinéma, et de permettre que se poursuivent le dialogue, et la Recherche.
Je vous exprime mon admiration et mon bonheur de vous lire."
Laurence Schifano, Université Paris Nanterre, author of Visconti. Une vie exposée
"[Poetica e prassi della trasgressione in Luchino Visconti and Scandalo e Banalità] signal a revived era for the study of Visconti and are most promising for transporting Visconti studies into the 21st century […] indicating new pathways for scholarship to come."
Brendan Hennessey, Luchino Visconti, Oxford Bibliographies
Since 2005 I spent seven years on Luchino Visconti's papers, which had never been considered in their entirety before, looking for a new perspective on his works, on the meaning of his presence in thirty years of Italian culture, and on the literature produced on a director who, until mid-1990s, had been among the most studied authors of Italian cinema.
The research pivoted on two premises. The first was the necessity to rethink the transgressive component of Visconti’s work: although it had been one of the most vital and consistent nourishments of his films and stagings, as well as of his public image, it was still largely disregarded, at best treated with the utmost approximation, at worst conveniently removed. The second was the necessity to renew the sources, for example complementing (or, when the case, challenging) the abused testimonies given by the director himself and by his collaborators with new archival documents in order to replace the commonalities inherited from Visconti's critical assessment with new evidence of ideas, aspirations, intentions, contrasts otherwise doomed to remain hidden in the director's laboratory.
The results of the research are collected in two complementary volumes, Poetica e prassi della trasgressione in Luchino Visconti and Scandalo e banalità. Combining cultural studies with philology and film analysis, they reconstruct the conception, pre-production, and sources of most of Visconti's movies. They also reconsider disregarded aspects like the performative reactions of the public, and re-establish the consistency of Visconti’s career against the tenet of a deeply fractured evolution (mostly because of Senso in 1954 and the decadent turn of the so called “last Visconti”). They also propose a reinterpretation of Visconti's poetics, thanks to new documents that can be understood as more relevant manifestos than the famous (and often misread) article Il cinema antropomorfico. In so doing, the books reassess the importance of a peculiar conception of melodrama, uncomprehended by Visconti’s political companions and often misunderstood by film critics too, because it was grounded on the assessment of a political meaning to the private life, and more particularly to sex, since Ossessione (1942) and the early projects conceived by the director, the majority of which had never been considered before. In this perspective the research restores the importance of the collaboration with Tennessee Williams in the 1950s and with Giovanni Testori immediately after, both largely disregarded (for different reasons) by previous critics.
The latter is at the center also of a third book devoted to Rocco e i suoi fratelli (Rocco and his Brothers, 1960). Visconti’s papers about this film are so substantial and labyrinthine that a dedicated work seemed necessary, first of all to propose a philological reorganization of these materials formed by two treatments, six versions of the screenplay, and more than 200 pages of often fragmentary drafts, notes, memos, etc., sparse and undated but belonging to different stages of a pre-production which lasted two years. Drawing on these reordered documents, the book proposes a new reconstruction of the film’s long development; of the influence of the several literary sources from which the screenwriters took inspirations; of the contributions given by the several collaborators; of the misinterpretations caused by the Italian Communist Party in the effort to exploit the movie for the upcoming elections; and of the Establishment's response to the film, from the Venice Film Festival to the unprecedented intervention of the magistracy, which disrupted the standard procedures of censorship in the years to follow.
Afterwards, I continued my research on Visconti looking for eccentric points of view, in the double acceptation of the word: peripheral gazes, from a distance which permits to grasp new perspectives and to enlighten uncovered topics; gazes extravagant enough to disturb the traditional picture. The elements of these eccentric gazes are the most heterogeneous: secular interests concealed under noble sources [Giuseppe e i suoi fratelli: un progetto non realizzato... and also Oresti di paglia ed Elettre sepolte. Le suggestioni dell’antico in Vaghe stelle dell’Orsa…]; unexpected relationships with popular culture [A Story of Love and Blood…]; unpredicted synchronicities with popular cinema [I germi della violenza. Gruppo di famiglia in un interno fra ’68 e ’77]; politically marginal but culturally relevant critical appraisals, ignored even by the most recent bibliographies on Visconti [Alla corte di Re Luchino… and see below, Symposium n. 10], and of course the role played by his homosexuality in thirty years of Italian cultural history [Homosexuality and Italian Cinema, of which an Italian edition, revised and augmented, is also available]. Revised and augmented versions of these essays, together with other five on the collaborations between Visconti and Marcello Mastroianni, Nino Rota and Helmut Berger; a right-wing parody of Rocco and His Brothers (Walter e i suoi cugini); and on the 1960 Mostra del cinema di Venezia are now collected in the book Intorno a Luchino Visconti. Dieci sguardi eccentrici.
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, focused on the case study of Ossessione.
OUTCOMES OF THE RESEARCH
ARTICLES AND BOOK CHAPTERS
PAPERS AND PRESENTATIONS
“Rocco e i suoi fratelli di Luchino Visconti: il dettaglio come chiave di accesso alla pluralità dei testi”, paper, International Symposium God is in the details. Per una riflessione sul metodo nelle discipline umanistiche, Università degli Studi di Milano, 10 June 2010.
“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.
“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.
“Marcello Mastroianni attore per Visconti”, paper, international Symposium Marcello Mastroianni. Stile Italiano, icona internazionale / Italian Style, International Icon, Università degli Studi di Torino, 5 November 2014.
“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
“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.
"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.