other researches

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Luchino Visconti

Cinema and homosexuality​

Alfred Hitchcock​

Film criticism

see also

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All books

All articles and book chapters

CINEMA AND SEXUALITY

In her last conversation, Pauline Kael stated: "I think half of the reason that people become interested in movies in the first place is sex and dating and everything connected with eroticism on the screen. And I felt that not to deal with all of that in its most naked form was to shirk part of what's involved in being a movie critic. I'd love to have written more about eroticism in the movies. I think it's a great subject". Sex is among the most recognizable obsessions of modernity – if it is true that we went so far as “to direct the question of what we are, to sex”, as stated by Foucault – thus inevitably of the entire film history, since cinema is a byproduct of modernity itself. Nonetheless, this relevance has been denied for a long time, especially by academia and not surprisingly since sex itself has been contained and controlled through a severe limitation of the contexts and of the discourses allowed to address it.

I have devoted a large part of my research efforts to this “great subject” (so closely related to cinema in its entirety), since years when in the Italian academia it was still encountering a certain opposition (nowadays almost dissipated), especially if taken as a key concept in the study of a major author like Luchino Visconti, as I did in my first research.

At the same time, I addressed issues related to the body and gender in relation to authors as diverse as Stanley Kubrick, Brian De Palma, Terry Gilliam, Edgar Reitz [Maria, Clarissa e le altre…], David Cronenberg [Polimorfi ma non perversi…], and Alfred Hitchcock [Cherchez la mère. Vertigo tra melodramma e trauma]. I particularly delved into the study of the connection between sex, death and illness established by Hitchcock in Psycho (1960) [Alfred Hitchcock. Psycho], which appears to have been capable of grasping with unexpectedly depth issues so culturally crucial in the western culture of the past century that it has been exercising an extraordinary influence for more than 50 years now through an endless series of reworks, despite constantly changing contexts. These rewrites are the object of a second book, Nell’ombra di Hitchcock, and of an article devoted to television variations [‘Do you (really) believe in evil?’…]. 

Studying such topics, subject to a long history of censorship and containment, a confrontation with the borderline genre of pornography can hardly be avoided since it has historically been invested with the compensative role of representing what had been removed from mainstream cinema. Indeed, it is the relationship between pornography and mainstream cinema that mostly interests me, on the part of the audience [Quadri piccanti e spettacoli indecentissimi…] as well as in the form of reciprocal imitations, for instance through the connecting form of parody [A Story of Love and Blood… and Il fumetto italiano per adulti e il cinema…] or, the other way round, through the attempt to violate the taboos, on the part of mainstream cinema, appropriating forms and contents of pornography. This is the case of the first Italian animated film which shyly approached pornography, Gibba's and Libratti's Il nano e la strega (1975) [Quando l’animazione italiana tentò la via del porno], as well as of the adoption of the representation of non simulated sex by a number of movies since the 1970s [see chap. 9 in Homosexuality and Italian Cinema and Dall’abiura di Pasolini all’Hard-core Art].

In the last few years I have focused on the relationship between homosexuality and Italian cinema, a topic remained uncovered despite it was a crucial part of that increasing eroticization which was possibly the most peculiar process in the history of Italian cinema between the 1950s and the 1970s. While advancing the research on Visconti and considering new case studies – starting from Pasolini's Comizi d'amore (1964) [Parlavo vivo a un popolo di morti’…] – I published a few preliminary surveys, particularly on the 1950s [Del tutto sconsigliabile per il nostro pubblico’…] and on catholic culture [Cattolici, cinema e omosessualità…], and I presented several papers in international Symposiums, including La censura dell’osceno in Italia tra gli anni ’40 e gli anni ’70 that I organized at University of Milan with T. Subini, with whom I also edited the first issue of the journal Schermi devoted to I cattolici, il cinema e il sesso in Italia tra gli anni ’40 e gli anni ’70.

The intent of the following book Homosexuality and Italian Cinema (of which an Italian edition, revised and augmented, is also available) is to conceive a model of cultural history of the relationship between homosexuality and cinema not limited to the evaluation of representations, but capable of involving a wide range of aspects spanning from the industrial organization to audience, from censorship to criticism and stardom, with all their fallouts on dominant knowledge, popular culture and representations themselves.

The last chapter of the book is devoted to a first survey of the magazines of the gay rights movements, and the way in which sexuality permeates film criticism is another topic which interests me. In particular, I addressed the history of the magazine Films and Filming [Una rivista equilibrata per spettatori intelligenti’…] and a pioneer of film criticism, Parker Tyler [Desiderio e allucinazione…], also translating his first book on cinema, Hollywood Hallucination, published in 1944. At the moment I am working on the Italian case, going through a large amount of magazines and newspapers which can be considered marginal with respect to their ideological extremism, their limited circulation, and the social position of the readers they targeted. Besides the already mentioned gay press, this is the case of the laic ultraconservative press, in whose imagery sexuality is critically important, and particularly a certain myth of masculinity [Forzuti, fusti, maggiorati... and Alla corte di Re Luchino…].

OUTCOMES OF THE RESEARCH

BOOKS

ARTICLES AND BOOK CHAPTERS

PAPERS AND PRESENTATIONS​

“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.

"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.