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Bellissimo: Immagini del cinema italiano (1985)

| Documentary
This documentary intercuts interviews with directors, producers, actors, and designers working in Italian cinema with clips from Cabiria (1914) and Assunta Spina (1915) to Non ci resta che ... See full summary »
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Francesco Nuti
Massimo Troisi
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This documentary intercuts interviews with directors, producers, actors, and designers working in Italian cinema with clips from Cabiria (1914) and Assunta Spina (1915) to Non ci resta che piangere (1984) and Enrico IV (1984). It measures the contributions of Italian cinema to neo-realism, to music and costume design, to cinematography, and to the adaptation of novels to film. Praise for Visconti is lavish, and the important role of Cinecittà in giving a home to Italian artistry is celebrated. Fellini and Wertmüller tell Oscar stories. It concludes with a salute to the Venice film festival. Written by <jhailey@hotmail.com>

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Bellissimo: Images of the Italian Cinema  »

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Edited from Segreti segreti (1985) See more »

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About the Italian cinema, more or less.
6 June 2005 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

Gianfranco Mingozzi's documentary on the history of the Italian cinema has its heart in the right place, I guess, but its result is a hodge-podge, a jumble without any clear point of view other than to throw together some available clips from Italian movies over the decades.

I counted about fifty excerpts from movies in this 105 minute film and about thirty interviews/encounters with directors, performers, technicians from the Italian industry. That means that the average clip in the movie is about one minute in length. While some are longer, most last mere seconds. Many of the "interviews" are from ready-made sources but do have some interest. I found it nice to hear the great cinematographer Giuseppe Rotunno talk about his craft and to hear from the superb composers Ennio Morricone and Nicola Piovani.

While Mingozzi gives us pieces from a couple of silents ("Cabiria" and "Assunta Spina") and a few from the neo-realist era ("La terra trema," "Open City" "The Bicycle Thief," "Bitter Rice," most of the movie deals with movies made from the 1960s through the early 1980s. The entire period of fascism is represented as an afterthought and only by the 1932 "Gli uomini, che mascalzoni" as part of a section dealing with the Italian cinema's musical and operatic tradition. Otherwise it's as though nothing were made during that time, not even "The Iron Crown", " "The Children Are Watching Us," or "Ossessione."

The inclusion of some movies is surprising and not unwelcome. I found it interesting that Mingozzi included bits from Lattuada's "The Overcoat," Bolognini's "Agostino" and Cottafavi's "Maria Zef." On the other hand that inclusion of a fairly graphic sex bit from Tinto Brass' "The Key" seemed gratuitous and just thrown in to titillate. Mingozzi includes a piece from his own movie, "La vela incantata," about traveling rural cinema exhibitors. That's well and good and a reminder also of a film of his that has some genuine passion and effectiveness.

I am a life-long lover of the Italian cinema, but I find this work in its totality both tedious and annoying. Annoying is the tonality of some of the narration which rants rather than explains, and we are constantly barraged with lists of names and personalities added because of the need to want to seem all-inclusive.

What is this movie? Is it an attempt to introduce people to the Italian cinema who have no previous exposure? Perhaps. Its style is that of a long trailer for coming attractions. If one compares this documentary with the brilliant one of Martin Scorsese about the post-war Italian cinema, "My Voyage to Italy," it pales by any standard. Scorsese's film had a point of view. It was more than trivially celebratory, it was an illuminating homage. Scorsese would give us a true masterpiece, a movie not just great because of what clips he includes, but of how he relates them to the rest of Italian cinema, to the world in which they were made, and to himself as a person and artist. Mingozzi's disembodied concatenation of clips, on the other hand, has no discernible point of view, no personal reflections. In contrast to Scorsese's genuine masterpiece, this is better described as a mess-terpiece.


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