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A history without an ending, 8 June 2008
Author: Chris Knipp from Berkeley, California
In this 75-minute documentary made in collaboration with RAI
television, Comencini continues her preoccupation with work and its
role in modern Italy, using a lot of footage from old archival RAI
documentaries along with her own films and interpolated voice
commentary to trace the story of post-war industrial development
through the "economic miracle" of the early Sixties, the major strikes
of the early Seventies and the loss of working class power during the
Eighties, and the influx of foreign workers now taking the place of the
old migrations from the Mezzogiorno to the industrial North, first to
Germany, then to Milan and Turin and especially to the FIAT factory.
It is fascinating to compare the techniques of film-making and the personalities and faces of five decades of the Italian working class and to get a glimpse of some of the leaders of factory worker strikes and revolts during the early Seventies (including PCI leader Enrico Berlinguer, and others). However, the film suffers from a weakness that isn't entirely Comencini's fault: the fading away of the factory worker from the central place he/she had during the grand and turbulent period of Italy's primary economic development. This in part is due to the wave of downsizing in the Eighties. It's also due to the fact that factory workers still do enjoy improvements from the grim early days when southern Italians working at FIAT had to sleep in the Turin railway station because there was no housing they could afford, ten and fifteen year olds had factory jobs, and all production systems made workers mindless cogs in a big machine.
In the Factory/In fabbrica supplies us with a lot of nostalgic and evocative images and personal voices. Its history of worker organization and major strikes is a bit sketchy. It would have been a better film if the early section was reduced to vignettes and summary and the filmmakers had done more footwork in modern factories, interviewing retired and present-day workers in depth, comparing various current factory working situations, and in general producing an original piece of work rather than a compilation of RAI footage with old and some new voice-overs. For those of us who are only vaguely familiar with most of the material, this is a panorama that's fascinating. But it's a story without an ending, and surely what's happening now is what's most important to know about given the uncertain picture of working class today.
Francesca Comencini is one of four daughters of mainstream "commedia all'italiana filmmaker Luigi Comencini, considered one of the masters of Italian film comedy along with with Dino Risi, Ettore Scola and Mario Monicelli.
Shown as part of the Open Roads: New Italian Cinema series at Lincoln Center in June 2008.
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