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Melodramatic Realism



Melodramatic Realism

“Luchino Visconti’s early movies”

The Istituto Italiano is pleased to present a photo exhibition, curated by Centro Cinema Città di Cesena and  set by artist Mimmo Baronello,  which will display photos taken on the sets of three of Visconti’s masterpieces: “Ossessione/Obsession”, “La Terra Trema/The Earth Trembles” and “Bellissima”.

The first steps of Luchino Visconti and the first steps of Neorealism are documented in a photographic exhibition of great value. It starts with Obsession, with photos by Osvaldo Civirani (famous name in the history of pictures from the set) that prove a momentous change in cinema photography since it is one of the first times that pictures are taken while shooting. Far away from movie studios and surrounded by river Po landscapes, the movie by Visconti required that type of innovation that gave way to the creation of Neorealism. The pictures by Paul Ronald (a Frenchman called on set by the director of photography Aldo and who then became one of the greatest photographers of Italian cinema) on The Earth Trembles depict with great mastery Sicilian places and views. The movie was initially conceived as a simple documentary, but then became one of Visconti’s masterpieces. Those pictures also represent the starting point of a productive cooperation between the director and the photographer that will be reconfirmed with Bellissima (for which Ronald became, after the beginning of works, director of photography) and will continue until the first half of the 60s. The photos come from the archives of Centro Cinema Città di Cesena.The Exhibition is realized in collaboration with " Centro Cinema Citta' di Cesena" on the occasion of TIFF retrospective: "Maestro! The Films of Luchino Visconti".

The photos will take you behind the scenes, on a journey through the passion and drama Visconti’s artwork is famous for. The atmosphere of the breath-taking landscapes and the simplicity of daily life are evoked and the actors are captured in touching photographs.

The amazing images taken on the sets as well as the scenes from the movies clearly describe the director’s unique ability in working with the actors and with the local people to achieve a melodramatic and realistic work.


As A.O.Scott of "The New York Times" has written: "Among the Italian filmmakers who achieved international prominence in the decades after World War II, Luchino Visconti possessed perhaps the sharpest historical insight and the keenest literary appetite[...] (He) was also one of the founders of neorealism, dramatizing the struggles of working-class Romans, Sicilian fisherman and migrants from the southern countryside to the factories of the north.[...] His films are as intoxicating as they are illuminating, a welcome reminder, in this or any time, that seriousness and pleasure go hand in hand"

Ossessione” (1943), an unauthorized adaptation of James M. Cain’s “The Postman Always Rings Twice,” set a template for his mature work: sensational (the plot revolves around two lovers trying to kill the woman’s husband); attuned to the tempos and textures of everyday life (key scenes play out in seedy hotel rooms or in the kitchen while characters fix food); long (two and a half hours tell basically the same story Cain got across in a hundred pages); for many years shown exclusively in censored, clumsily edited versions.

Visconti’s second masterpiece was “La Terra Trema” (1948), originally commissioned by the Communist Party as a documentary on the exploitation of Sicilian fishermen. Instead, Visconti constructed a fictional story, using real people and locations, about the attempted rise and bitter fall of ’Ntoni Valastra and his family. Moments of melodrama and scenes of everyday life are stitched together by deliberately dry third-person narration. La terra trema is suffused with beautiful imagery, such as fishermen’s wives wrapped in black shawls, silhouetted on the rocky coast and dwarfed by the crashing surf. (A.O.Scott)

Although 1951’s "Bellissima" seems to be frequently overlooked and underrated in the filmography of Luchino Visconti, it could be his greatest achievement. Featuring an unforgettable performance by Anna Magnani and an original story by Cesare Zavattini (who worked on classics like Umberto D and Bicycle Thieves), Bellissima is a perfect combination of the gritty, claustrophobic naturalism of his pioneering neorealismo films with the near-operatic melodrama of later films like Death In Veniceor The Leopard. A satire of the hypocritical meat grinder that is the film industry, Bellissima may be one of the best films ever made about the disconnection between the idealized world of glamour portrayed in the movies and the soul-crushing realities that go into their production.(Pat Kewley).


Date: Da Tuesday, July 31, 2018 a Friday, September 28, 2018

Time: At 6:30 pm

Organized by : Istituto Italiano di Cultura

In collaboration with : San Biagio- Centro Cinema Citta'di Cesena

Entrance : Free


Istituto Italiano di Cultura | 496 Huron Street


Centro Cinema Citta'di Cesena


Luchino Visconti