This course is cross-listed with Film 140.
Since the very first years of the 20th century, various peoples have migrated between Italian and North-American shores, moving their products, mixing their languages, and bringing about a new word: Italian-American. Cinema lent itself to representing and questioning this encounter. Consumer goods and food, the gestures of mafia-affiliated characters, domestic scenes and landscapes departed from the onscreen space and became part of a common, sometimes stereotypical, imagery. In this course, we will explore thoroughly images of the Italian-American encounter in order to challenge overused definitions. In parallel, we’ll discuss how the cinematic portrait of migration and cultural exchanges across the Atlantic Ocean remains a privileged site to understand cultural and geo-political dynamics still informing our historical time. Starting exactly one hundred years ago with Charlie Chaplin’s 1917 The Immigrant, we will analyze how ethnicity, gender and consumerism become problematized when the label “Italian-American” is applied.
The phenomenon of “Americanization” intersects with questions of cultural influence – as witnessed in fascist and post-WWII filmic production, as well as in the time of the Italian “economic miracle”, starting in the 1950’s, when Americanization was viewed as “contamination” and “imperialism.” What kind of influence has been more strongly expressed — that of Americans in Italy, or of Italian-Americans in the US? Where does one end and the other begin? In turning to filmmakers who, originally Italian, found themselves “becoming” Americans, as in the serial Sopranos and Mario Puzo’s Godfather filmic transposition by F. F. Coppola, we will delve into the study of visual representation, narrative devices, cinematography and style, and situate tropes and changes historically. In addition to weekly screenings, we’ll look at the writings of long-time US resident writer Mario Soldati and Italian-American beat poet Diane di Prima who, among others, worked side by side respectively with visual artists and Italian television pioneers, and beat poets and pop-artists in 1960’s New York City.
Grading/Final exam status: Letter grade. Midterm and final exam (in class), 3 short, 5-7 pages papers to be turned in throughout the semester.
Charlie Chaplin, The Immigrant (1917)
Emanuele Crialese, Nuovomondo (2006)
Mario Camerini, I grandi magazzini (Department Store), 1939
Roberto Rossellini, Paisà (Paisan), 1946
Alberto Lattuada, Senza pietà (Without Pity), 1948
Giuseppe De Santis, Riso amaro (Bitter Rice), 1949
Steno, Un americano a Roma (An American in Rome), 1954
Alberto Lattuada, Mafioso, 1962
Elio Petri, La decima vittima (The Tenth Victim), 1965
Francis Ford Coppola, Il Padrino (The Godfather I), 1972
Martin Scorsese, Italianamerican, 1974
The Sopranos (selected episodes)
Spike Lee, Do the Right Thing, 1989
Paolo Virzì, My name is Tanino, 2002
Prerequisites: None. Taught in English, readings and screenings in English and Italian (with English subtitles and translations provided).