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Tragedia all’italiana

Italian Cinema and Italian Terrorisms, 1970-2010


Alan O'Leary

Cinema has played a key role in articulating the impact and legacies of the so-called anni di piombo in Italy, the years of intra-national political terrorism that lasted from 1969 until well into the 1980s. Tragedia all’italiana offers an analytical exploration of Italian cinema’s representation and refraction of those years, showing how a substantial and still growing corpus of films has shaped the ways in which Italians have assimilated and remembered the events of this period.
This is the first monograph in English on terrorism and film in Italy, a topic that is attracting the interest of a wide range of scholars of film, cultural studies and critical terrorism studies. It provides novel analytical categories for an intriguing corpus of films and offers careful accounts of works and genres as diverse as La meglio gioventú, Buongiorno, notte, the poliziottesco (cop film) and the commedia all’italiana. The author argues that fiction film can provide an effective frame for the elaboration of historical experience but that the cinema is symptomatic both of its time and of the codes of the medium itself – in terms of its elisions, omissions and evasions as well as its emphases. The book is a study of a body of films that has elaborated the experience of terrorism as a fascinating and even essential part of the heritage of modern Italy.


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Preface: Tragedia all’italiana vii


Preface: Tragedia all’italiana This study has its origins in a short Master’s degree dissertation in 2002, and is a revised and expanded version of a subsequent doctoral thesis sub- mitted in 2007 to the Faculty of Modern and Medieval Languages in Cambridge. That thesis was published in translation, but apart from that largely unchanged, by Angelica Editore (Tissi) as Tragedia all’italiana: cinema e terrorismo tra Moro e Memoria (also 2007). The current book is a substantially revised, reorganized and expanded version of that text.1 I assumed that the main title, Tragedia all’italiana, coined as it was by analogy with commedia all’italiana, would be self-explanatory to Italian readers and was surprised that it was the aspect of the work about which I was asked most often. One questioner put it to me that the title was strik- ing because ‘l’Italia per eccellenza è il Paese del melodramma’ (Marongiu 2008). That questioner’s implicitly Gramsican disparagement of Italian culture (broadly defined) and the scepticism we can infer in the words about the capacity of Italy’s cultural products to elaborate the experience of political violence is shared by other critics. Demetrio Paolin’s study of literature and the anni di piombo (2008) intimates in its very title, Una tra- gedia negata, that cultural production has been inadequate to the demands of a complex reality and has fudged the proper allocation and admission of responsibilities. As Fillipo La Porta writes in the preface to Paolin’s book (2008: 9), ‘il racconto degli anni di piombo non è mai riuscito...

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