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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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CHAPTER 1 Introduction: Italian Terrorisms/Italian Film 1


Chapter 1 Introduction: Italian Terrorisms/Italian Film 1 ‘Terrorism’ ‘Terrorism’ is a vexed term, but it is a fascinating subject. Some part of the fascination resides in the troublesome definition of the term itself, and the question of who has the capacity to brand an act or an actor as ‘terrorist’. This capacity is known as power, and there must be few words in any language so bound up with power (and its opposite) as ‘terrorism’. It is a manifest complicity with the interests of power present in the pejorative connota- tions of ‘terrorism’ which taints any academic employment of the term, and renders elusive its objective use as a rubric of enquiry. The description ‘terrorist’ always implies a negative judgement of the means, and by exten- sion the ends, of the individuals or groups so described, and so the word inevitably carries a rhetorical ballast of moral outrage.1 But who has the right, the power, to apply such a description? The defining agency that holds this power typically exploits the term in order to demonize its antagonists, while conf lating its own interests with a supposedly universal moral norm.2 1 As Schmid and Jongman (1988: 3) point out, there exists a tacit understanding of terrorism as ‘violence of which we do not approve’; P. Taylor suggests that the use of the term ‘is a value judgement in itself ’ (Thackrah 2004: 70). 2 For a discussion of the importance of ‘defining agencies’, see Schmid and Jungman (1988: 26–7). R.F....

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