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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 5 Sexing the Terror 155


Chapter 5 Sexing the Terror My theme in this chapter is the ‘sexing’ of terrorism in two senses: I trace it, firstly, in a group of erotic films that refracts the experience of terrorism through the motif of the amour fou and, secondly, through an overlapping group of films which associates terrorism with the woman. The first of these two groups is enabled by Last Tango in Paris (Bernardo Bertolucci, 1972), a film which provided the erotic/political terms employed in subsequent films. Last Tango in Paris is not a film about terrorism, but without it the following texts would not exist in the form they do: Kleinhof f Hotel (Carlo Lizzani, 1977), Desideria: la vita interiore (Gianni Barcelloni, 1980), La caduta degli angeli ribelli (Marco Tullio Giordana, 1981), and Diavolo in corpo (Marco Bellocchio, 1986).1 Terrorism can be associated with the female as protagonist (the violent woman) or as victim. The figure of the violent woman emerges in Segreti segreti (Giuseppe Bertolucci, 1984) as a symptom of the ongoing national trauma of terrorism, and of an overinvestment in the panacea of pentitismo (Glynn forthcoming). The daughter of a murdered Carabiniere colonel in Diavolo in corpo is another symptom of the unfinished business of the anni di piombo: her barely adumbrated but strongly eroticized victim- hood suggests how premature was any talk of an ‘end’ to the anni di piombo. Indeed, her passionate af fair with a young student (the film’s amour fou) is contingent on the ongoing nature of...

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