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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 6 Constituencies of Memory 185


Chapter 6 Constituencies of Memory 1 Cinema after Terrorism The possibility of making a kind of peace with the violent past, and of putting a seal on the anni di piombo, seemed to be credible in the 1990s because of international and national political conditions: the end of the Cold War and the collapse of an Italian First Republic that was its con- crete expression from the 1950s until the early 1990s. If we accept that Italian terrorism in the 1970s was, in part, a local variety of the global standof f between Soviet and American empires, then it follows that it was an attribute of the First Republic itself, a form of political organization that was also a Cold War phenomenon. The demise of the First Republic ought to have implied the end of ideological terrorism and of the so-called state of emergency, the regime of punitive laws put in place in response to terrorism. The widespread debate in the 1990s on the justice of granting indulto to former terrorists in prison (indulto refers to a procedure whereby the remainder of a prisoner’s term is rescinded) seemed to confirm the pos- sibility of putting a seal on terrorism and extraordinary judicial response. As Lombardi (2000a: 199) writes, the extensive provision of indulto would have: functioned as a symbolic conclusion to a state of emergency that had begun during the late Sixties, reached its apex in the late Seventies, and lasted through a large part of the following decade. Such...

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