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New Visions of the Child in Italian Cinema

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Edited By Danielle Hipkins and Roger Pitt

The figure of the child has long been a mainstay of Italian cinema, conventionally interpreted as a witness of adult shortcomings, a vessel of innocence, hope and renewal, or an avatar of nostalgia for the (cinematic) past. New Visions of the Child in Italian Cinema challenges these settled categories of interpretation and reconsiders the Italian canon as it relates to the child. The book draws on a growing body of new work in the history and theory of children on film and is the first volume to bring together and to apply some of these new approaches to Italian cinema. Chapters in the book address aspects of industry and spectatorship and the varied film psychology of infancy, childhood and adolescence, as well as genres as diverse as silent cinema, contemporary teen movies, melodrama and film ethnography. The contributors engage with a wide range of modes and theories including neorealism, auteurism and contemporary postfeminism. The book maps out new roles for gender, the transnational, loss and mourning, and filmmaking itself, leading to a revised understanding of the child in Italian cinema.
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Los Olvidados: A Damning Verdict on Neorealism’s Aesthetic and Moral Positions

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GÁBOR GERGELY

Los Olvidados [The Young and the Damned] (1950), Buñuel’s third Mexican film, is the story of a group of children struggling to survive in Mexico City. The film explores a theme that can be said to be typical of neorealism: the struggle for survival as a child amidst the ruins of a morally corrupt state. Pedro (Alfonso Mejía), the film’s central character, is a boy who falls in with the wrong crowd, led by the charismatic Jaibo (Roberto Cobo). He tries to go straight, but time and again his attempts fail. After he witnesses Jaibo murder the hard-working Julián (Javier Amézcua), Pedro tries to break ties with the gang. Kicked out by his mother, wanted by the police for a crime he did not commit and pursued by his former gang, Pedro is desperate and on the run. In the end Jaibo catches up with him, and murders him. The film ends with the shocking image of Pedro’s lifeless body lying on a rubbish heap on the edge of the city.

This chapter investigates Buñuel’s use of the figure of the child to reflect on Italian neorealism and its aesthetic and moral positions. It argues that Buñuel’s film is a mordant satire of Italian neorealism. Specifically, it contends that the children in Los Olvidados show striking similarities with the child heroes of Ladri di biciclette [Bicycle Thieves] (Vittorio De Sica, 1948), Sciuscià [Shoeshine] (De Sica, 1946) and...

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