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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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Girls Lost and Found: Daughters of Sin in Italian Melodramas of the 1950s

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DANIELLE HIPKINS

Adoro tutto ciò che parla di sentimento, passione, amore, dramma e tragedia. Mi interessano soptrattutto i film che cercano di mostrare al pubblico le intime sofferenze delle donne di piacere. Le donne come me hanno sempre qualche motivo che le ha spinte a fare quello che fanno.

[I adore everything that speaks about feeling, passion, love, drama, and tragedy. Above all I like the films that try to show the public the private suffering of women of pleasure. Women like me always have some reason that’s pushed them to do what they do.]

—‘UNA PROSTITUTA’ in Giorgio Peiretti, ‘Gli spettatori si confessano’, Rassegna del film (15 June 1953), 17–21

In the previous chapter, Louis Bayman highlighted that ‘as a figure of loss’, the child in postwar Italian cinema exists ‘contained within a state of suffering innocence’ (p. 170). What I will show in this chapter is how the juxtaposition of a (lost) young girl or daughter with a fallen woman or prostitute in melodrama points with a mise-en-abyme effect to the impossibility of representing femininity coherently, despite the abundance of ← 189 | 190 → women on screen. Given that the female protagonist in Italian cinema of this period most often represents sexuality and the body, in this chapter I will be asking what relation this lost female child can have to the positioning of adult femininity. How is the girl child marked by the implied limits of her incumbent female destiny...

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