Between 10th and 17th December 2011, Les Arcs European Film Festival will dedicate a focus to Italy. The festival team offers you to discover the great actors, directors and films that make the history of the Italian cinema of yesterday and today through a 6-episode series. This week, let’s go to Cinecittà…
Cinecittà (meanings “Cinema City” for those who might have missed a few Italian classes) occupies an important place within the History of Cinema. Indeed! With its 40 hectares of land and its 22 studios (Mamma mia!), Cinecittà is the second biggest production complex after Hollywood. The studio played an undeniable role for the blossoming of Italian and international cinema, with more than 3,000 films made at Cinecittà, 48 of which received Oscar Awards. Guided tour…
A propaganda tool during the Italian fascism
Opening of Cinecittà by Mussolini, 1937 ©Cinecittà Luce
Cinecittà, pronounced “chee-nay chee-TAH” (with an Italian accent please!) is an Italian film production facility. Construction began in January 1936, in south Roma. Cinecittà Studios were founded under the direction of Luigi Freddi, head of cinema for the National Fascist Party at the time. It was officially opened in April 1937 by Benito Mussolini in person.
In the beginning, Cinecittà studios were mostly used to produce propaganda films, in order to promote the fascist ideology. Situation changed after the fall of Mussolini in 1943 (remember your history class…). Cinecittà has been the birthplace of Italian feature films by renowned directors like Michelangelo Antonioni, Roberto Rossellini, Luchino Visconti, Ettore Scola, and Vittoria De Sica. And above all Federico Fellini, who made nearly all his productions on the lot for four decades!
Federico Fellini’s Kingdom
La Dolce Vita by Federico Fellini ©AlloCiné
Mystical ones will tell you his ghost is still haunting the Cinecittà studios (boo hoo ooh!)… Far from being a scary story, the story between Cinecittà and Fellini is more what we call “love at first sight”. You know them by heart: I Vitelloni, 8 ½, Satyricon, The Clowns, Amarcord, City of Women, have all been made in the roman studios. La Dolce Vita, one of the greatest movies ever made, directed by Fellini in 1960, signed the golden age of Cinecittà!
Fellini explains: “I shoot in studio to express a subjective reality, free from useless realistic components…The memory of things and places accomplishes automatically this selective operation of brush by the look, by deleting what is too much and reveal the essential of the emotion. That is why the cinematographic representation needs a space that would be close to the imaginary sphere.”
As a symbol of their union, Fellini will pay a last tribute to Cinecittà in his film Intervista in 1987, an excuse for a nostalgic evocation of this emblematic location.
From Hollywood spirit to conversion time…
Entrance to Cinecittà studios ©Cinecittà Luce
Built with the idea of competing with the United States, it is actually Hollywood which will revitalize the Cinecittà Studios by expending the peplums. Many American filmmakers began arriving at Cinecittà in the early 1950s, drawn by the studio’s reputation for creative talent and Italy’s low production costs relative to the US. Many classic American feature films will be made such as Quo Vadis, Ben Hur, Cleopatra, or more recently Gangs of New York and Mission: Impossible III.
Today, Italy is facing a crisis. Few months ago, they were talking about closing the “Hollywood on the Tibre”, due to the lack of activity within the Italian film Industry. The peplums time is over and the studios are now mainly used for TV series and advertising shoots.
This doesn’t prevent great Italian directors to come back today to this mythical cinema location, such as Nanni Moretti, who shot his last film Habemus Papam at Cinecittà; a positive note for the studio and for Italian cinema overall, which shows that far from being asleep, it might only have been dozing!
>> The dream factory of Italian cinema opens its doors to the public as part of the exhibition “Cinecittà si mostra” until 30th November 2011. More info on the exhibition official website
Coming soon, Roberto Rossellini and Italian Neorealism…