Da Sodoma a Gomorra: Framing Crisis and Rebirth in Italian Cinema
University of Warwick, 22-24 January 2010.
Since the 1970s, when Pier Paolo Pasolini released his scandalous Salò o le 120 giornate di Sodoma (1975), Italian cinema has alternately been identified, critically and commercially, as paralysed by crisis or on the verge of ‘re-birth’. In 2007-10 alone, local anxiety about the condition of Italian cinema as a key element of national cultural production, expressed in critical debate in the national press, has been counter-balanced by the international success of films such as Gomorra (Matteo Garrone, 2008). Within this contested critical and public arena, this conference sought to bring intellectual precision to the interpretation of Italian cinema in the past four decades, by sharpening the focus on specific theoretical issues and by mapping cinema production and reception within the broader contexts of Italian social and cultural history.
Organized by Jennifer Burns, Mariarita Martino Grisà and Dom Holdaway (Italian), the conference was generously supported by the HRC and the Department of Italian at Warwick, as well as by the AHRC and the Society for Italian Studies. It brought fifty international scholars to the University of Warwick for three days of engaging debate, including keynote lectures from two of the most established specialists of Italian cinema, Professor Vito Zagarrio (Roma Tre), who spoke on digital film-making and contemporary developments, and Emeritus Professor Peter Bondanella (Indiana), who outlined a critical history of Italian film studies. The three days included a wide range of panels, encompassing theoretical approaches informed by issues of gender and sexuality, psychoanalysis, politics and ideology, and including studies of immigration and auteur cinema. The conference closed with a lively panel discussion in which four prominent UK-based researchers in Italian screen studies articulated conclusions from the conference panels in the context of their own areas of expertise. A particularly powerful element in this closing discussion, as well as in individual papers and responses throughout the conference, was an interrogation of the lack of serious critical attention hitherto afforded to popular Italian cinema. This is one example of how the conference achieved its aim of pinpointing key areas for development within Italian screen studies, so responding to a call articulated emphatically by Alan O’Leary and Catherine O’Rawe, in a 2008 special edition on cinema of the journal Italian Studies, for a ‘more robust theoretical debate’ in the area.
Jennifer Burns, Dom Holdaway
Department of Italian
(This review is published in the Humanities Research Centre at Warwick’s newsletter. More info on the HRC at http://go.warwick.ac.uk/hrc )