Vittorio De Sica, The Art of Stage and Screen

di Flavio De Bernardinis


The Art of Stage and Screen

di Flavio De Bernardinis

Traduttore dall’edizione italiana: Adrian Bedford

288 pp.; ill.; colore

Isbn 978 8898 623 891

euro 28,00

per ogni informazione:

Uscita aprile 2019


Vittorio De Sica (1901-1974) is a unique film artist. While Rossellini and

Visconti came into being with neorealism, De Sica matured through neorealism.

As an already established artist, he put himself wholly on the line

and played a gambit that revolutionized Italian and world cinema. From

1923, the year he made his debut in a minor role with Tatiana Pavlova’s

theatre company, and over the following twenty years of his career in Italian

theatre and cinema, he sowed the seeds of the neorealism that would

lead to his 1943 I bambini ci guardano (The Children are Watching Us). In

this book we tell his whole story, before, during and after neorealism. From

the early days in theatre to his role behind the camera, De Sica runs the

gauntlet of the history of the performing arts in Italy at a crucial point in

time: the years straddling the decline of the theatre of the great stars of

the nineteenth-century tradition to the birth of the director’s theatre, the

“talkies”, songs and gramophone records, up to the formidable season of

“Sciuscià” (Ragazzi) (Shoeshine, 1946) and Ladri di biciclette (Bicycle

Thieves, 1948).

This is what makes De Sica unique. He was an actor, singer, and director.

He was at home with serious repertory as well as light and comic repertoires,

ultimately scaling the heights of the art of cinema. To tell De Sica’s

story is also to narrate how the young Italy, a kingdom that had been united

for only fifty years, aimed to represent itself in the theatre and on screen,

showing how the Italian character was portrayed – in what light, with what

colours and tones, and how the Italian middle classes attempted to assume

the cultural hegemony of the country through comedy. A genre that

goes far beyond the sphere of leisure and entertainment, venturing into

critical reflection and analysis of the moral and social fabric of the nation.

De Sica was a unique figure in this representation of the ethos of Italy, its

customs and traditions, its strengths and weakness, its glories and its miseries.

Through his art on stage and screen, where the dreams and frustrations

of middle-class Italians emerge alongside the struggles and

resistance of the working classes, first under the Fascist regime and its

culture, and later with the birth of republican and democratic Italy. De Sica

depicts all the contradictions of this transition, representing them with true

artistry and moral depth but above all with intellectual commitment. This –

ultimately – is the aim of the book: to tell the story of an actor, singer, and

director but also, and above all, to paint a portrait of an artist of stage and

set – an intellectual, indefatigably committed to grasping the contradictions

of culture, society, and the institutions: the State. Vittorio De Sica is an

artist and an intellectual, a figure capable of placing the pulsing heart of

the nation’s social classes under the spotlight, at the same time reflecting

on them with a profoundly critical eye. Even Bertolt Brecht would invite his

student actors at the Berliner Ensemble of the fifties to take him as an example

from whom to learn the fertile art of estrangement, the art that tells

and emphasizes what, in a given historical moment in the life of a nation,

can be at the same time grim violence and joyous redemption.

Flavio De Bernardinis (Rome, 1957) is a scholar of the history and aesthetics of

cinema and entertainment. He is the author of L’arte secondo Kubrick (2003) and

Arte cinematografica: il ciclo storico del cinema da Argan a Scorsese (2017) for

Lindau, and editor of volume XII of Storia del cinema italiano 1970-1976 (Marsilio,

Edizioni di Bianco & Nero, 2008). He teaches Film History and the Analysis of

Film Language at the Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia. He is the author of

documentary films such as Il gioco degli specchi (with Carlo di Carlo, 2012) and

Maschere crude (2014), both produced by the Istituto Luce, and has authored

works for the theatre with Stefano Betti, including Emma e i cattivi compagni

(Teatro Vascello, Rome, 2009), Edema/Medea (Teatro Vascello, Rome, 2009),

which he also directed, and Filo di voce (Teatro dell’Orologio, Rome, 2011). He

has been contributing to Segnocinema since 1990.



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