Cinema: Femminile, Plurale—Italian Women Filmmakers through the Great War

Sunday, January 4, 2015: 3:10 PM
Green Room (New York Hilton)
Alessia Palanti, Columbia University
In Italy and abroad, the Great War coincided and contributed to the development of new technologies, one of them being cinema. Cinema was and continues to be a predominantly masculine medium, yet, in Italy, women, played an unexpectedly significant role in the cinema prior to and throughout the war. Not only were women acting for the camera, they were also vital to the workings of the industry “behind the scenes,” literally spinning celluloid, and hand-coloring film strips. More germane to my essay, several women were directors, screenplay writers, and producers of their own work, and ran their own companies. Taking into account both what is there and what is missing--as many films have been lost--I will explore the works of directors like Elvira Notari, Elettra Reggio, and Giulia Cassini-Rizzotto. Singularly with the war, many of the films dealt with female hysteria, and the representation of madness, thereby giving a female voice and image to the burgeoning new masculine field of psychoanalysis. Indeed, women were the subjects of psychoanalysis and medicine, set up in public theatrical spaces to be publicly scrutinized. As a medium that builds on the idea of spectacle, the visual studies scholar Giuliana Bruno finds a connection between women and cinema. Bruno acknowledges the lacunae left about women's works and their lives, filling the voids where possible with available literature. Further scrutiny of these films and their makers allows us to gain a more rounded understanding of the socio-psychological impact not only on women, but of the Great War on Italians. My essay will take into account the works of early psychoanalysts, along with feminist film theorists, namely Teresa de Lauretis, Mary Ann Doane, Judith Mayne, and others, to substantiate the discourse on madness, female representations, and representations on the feminine in relation specifically to the Great War.
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