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Italian Cinema

This continuing series examines the creative impact of Italian cinema in relation to Italian culture and to other national cinemas. Beginning with the aesthetic and political canons of Neorealism, the survey will move toward contemporary times, highlighting the innovative and unconventional works of Rossellini, Fellini, Antonioni, Visconti, and Pasolini, among others.


February 9 (Wednesday) 6:30 pm

Germany Year Zero (Germania, Anno Zero)

Directed by Roberto Rossellini
Italy/France/Germany 1947, 35mm, b/w, 78 min.
With Edmund Moeschka, Franz Kruger, Barbara Hintz
German with English subtitles

The third panel of Rossellini’s war triptych (following Rome, Open City and Paisan) was, according to the director, "an attempt to discover the real reasons which had driven the Germans to act as they had done." The film is cast in the likeness of its young central character, Edmund, and the devastated city in which he lives. Rossellini conceived the film around the final scenes of Edmund wandering in the ruins. This long final sequence marks the end of a narrative trajectory that begins in the mode of documentary reportage but becomes ever more hallucinatory, charting a journey through a strange, devastated landscape.

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February 16 (Wednesday) 6:30 pm

Bicycle Thieves (Ladri di Biciclette)

Directed by Vittorio De Sica
Italy 1948, 35mm, b/w, 90 min.
With Lamberto Maggiorani, Enzo Staiol
Italian with English subtitles

Named by André Bazin as "the only valid Communist film of the past decade" and by Georges Sadoul as "the most important film of the immediate postwar period," Bicycle Thieves uses authentic environments and non-professional actors. Regarded as one of the classics of Italian Neo-Realism, the film focuses on Ricci, an unemployed man in Rome, who finds work posting bills. After the bicycle he needs to keep his job is stolen, he roams the city with his young son looking for it.

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February 23 (Wednesday) 6:30 pm

Nights of Cabiria (Le Notti di Cabiria)

Directed by Federico Fellini
Italy 1956, 35mm, b/w, 110 min.
With Giulietta Masina, Amadeo Nazzari, François Périer
Italian with English subtitles

Fellini’s lively and imaginative exploration of the fantasy life of a good-natured Roman prostitute won an Oscar for Best Foreign Film and served as the inspiration for Broadway’s Sweet Charity. Pier Paolo Pasolini contributed local slang to the screenplay, and Giulietta Masina delivers one of her most remarkable performances in the title role. Cabiria, an indomitable fighter––a kind of Don Quixote––is always ready to tilt at windmills and possesses, in spite of all her troubles, an unconquerable belief in life and happiness.

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Harvard Film Archive • Carpenter Center • 24 Quincy Street • Cambridge MA 02138 • 617-495-4700