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Dangerous Masculinities: Young Men in Italian Cinema of the 1940s-1960s

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - Young-Italian 2015 (Dangerous Masculinities: Young Men in Italian Cinema of the 1940s-1960s)

Reporting period: 2016-11-01 to 2018-10-31

The present research project aims at investigating ITALIAN CINEMA from the mid-1940s to the early 1960s particularly during the twenty-year period from 1943 to 1963 – in relation to the construction of the image of the young Italian man. The main objective is to understand HOW the cinematic apparatus throughout these two decades gave shape to male national identities that emerged at the same time as the burgeoning youth culture produced by the new Italian consumer society.

The present project is intended to interpret young masculinities not only as HISTORICAL SUBJECTS but also in terms of 1) visual representations, 2) discursive formations, 3) modes of spectatorship and 4) audience identifications. In other words, it considers how young masculinity was simultaneously the product of cinematic images, social discourses, spectatorial identities and audience responses.

The objectives/results of the project are organised through the following THREE MAIN SECTIONS:

A. THE THEORETICAL SECTION. This section is intended to outline the first steps taken during the initial period of the project.

B. THE OPERATIVE SECTION. Within this section, the research was carried out according to FOUR MACRO-AREAS of work:
1.B. Young Italian men as cinematic images and narrative products.
2.B. Young Italian men as discourses.
3.B. Young Italian men and modes of spectatorship.
4.B. Young Italian men: audience memories and forms of identification.

C. THE FINAL SECTION. This section has been the concluding phase of the project, in which I have summarised the entire spectrum of the milestones rea
The project has been carried out within a time frame of 24 MONTHS, with 6 WORK PACKAGES:

WORK PACKAGE 1. In this early phase, I tried to manage the project across two complementary perspectives: along the first one, my aim was to create the necessary INSTITUTIONAL and FORMAL PREMISES in order to allow the project to begin; along the second perspective, my goal was to provide my research with the appropriate THEORETICAL and METHODOLOGICAL FRAMEWORK so as to organise the whole schedule of activities.

WORK PACKAGE 2. This WP covered the FIRST MACRO-AREA of the operative section. Within this first research macro-area, I have been concerned with the procedure of the TEXTUAL FILM ANALYSIS in order to have the availability of an epistemological model concerning specific gender formations related to masculinity.

WORK PACKAGE 3. This WP covered the SECOND MACRO-AREA of the operative section. Within this second research macro-area, I have tried to look at the cultural production surrounding film texts – namely the POPULAR PRESS of the period – in order to establish what kind of images circulated about the young Italian men in the 1950s and early 1960s.

WORK PACKAGE 4. This WP covered the THIRD MACRO-AREA of the operative section. Within this third research macro-area, I have investigated several tributary media texts – mainly the POPULAR PRESS and FILM MAGAZINES of the period – as discursive arenas which work to shape the implied and empirical figure of the young Italian male cinematic spectator who was supposedly the most assiduous cinema-goer of the 1950s and early 1960s.

WORK PACKAGE 5. This WP covered the FOURTH MACRO-AREA of the operative section. Within this fourth research macro-area, I have carried out my ETHNOGRAPHIC SURVEY planned within WP1. The “material” obtained during this section of this part of the study is constituted by the personal accounts of male (and female) spectators who were regular cinema-goers in Italy in the 1950s-1960s.

WORK PACKAGES 6. This section was the concluding phase of the project, in which I have summarised the entire spectrum of the milestones reached. In particular, by taking stock of the results obtained in the previous steps of the research, I have been able to produce a structure for my MONOGRAPH on the figure of the young Italian man in post-war cinema.
Working on my research project at the University of Bristol has allowed me to reconsider the approaches used to explore topics and fields of studies such as Italian cinema, Italian masculinities, cinema and memory, as well as film audiences and cinema-going experiences. Accordingly, I have enriched my RESEARCH SKILLS and my ACADEMIC CURRICULUM (11 research papers and conference presentations; 14 publications).

Since I began exploration of the Italian national cinema of the 1940s-1960s from the perspective of gender and generation, it is worth noting that – in both past and recent studies of Italian cinema within my academic national context – the research has highlighted the lack of detailed investigations of the formations of gender subjectivities in audiovisual culture. Hence, the main RESULTS of this research may be summarized as follows:
A. The reconsideration of Italian cinema of the mid-1940s to early 1960s in the light of up-to-date
methodologies – namely those from the field of ANGLOPHONE ITALIAN CULTURAL STUDIES – capable of treating film forms as more than aesthetic works and thus expand their meanings in terms of social and cultural practices related to a specific historical era.
B. Thus, adopting this approach allowed for the examination of this national cinema and its intersections with consumption, production, entertainment and economics. Furthermore, it enabled the exploration of textual formations as CULTURAL PRODUCTS and the ways in which this cinema can be considered as an INSTITUTION managing and selling representations and identifications of gender. 

C. The promoting, as part of the project, an ETHNOGRAPHIC SURVEY that contests the formalist assumption that film texts are privileged sites of inquiry, and that instead also considers their consumption. This survey assisted in the understanding of the film viewing experience as part of a larger set of cultural and social rituals rather than studying it as simply another filmmaking practice.

Both my ongoing research on the young Italian man in cinema and the related monograph could have a positive spillover effect in relation to the increasing use of THERAPEUTIC PRACTICES OF REMEMBERING in the context of healthcare being carried out in Italy and in many other European countries. As a matter of fact, the importance of SHARING MEMORIES FOR OLDER PEOPLE – especially when these recollections form part of a cultural heritage where cinema had a significant role in shaping the national belonging – plays an important function in addressing the key challenges posed by an aging population, the rise in dementia and the crisis of care for the elderly. I am thus interested in linking my research to other activities concerning the THERAPEUTIC VALUES of stimulating, collecting, and sharing memories (in cognitive therapy, in reality orientation with people suffering from dementia, in providing stimulation for confused elderly people, and so on).

Additionally, my research results offer A SOLID PLATFORM FOR FURTHER PROJECTS capable of affirming the cultural value of ordinary people’s experiences with cinema and of their cinema-going memories – since it was the central medium in Italy at the time (Casetti, Fanchi
2002; De Berti 2000) – by means of research activities, public dissemination activities, archival production, and oral history practices.
Project Facebook page: Young Men in Italian Cinema of the 1940s-1960s. Memory and Representation