Tuesday, 3 July 2007

Disrespect is a two-way street

A perfect illustration of the inadequate way Italian popular cinema is characteristically treated by academic commentators is Peter Bondanella's chapter From Italian Neorealism to Cinecittà in European Cinema, edited by Elizabeth Ezra.

Bondanella at least shows a willingness to mention the peplum, western and horror genres – other popular forms such as comedy are absent – but given the errors in the three pages he devotes them one feels that he might has well have not bothered.

For instance, Sergio Leone's collaborators on Once Upon a Time in the West, Bernardo Bertolucci and Dario Argento, are identified as “young aspiring film buffs soon to become directors themselves,” conveniently ignoring that Bertolucci had already directed the likes of La Commare secca and Before the Revolution well before this collaboration with Leone.

Discussing the “spaghetti nightmare” film, Bondanella identifies three pioneers: “Mario Bava [...] Lucio Fulci [...] and Riccardo Freda, whose directorial debut, La maschera del demonio (Black Sunday, 1960), made a cult figure out of British actress Barbara Steele.”


Does anyone actually bother checking the facts in cases like this? Do they simply not know enough about these films and filmmakers to be able to tell? Do they think that the cult film enthusiast reading will not notice? Or by complaining does one merely further marginalise oneself and this cinema, for failing to show a lack of 'proper perspective'?


Anonymous said...

Yes, it's an interesting dilemma... I don't know, is there any form of criticism as high-handed as film criticism? Academics as much as anyone seem to resort to mere opinion or casual dismissal in a way which would get you eaten alive if you were an English prof, when there are a thousand small enthusiasts and centuries of continous re-evaluation to undercut an over-hasty judgement. I may be wrong. It may be a good thing. And if there's anything more annoying than ignorant dismissal (the ignorance more than the dismissal of course), it's something like Patricia McCormack's Fulci article for Senses of Cinema, or her entry for Buio Omega in the 100 Euro horror films book. I don't think writing like that - in such clotted academese - is of the slightest use. It may be partly in blogs that genre criticism can develop an unpretentious but intelligent and precise style.


Anonymous said...

Damn I spelled her name wrong. And there were you talking about details!

K H Brown said...

Don't worry about it - it's the inability to edit a post for typos that is annoying that way.

Funnily enough I'm just putting together a little review of the 100 European Horror Films book, and I see what you mean about her article. I'm surprised she doesn't refer to Vertigo or Psycho and would think La terza occhio would be a better reference point than Cronenberg, or at least worth mentioning. Then again, her thesis won a prize, so what do I know...