Saturday, 8 August 2009

Mondo Exotica

I've just been reading Mondo Exotica: Sounds, Visions, Obsessions of the Cocktail Generation, which I would heartily recommend to anyone with an interest in the lounge revival of the 1990s.

This, of course, also translates into a recommendation for any readers of this blog insofar as it brought us reissues of the likes of Piero Umiliani's mondo scores for Luigi Scattini or a renewed interest in the work of Les Baxter, AIP's go-to man for re-scoring Italian horror films in the 1960s.

Author Francesco Adolfini's discussions of Italy's colonial experiences, particularly under fascism, are also of particular interest from the perspective of the country's popular cinema and culture.

Discussing the battle of Adua in Ethopia in 1896, in which some 15,000 Italian soldiers were killed by the native forces, he notes how the Ethopian Emperor Menelik's name entered into the vocabulary, "synonymous with 'bad,' 'devil' or 'rebel'."

I'd be tempted to say that the names of Diabolik, Satanik and other fumetti neri figures of the 1960s bear a trace of this legacy.

Likewise, I wondered how far the fate of Sandokan was tied up with politics: As a anti-British figure encouraged by the fascists, who made two films of his adventures in the early 1940s, was he too politically suspect to be revived prior to the 1960s, when he could be refashioned as a more general anti-colonial figure?

More widely, was it easier for Italians (or Germans) to be anti-colonial at this time because there was less of a direct impact compared to Britain and, especially, France? (Also, is this one of the many problems with Africa Addio: that 'they' should be free to rule themselves, but 'they' are not ready yet seems to be its message? )

Such discussions also provide useful background for understanding the likes of the Black Emanuelle films of the 1970s, as when Adolfini quotes Nico Fidenco's intentions with his scores and then brings out their unintentionally racist subtexts and discourses around the exotic other.

A fuller review may follow if this hasn't been enough to convince you...

1 comment:

K H Brown said...

"And yeah, the first appearance of Maghella was in Menelik, right? I've seen that issue on eBay, but it's always been so expensive I've never bought it."

The plot thickens...