Saturday, 31 October 2009

This week's work in progress

In this section I discuss a number of the major contextual features of the Italian cinema in the post-war period, including the importance of post-synchronised or dubbed sound; the structures of production, distribution and audiences, and the importance of filone as an alternative and supplement to the more familiar Hollywood notion of genre.

There are four main points I wish to make through this. First, that some of these features are common to both the art and popular cinemas, although their consequences for each may also sometimes be rather different. Second, that those features important to the popular cinema had the consequence of encouraging some film-makers, most notably Leone, Argento and Questi, to develop what can in retrospect be identified as a postmodern cinema avant la lettre. Third, that parallels may be drawn between the importance of contextual factors in assisting the emergence of this postmodernist cinema and the modernist Italian cinema as discussed by Deleuze. Finally, that the significance of contextual factors here again the usefulness of taking a wider, or more “schizoanalytic” approach, one than goes beyond the film texts themselves.

Dubbing and sound
With the coming of sound, filmmakers across the globe were confronted with the issue of what to do to make their product accessible to those who did not speak their native language. The two main solutions that emerged were subtitling and dubbing. With subtitling a film is kept in its original language and written titles are added above the image in another language. With dubbing the audio track in the original language is replaced with a new audio track in another language. All this is, of course, straightforward. So too are the broad distinctions that can be drawn between different countries’ approaches: Since dubbing is more expensive than subtitling, countries with smaller populations and thus markets have tended to subtitle whereas their larger counterparts have favoured dubbing. Whereas France and Germany will dub usually US films, the Scandinavian countries are more likely to subtitle them. Inevitably, however, there are exceptions.

One obvious exception is the English-speaking territories of the USA and UK. Despite their respectively populations, which would indicate the use of dubbing rather than subtitling, historically a disproportionate number of foreign-language films have circulated in their original language with English subtitles. This split is one which has largely been in terms of likely audience. This is a vital point whose implications I will return to.

Another exception, more specific to this study, is the Italian cinema. From the outset, almost all Italian films used post-synchronised rather than direct sound. Whereas on the typical Hollywood film the sound would be recorded along with images, Italian films would either be shot without sound entirely or with only a rough guide track for the subsequent dubbing. In addition, all foreign films imported into Italy during the Fascist period were also required to be dubbed. A key reason for dubbing was political: By dubbing imported films into Italian, the Fascist censors ensured relatively strict control over their messages. Dialogue could be altered to convey a different meaning without the Italian audience being aware of this fact (with the possible exception of the odd intellectual who had seen the film in its original language whilst abroad). By dubbing domestic products, meanwhile, the use of standard Italian, as distinct from regional languages and dialects, could be encouraged.

One of the things which distinguished many neo-realist films from their Fascist-era counterparts was the use of non-standard Italian. Perhaps the most famous example of this is the use of Sicilian by the fishermen in Visconti’s La terra trema (1948), which necessitated the film’s being subtitled into standard Italian in order to be intelligible to mainland audiences. The point that needs to be made here, however, is that certain Fascist-era films had used dialects for sake of historical authenticity. One famous example is Alessandro Blasetti’s 1860 (193?), about the reunification of Italy and, more problematically, the drawing of parallels between Garibaldi and Mussolini.

Another thing which distinguishes many neo-realist films from their Fascist-era counterparts is the use of location shooting. Ironically, however, the ability to do so depended in large part upon the dubbing tradition that had developed during the Fascist period. At this time recording equipment was still rather bulky compared to the likes of the Nagra tape recorders associated with the later nouvelle vague, making it difficult to capture sound and image simultaneously whilst on location. Recording both whilst on a boat, as in the scenes within Blasetti’s film which portray the patriots’ journey from the Italian mainland to Sicily, would have impractical: Direct sound would have here necessitated using a water tank in the studio, as with Hitchcock’s Lifeboat (1944) or similar.

A further point of reference and comparison here is one of Rossellini’s war-era propaganda productions The White Ship (1942), which was shot on an actual hospital ship.Intriguingly Mario Bava, who served as a camera operator on the film, has referred to its writer and supervising director Francesco De Robertiis as the father of neo-realism. If this is perhaps not a truth that is easily dealt with in conventional terms, it might be acknowledged within a more Deleuzean framework, as making us think about neo-realism afresh: Rather than being an absolute break with Fascist-era cinema, as traditionally emphasised within film histories, there are also points of continuity which have been marginalised.

Indeed, location shooting, usually combined with studio interiors, was also an important feature of the Italian popular cinema from the mid-1950s to the early 1980s: Leone’s westerns, for instance, were mostly shot in the south-eastern Spainish region of Almeria, doubling as the American south-west. Argento’s gialli characteristically defamiliarise their urban settings, as with his use of the distinctive modernist architecture of the EUR region of Rome, as also seen in Antonioni’s L’Eclisse and La notte, within Four Flies on Grey Velvet and Tenebre.
A distinction can nevertheless be made between the neo-realists’ use of dubbing and that of my directors and others working within the Italian popular cinema: For Bazin, the neo-realists’ combination of location shooting with dubbed sound could be justified in terms of leading to an overall increase in the amount of reality captured. On balance the gains made in the visuals outweighed the losses in the audio. For my filmmakers, however, dubbing is more likely to be justified in terms of leading to an overall increase in expressiveness, that when operating independently of the microphone the camera can be made to move in more complex and dramatic ways. The issue here, in terms of Bazin’s analysis, is that the neo-realists approach, by being based upon “faith in reality”, is positioned as superior to that of Leone, Argento and Questi, which is implicitly based upon “faith in the image”. Realism, that is, trumps formalism.

Bazin’s analysis can, however, be challenged. He himself acknowledged that the neo-realist combination of location shooting and dubbed sound was not the culmination of cinema itself, but only the next stage in its mimetic trajectory. Sound technologies would also inevitably develop to a point when they too could be taken on location and used to capture reality. But with the neo-realists this did not happen: Rossellini, De Sica and Visconti continued to use post-sychronised sound, even as new technologies allowed the French nouvelle vague to record sound and visuals alike whilst on location, and as Jean-Marie Straub and Danièle Huillet experimented with more complex live sound recording techniques. The same was true of the Italians’ own modernist successors, with Fellini’s films, for instance, being especially notable for the conscious unreality of their dubbing. Nor did the neo-realists and their modernist successors ever eschew using non-diegetic music, which is inherently unrealistic. Indeed, if anything, dubbing and non-diegetic music would seem to have become increasingly important to these Italian filmmakers into the 1950s and beyond.

A major reason for dubbing’s continuing importance was the increasing propensity of Italian directors to work with international stars who did not always speak Italian with the level of proficiency required to convincingly deliver dialogue in it. Here we may cite the likes of Broderick Crawford and Anthony Quinn in Fellini’s I Bidone and La Strada respectively; Farley Granger and Burt Lancaster in Visconti’s Senso and The Leopard; Ingrid Bergman in her films with paramour Rossellini, and Richard Burton in Antonioni’s The Red Desert.

Non-diegetic music, meanwhile, remained significant insofar as these filmmakers continued to develop their aesthetics. For example, while opera had always been part of Visconti’s filmmaking, as evinced by Ossessione, its importance within the likes of Senso and Rocco and his Brothers was such that they might well be described as presenting a (seemingly somewhat oxymoronic) combination of the operatic, the melodramatic and the realistic. Crucially this development was something Bazin himself acknowledged in his discussion of Senso, that it did not merely represent the end of ‘traditional’ neo-realism but also its potential renaissance.
The vital point is that these neo-realist and modernist filmmakers’ practices were echoed by their more popular counterparts. Leone’s films, for instance, also featured international casts who lacked a common language. They also feature a highly expressive use of non-diegetic music, such that they have often been described as closer to actual “horse operas” than their Hollywood counterparts, with “arias that are stared rather than sung”.

Though I will later demonstrate that “a certain realism,” to use Pasolini’s phrase, can be discerned within my filmmakers’ work, this does not make them realists in Bazin’s more traditional terms. Rather, Leone, Argento and Questi would seem to place excess faith in the image at the expense of reality. Moreover, if we accept Bazin’s critique of self-conscious 1950s “superwesterns” like George Stevens’ Shane (1952) as no longer having the confidence to be ‘merely’ westerns, then it would presumably follow that Leone’s “cinema cinema” approach would have been similarly unsatisfactory to him.

An answer to this, both post-structuralist and post-modernist, is to reject the kind of binaries and hierarchies that underpin Bazin’s positions, whilst also foregrounding the complexities and nuances of his arguments. In addition to his defence of Senso we may here note, for instance, his recognition that realism, as he understood it, could sometimes only be achieved through artifice.
A similar approach may be taken towards the issue of dubbing or subtitling for Italian films when they are distributed in the US and the UK. The arthouse preference for subtitling over dubbing and prejudice against dubbing can be challenged on various grounds. First, the notion that subtitling, with its preservation of the Italian language track, is somehow more authentic is itself flawed: The Italian dubbing track was arguably as inauthentic – or authentic, depending on perspective – as an English track, with both being prepared in the studio and usually involving input from voice artists. Italian audiences never heard Clint Eastwood’s actual voice in the Dollars films, just as US or UK audiences never heard that of Gian-Maria Volonte. Second, subtitling entails translation not only between languages but also between spoken and written forms, with the latter needing greater concision of expression, means subtitling entails just as much, if not more, modification of the original message as dubbing. Third, in paying greater attention to the written word, the viewer of the subtitled version is, all other things being equal, paying less attention to the original visual text. Fourth, notions of authentic and inauthentic, original and derivative, and so forth, along with the implied hierarchies between each pair, are again modernist and structuralist positions that postmodernism and post-structuralism would reject. Finally, arthouse criticism of dubbing is itself an elitist position that might well be construed as little more than an attempt to retain a cultural distinction (Bordieu, 1984) over the popular audience.

Although the Cinecitta studios in Rome, developed under the auspices of the Fascist regime, offered facilities comparable to Hollywood, it is crucial to realise that the Italian film industry itself lacked a studio system comparable to that of Hollywood in the 1920s, 30s and 40s, of the majors and the mini-majors: The Italian film industry was never vertically integrated, with the same companies being responsible for film production, distribution and exhibition. Nor could they be compared to the Hollywood studios of the 1950s. Having been forced to divest themselves of their theatres, they still controlled production and/or distribution. Instead, in Italy different companies were responsible for producing, distributing and exhibiting films. Rather than film production being dominated by a small number of studios, each producing a relatively high level of output, Italian cinema was dominated by a large number of small producers, often existing on a more ad-hoc film-to-film basis.

A consequence of this was that the Italian film industry lacked stability comparable to that of Hollywood. The Hollywood studios of the 1950s and 1960s still made enough different films that the profits from some could generally be relied upon to offset the losses from others. In contrast, Italian producers needed one film to return a profit to be able to produce the next, or at best relied upon one film to help amortize another; we have already seen this practice in operation with Jolly Films’ Pistols Don’t Argue and A Fistful of Dollars.

While this instability sometimes helped filmmakers get backing for relatively risky projects, in general it encouraged a more conservative approach. We saw this earlier with Death Laid and Egg: In 1966 the giallo was an untested genre, hence the insistence of Questi and Arcalli’s backers that they first prove themselves with a more marketable spaghetti western. The irony is that after the breakthrough achieved by The Bird with the Crystal Plumage, “everybody started making gialli,” as Argento put it, precisely because they were now in at the box-office.

This tendency to seek to hop onto the bandwagon of a box-office success may be described as the filone principle. As discussed by Koven (2006: ??), summarising a number of other commentators, filone has a variety of meanings. The most important, I would argue, is that of a stream or a (river) tributary. In film terms this translates in broad terms to the way a successful film swiftly gives rise to various imitators-cum-tributes (tributaries), which may then join up with other filone further 'downstream'.

Amongst relatively pure filone A Fistful of Dollars led to such sullo stesso filone (“in the style of”) westerns as Sergio Corbucci’s Django, with its similar stranger protagonist and town under the control of rival factions, who are then played against one another by the mysterious stranger. Likewise, Argento’s Animal Trilogy spawned numerous sound-alike gialli imitations such as Lucio Fulci’s A Lizard in a Woman’s Skin and Riccardo Freda’s The Iguana with a Tongue of Fire (both 1971). Amongst less pure filone, the gothic horror and peplum filone of the late 1950s and early 1960s merged in the likes of Bava’s Hercules in the Haunted World (1961) and Freda’s The Witch’s Curse (1964). Likewise the cannibal and zombie filone of mid and late 1970s combined in Marino Girolami’s Zombie Holocaust (1980), in which both monsters were present.

Taken as a whole filone cinema offers two challenges to the more familiar Hollywood notion of genre. First, it foregrounds the kind of impurity that is generally argued to have only become evident in Hollywood genres since the 1970s. Second, the short life span of the typical filone means that notions of generic evolution, from the classical to the parodic, tend to be manifest only in attenuated or accelerated ways. Films starring Franco Franchi and Ciccio Ingrassia present a useful gauge here: Between the early 1960s and the early 1970s, the two comedians appeared in dozens of low-budget, low-brow filone films inspired by whatever was sufficiently successful at the box-office: For example, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly led to The Good, the Bad and the Stupid (Dir: ??, ??), The Cat o’ Nine Tails to Two Cats of Eight and a Half Tails in the Middle of Amsterdam (Dir: Osvaldo Civriani, 1972). Put another way, a filone cycles in general often shifted from relatively straight texts to overt pastiches or parodies within the space of a year or so.

The filone principle was not, however, confined solely to popular forms, instead applying whenever a film was successful at the box office: Last Tango in Paris inspired the Franchi-starring Ultimo tango a Zagarol (Dir: Nano Cicero, 1973) while Pasolini's Canterbury Tales inspired the likes of The Other Canterbury Tales (Dir: ??, ??) and The Sexbury Tales (Dir: ??, ??). Indeed, the “Trilogy of Life” as a whole formed the basis for the entire 'Decamerotic' filone and likely played a large part in Pasolini's subsequent “repudiation” of The Decameron, The Canterbury Tales and The Arabian Nights via his essay of the same title (1974) and Salo (1975).

Filone cycles can be thus seen as exhibiting a distinction between the original film which innovates and the followers which imitate, or the film which presents us with productive, thought-provoking images and truths and the film which does not. This is the case whether we are talking about a filone which develops out of a more popular success (A Fistful of Dollars) or a more arthouse one (The Decameron). Due of a critical tendency to view filone outwith its context and through the perspective of genre this has rarely been recognised. Rather, filone films as a whole are also seen as lacking in tradition and as being entirely derivative.

A number of points may be made in defence of the filone system. First, like genre, it was a rational response to particular industrial conditions, something which functioned 'scientifically' to lessen chance and encourage predictability. Second, it is questionable whether Hollywood genres have ever been pure themselves. Third, the notion of a developmental trajectory to genre, with one phase inevitably being succeeded by another, according to an arborescent logic, is questioned by Deleuze:

“It would be dangerous to reserve an epic genius for Ince and Ford, attributing to other more recent directors the invention of a tragic or even a romantic Western. The application of Hegel's and Lukacs' formula of the succession of these genres [i.e. the tragic and the romantic] works badly for the Western: as Mitry has shown, from the outset the Western explores all the directions – epic, tragic, romantic – with cowboys who are already nostalgic, solitary, ageing, or even born losers, or rehabilitated Indians.” (2005a: 151)

A good example here which demonstrates both generic impurity and an unusually early decadence is George Marshall's spoof western Destry Rides Again, tellingly released in the same year as the aforementioned Stagecoach, 1939. Deleuze's statement is also highly significant for my purposes more generally: It implies a rejection of Bazin's more teleological aspects, while also suggesting that Italian westerns, thrillers, horror and gangster films should not merely be dismissed out of hand as 'degenerate' forms. Even if Deleuze himself was a modernist in his film tastes, there is no reason we cannot put his concepts to more postmodernist ends. Fourth, Hollywood has itself experienced filone-like cycles of production alongside or as part of more enduring genres: Part of the history of the thriller genre, for instance, might be written in relation to the gangster cycle of the 1930-32, the G-man cycle of the mid-1930s and the (retrospectively identified) film noir cycle of the 1940s and 1950s. In turn, certain filone, most notably the giallo, have become relative staples of Italian film production, with histories that now stretch back more than 40 years. Finally, taking 'genre' as a positive term against which 'filone' is viewed negatively is an implicitly modernist, structuralist, hierarchical position that must today be rejected.

Returning to Delueze's analysis of the western as an inherently rhizomatic form, the sceptic may be tempted to ask what is then different about Italian westerns, thrillers and so on, other than their being of Italian origin. I would argue that this is precisely the point: Besides anything else, the films of Leone, Argento and Questi represent a filone “deterritorialisation” of Hollywood genre, or a distinctive “line of flight”. To give but one example, whereas Hollywood gangster films conventionally emphasised Italian-American mobsters, Leone instead foregrounded their Jewish-American counterparts in Once Upon a Time in America. While such figures had been present in some US gangster films, such as Nails Nathan in The Public Enemy (Dir: William Wellman, 1931) or Hyman Roth in The Godfaher Part II (Dir: Francis Ford Coppola, 1974) they were generally marginal figures.

In itself, the filone system was only one side of the production-distribution/exhibition-audience triangle. We must also consider the visione, the cinemas in which films played to Italian audiences, and their interactions.

The key commentator here is Christopher Wagstaff (1992), particularly since he addresses the subject of the visione, or the cinema circuits, in relation to the spaghetti western. Historically the growth of cinema in Italy followed much the same pattern as in other western countries: Initially films were screened in existing venues that catered to existing cultural forms. This was followed by the building of purpose-built movie theatres, a development which helping to legitimise cinema with the vital middle class audience. Particularly in the south, however, film screenings were never confined solely to cinemas, with town halls and other venues also being important. By the 1960s, however, it was nevertheless possible to speak of three distinct cinema circuits. These were the prima, seconda and terza visione, or the first, second and third run circuits. Wagstaff concentrates upon the prima and terza visione and says less about the seconda visione, which occupies an in-between position in most if not all respects. The prima visione, first-run, cinemas were concentrated in the big cities, disproportionately in the north of Italy. They had relatively high ticket prices and catered to an audience which was generally wealthier, better-educated and more likely to be middle class and young. This was an audience which would go to the cinema to see a particular film, which they would typically engage with in the attentive manner presumed by film studies. On each point, the prima visione can be contrasted with the terza visione, third run, cinemas. They were more likely to found in rural areas and small towns, disproportionately in the south of Italy. They had relatively low ticket prices and catered to an audience which was generally poorer, worse-educated, more likely to be working class or peasant, and older. This was an audience which would go to the cinema in general, caring less about the particular film that was playing than the opportunity to see friends and socialise. As such, they typically viewed the film in a relatively inattentive manner, more like the casual television “glance” than the intense cinematic “gaze” (Ellis, 1982).

Relating the visione to his chosen filone, Wagstaff points out that although more than 400 spaghetti westerns were released between the early 1960s and the mid-1970s, only a handful of these were released internationally. In itself this is nothing unusual: As noted earlier, only around ten to fifteen percent of Italian productions and co-productions made it to the US and/or the UK. The issue was that the 50 or so spaghetti westerns released internationally, and which were drawn upon in most studies, were not a representative sample. They were disproportionately drawn from the more respectable end of production, the films which played the prima visione as well as the terza. As such, they were often hybrid or crossover films, in which the more spectacular and affective elements aimed at the terza visione were combined with others aimed at their prima visione counterparts. Leone's Dollars films, for instance, could be enjoyed at a purely visceral level and/or intellectually for the way in which they engaged with the myths of the west.

The terza visione filone film is primarily of sociological interest: It is unlikely that anyone will ever look at the westerns of “The Italian Ed Wood” Demofilo Fidani (variously credited as Miles Deem, Dick Spitfire, Lucky Dickinson, Slim Alone and Sean O'Neal) aesthetically, other than in relation to paracinema (Sconce, 1995). In contrast, by moving between the visione, the westerns of Leone and Questi offer aesthetic and other interests; the same can be said of Argento’s gialli.
This also distinguishes these films from the likes of Last Tango in Paris, which enjoyed a degree of popular success within Italy as the most commercially successful film of 1972: The simple fact is that a film like Last Tango was made for the prima visione at home and the art cinema circuit internationally. What success it had with the terza visione audience can be attributed to a kind of “textual poaching,” (Jenkins, 1992) whereby viewers took what they wanted from the film, chiefly its sexual content.

Antonioni's films as a whole are also worth considering in this regard: Until Il grido (1957) they were not particularly successful at the Italian box-office. L'Avventura (1960) was a surprise hit in Italy and France (Nowell-Smith, ??). This might be attributed in part to the presence of the then-popular Lea Massari in what seemed to be a starring role. With L'Eclisse and La Notte, however, Antonioni seemed to turn away from the popular audience, with advertising campaigns that emphasised his auteur status and the sense that cinema was being taken to new levels as an art form (??, ??). Following The Red Desert, the third and last of Antonioni's films to feature Monica Vitti, the director then embarked upon a three-film deal with MGM, beginning with Blow-Up. Though the film was released in English, this departure from arthouse practice was justified by its London setting. Likewise, if it was an anti-giallo that eschewed conventional resolution, Blow-Up also offered moments of then-daring female nudity as incidental “attraction” for the terza visione “textual poacher”. The film undoubtedly made most of its money, however, with the prima visione in Italy and on the international arthouse circuit.

This points to the different distribution and exhibition patterns extant in the 1960s and 1970s by which film could make money: Within Italy, a film could sell a relatively small number of higher priced tickets on the prima visione over a shorter period of time, or a larger number of lower priced tickets on the terza visione over a longer period of time. For the small production company relying on one film to finance the next, appearing on the prima visione circuit as well as the terza visione was thus vital. This was all the more so since only films that played on the prima visione had the opportunity of international sales. However we can see a general division between auteur and crossover filone cinemas: When distributed internationally auteur films by Antonioni, Bertolucci, Pasolini and others typically played in art cinemas, or to the international equivalent of the prima visione audience. The films of Leone, Argento and Questi, by contrast, typically played in drive-ins, grindhouses and fleapits, or the international equivalents of the terza visione.

I would argue that by made for a wider range of audiences within Italy the crossover filone films of my filmmakers were encouraged to engage in a practice of Pasolinian “double articulation” far more than their prima visione focused counterparts. Leone, Argento and Questi, were concerned, that is, with making films featuring an excess of signs and meanings where one possible reading (e.g. the prima visione one) was not necessarily privileged over another (the terza visione one). This is, of course, something that again marks their work out as postmodern rather than modernist in orientation.

Having said this, account must also be taken of other changes in the Italian cinema over the course of the 1960s and 1970s. As noted previously, the terza visione audience often watched films in a relatively detached, TV-like manner. Taken in retrospect, this can be seen as being because they were a pre-television television audience: Whereas the peak year for cinema admissions in the US was 1946, it was 1956 in Italy, with television ownership likewise lagging ten or fifteen years behind. Until the mid-1970s there were only two state-controlled television channels in Italy, the more mainstream, Christian Democrat associated RAI 1, and the less mainstream, Socialist Party associated RAI 2. (RAI 3 was assigned to the Communist Party in 197?, although by this time Silvio Berlusconi’s illegal channels were also in operation.) The emergence of the Italian western, meanwhile, can in large part be attributed to the different circumstances pertaining in the US and in Italy in the late 1950s and early 1960s: During this period the western had moved from being a staple of Hollywood film production to becoming a major part of Hollywood television production. US audiences who wanted to see westerns could now watch them on television, through series like Rawhide, in which Dollars star Clint Eastwood first made his name. However, these same television series were either not exported to Italy or only have reached the minority who had televisions. The demand for westerns thus created a gap in the market which Italian filmmakers were happy to fill. As television ownership spread, however, the terza visione audience increasingly found their entertainment needs were being met in the home environment. Indeed, spaghetti westerns became a staple part of Italian television programming, as demonstrated by scenes in gialli like My Dear Killer and Don’t Torture a Duckling (both 1972) in which characters watch them on television; the films were directed by western veterans Duccio Tessari and Lucio Fulci respectively.

As such, the impact of television was felt disproportionately within the Italian film industry. It was the terza visione and the filone cinema which benefited most from television in the 1960s and then suffered most in the 1970s: While there was certainly an absolute decline in the size of the cinema audience and in the number of cinema screens over the course of the two decades, this decline was felt far more acutely in the terza visione than the prima. The prima visione, meanwhile, also benefited from general improvements in education and embourgeoisement, that there was a growing audience willing to take cinema as something other than mere entertainment.

Despite Deleuze’s initial claim that he will look at cinema in purely formal terms, the importance of background context is evident within Cinema 1 and Cinema 2 in places. In particular, neo-realism and the wider modernist movement-image cinema could not have emerged without the Second World War: The likes of the bombed out city were necessary for the breakdown of the sensory-motor schema of the action image and the concomitant emergence of the seer.
The situation is no less different with my postmodernist filmmakers and their combination of the movement-image and the time-image. Like their neo-realist and modernist counterparts, they too benefited from the increased camera mobility inherent in shooting without synchronized sound. But, unlike these filmmakers, their work was often ghettoized outwith Italy in the equivalent of terza visione cinemas, and not taken seriously on account of being released in an English dub rather than the ‘original’ Italian; I use quotes or brackets to again highlight the question of where the original actually is when we are dealing with co-productions intended for international release, featuring casts lacking a lingua franca. Like Rossellini’s taking to the streets of Rome in Open City because of the unavailability of studio facilities, the filone system can be seen as a rational, functional response to circumstances. In the absence of a strong studio system, Italian producers and filmmakers were largely risk-averse. They could not afford to take a chance on making innovative, original works that might not find favour with the audience. This is an area where Argento and Questi went against the grain, in different ways: In The Bird with the Crystal Plumage Argento made a new type of giallo. In Django Kill and Death Laid an Egg Questi pushed the western and the giallo (as it existed in the 1960s) to breaking point. At the same time, however, Leone, Argento and Questi’s films also have a crossover aspect that goes against the prima visione/terza visione binary. Each filmmaker sought to offer both these audiences something, whilst also presenting them with implicit challenges through this selfsame hybrid or crossover approach. For Leone and Argento taking a hybrid approach was to prove especially important over the course of the 1970s and into the 1980s, as the relative importance of the terza visione declined. This refusal of an either/or is, meanwhile, again something which marks these filmmakers out as early postmodernists.

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