The late forties and early fifties produced Italian cinema’s single most important export: the neorealism of Roberto Rossellini, Vittorio De Sica, and Luchino Visconti, treasured by generations of cinephiles and filmmakers all over the world. In Italy during the same period, though, a quite different style was enthralling popular audiences: the wonderfully florid, impeccably crafted melodramas of Raffaello Matarazzo. This weekend, we’re bringing Matarazzo’s elemental passions to the Criterion Channel with a retrospective featuring six of the sensational, serpentinely plotted hits he made with overpowering stars Amedeo Nazzari and Yvonne Sanson. In a series introduction featured on the Channel alongside such films as Chains, Nobody’s Children, and Torna!, Professor Stefano Albertini explains the extraordinary postwar popularity of such escapist melodrama, which had its aesthetic roots in tearjerking nineteenth-century literature and the expressive extravagance of opera. Albertini also points out that these entirely apolitical entertainments often shared a working-class milieu with contemporaneous works of neorealism—though the movies’ traditionalist values and passionate spirit were geared toward reassuring audiences rather than challenging them.
John Schlesinger’s Cinema of Failures and Outcasts
A gay man in an age when homosexuality was against the law in his native Britain, the Oscar-winning director eschewed political statements in favor of compassionate portrayals of the human condition.
The Lurid Intensity of Shock Corridor’s Long Takes
In the latest episode of Observations on Film Art, now playing on the Criterion Channel, Professor Jeff Smith breaks down the audacious style of one of Samuel Fuller’s most provocative works.