Review of Roberto Rossellini Documentarista: una cultura della realtà

Review of Roberto Rossellini Documentarista: una cultura della realtà

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  This article was downloaded by: [Regina Longo]On: 25 November 2013, At: 09:28Publisher: RoutledgeInforma Ltd Registered in England and Wales Registered Number: 1072954 Registeredoffice: Mortimer House, 37-41 Mortimer Street, London W1T 3JH, UK Historical Journal of Film, Radio andTelevision Publication details, including instructions for authors andsubscription information: Roberto Rossellini Documentarista: unacultura della realtà Regina M Longo aa  The Albanian Cinema Project, Oakland, USAPublished online: 21 Nov 2013. To cite this article:  Regina M Longo , Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television (2013):Roberto Rossellini Documentarista: una cultura della realtà, Historical Journal of Film, Radio andTelevision, DOI: 10.1080/01439685.2013.852753 To link to this article: PLEASE SCROLL DOWN FOR ARTICLETaylor & Francis makes every effort to ensure the accuracy of all the information (the “Content”) contained in the publications on our platform. However, Taylor & Francis,our agents, and our licensors make no representations or warranties whatsoever as tothe accuracy, completeness, or suitability for any purpose of the Content. Any opinionsand views expressed in this publication are the opinions and views of the authors,and are not the views of or endorsed by Taylor & Francis. The accuracy of the Contentshould not be relied upon and should be independently verified with primary sourcesof information. Taylor and Francis shall not be liable for any losses, actions, claims,proceedings, demands, costs, expenses, damages, and other liabilities whatsoever orhowsoever caused arising directly or indirectly in connection with, in relation to or arisingout of the use of the Content.This article may be used for research, teaching, and private study purposes. Anysubstantial or systematic reproduction, redistribution, reselling, loan, sub-licensing,systematic supply, or distribution in any form to anyone is expressly forbidden. Terms & Conditions of access and use can be found at  BOOK REVIEW Roberto Rossellini Documentarista: una cultura della realta` L UCA  C AMINATI Rome, Italy, MiBAC-Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia, 2012148 pp., illus.,  € 17.00 (paper)Luca Caminati’s book  Roberto Rossellini Documentarista: Una cultura della realta` (Roberto Rossellini Documentarian: Culture of the Real) challenges the reader toview the work of a film-maker best known internationally for his neorealist wartrilogy ( Roma, citta` aperta Open City   (1945),  Paisa`  (1946) and  Germania, anno zero (1948)) for his contributions across the genres of documentary and fiction in orderto more deeply question precisely what constitutes a ‘cinema of the real’. Thereare several threads that weave their way through this study of the documentaryfilms of Roberto Rossellini, but the thread that begins this study is the one thatcarries the reader and Caminati’s argument through to the end. Caminati focuseson the lesser-known films of one of the world’s best-known film-makers, and indoing so Caminati is able to address questions that not only pertain to the produc-tion and reception of Rossellini’s documentary works, but to also enter into thevery contemporary critical and intellectual debate on the status of documentaryproduction in the (post) reality TV and digital age.Caminati recognizes precisely how historians and theorists have categorized andanalyzed Rossellini’s  oeuvre  up until now, and calls into question whether or notthe films and the film-maker can be classified according to the simplistic terms thatare often used to differentiate fiction and documentary modes of address in thecinema. As historian of Italian cinema Marco Bertozzi, who wrote the preface tothis book, notes, Caminati effectively demonstrates how a sort of critical ambiguityhas been central to Rossellini’s (the critic) view of the neorealist movement andhis own (neo) realist films as belonging essentially (ontologically) to the field of documentary. He therefore developed a style of film-making in both his fiction anddocumentary work that would foreground and problematize categorical distinctionsbetween reality and fiction. Rossellini’s documentary films alone run the gamutfrom short actualities and playful experiments, to ethnography, to made-for-televi-sion reportage, to essay films to didactic, scientific documentaries. Bertozzi alsoreminds us that Rossellini’s motto was ‘to think one must know.’Caminati takes Rossellini’s motto at face value and also inverts it, suggestingthat to know Rossellini one must think beyond the strict definition of filmic genresand one must think deeply about the ‘documentary’ works that Rossellini created Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television  , 2013    D  o  w  n   l  o  a   d  e   d   b  y   [   R  e  g   i  n  a   L  o  n  g  o   ]  a   t   0   9  :   2   8   2   5   N  o  v  e  m   b  e  r   2   0   1   3  in order to come to know the film-maker and his  oeuvre  more fully. The book isorganized in such a way that it allows the reader to acquaint her/himself withRossellini’s work by also following chronological developments and historical shiftsin the field of documentary film-making internationally. Caminati reminds us thatRossellini was thinking through these conceptual frameworks from the outset of hisfilm career in the 1930s. Coincidentally, this was the moment of infancy for narra-tive documentary and the moment during which there was lively transnationaldebate and exchange among documentary film-makers both through their films andin the pages of international cinema journals. This book aims to recuperate the ear-liest documentary films of Rossellini, beginning with  Dafne/Pre´lude a` l’apre`s-midid’un faune  (1935)—which was never shot but for which there is a complete scriptthat Caminati was able to study and for which there are documented references toit in  Lo Schermo  4, November 1935 (p.40)—and  Fantasia sottomarina  (1938–1939),produced under the auspices of the Italian state, and to place them alongside thenarrative documentaries being produced internationally by the likes of JohnGrierson, Alberto Cavalcanti, Joris Ivens and Robert Flaherty, that were also oftenstate-sponsored films. But it doesn’t stop there; it takes us through the productionof Rossellini’s last documentary  Le Centre Georges Pompidou  (1977), which chronicledthe opening of the center in Paris, France in 1977. This film, shot between Apriland May of 1977 would be the last film shot by Rossellini, who died unexpectedly just one month later at the age of 71 from a heart attack. Caminati’s work remindsus that Rossellini’s first and last works as a film-maker were documentary films.Caminati rightly addresses the development of a more sophisticated mode of documentary address that 1930s national socialism allowed in Europe, the US andelsewhere. And, it is from here, that the reader can then begin to chart the coursethrough Rossellini’s many distinct, yet inter-related documentary projects andmodes of production. The use of the word project is meant to suggest thatRossellini’s documentary works were often more than one, self-contained story.They were multi-part investigations and sometimes multi-year journeys to differentcountries, and through different institutions. They were self-reflexive examinationsof his role as observer/participant, insider/outsider and colonizer /colonized.Caminati’s journey through the works of Rossellini (to borrow the title of one of Rossellini’s most highly critiqued fiction films  Viaggio in Italia  (Journey to Italy,1954), a box office failure now considered Rossellini’s masterpiece, which markedthe film-maker’s rupture with his 1940s neorealist works and the beginning of what Francois Truffaut termed Rossellini’s ‘modern’ period), mirrors the verypersonal story of this fiction film of a romantic relationship that is ending. In Viaggio in Italia , the viewer follows Katherine (Ingrid Bergman) and Alex (GeorgeSanders)  in medias res  as they retrace their hauntingly personal journey while travel-ing through Italian sites of classical antiquity. In  Roberto Rossellini Documentarista ,Caminati, thanks to a deep knowledge of and full access to Rossellini’s archives,follows the personal and professional trajectory of the film-maker as he movesthrough his native country of Italy, then to France, then to India, then to Chile,then the US, before returning to Italy.Along the way, Caminati deftly weaves anecdotes about each film’s productionwith astute textual analysis of the multiple registers on which the films themselvesoperate, with a sort of journalistic chronicle of Rossellini’s experiences in each 2  H I S T O R I C A L J O U R N A L O F F I L M , R A D I O A N D T E L E V I S I O N    D  o  w  n   l  o  a   d  e   d   b  y   [   R  e  g   i  n  a   L  o  n  g  o   ]  a   t   0   9  :   2   8   2   5   N  o  v  e  m   b  e  r   2   0   1   3  locale in which he filmed as well as the contradictions that lay at the heart of eachof these filmed chronicles. It is no coincidence that the final word in the book,then, belongs to Adriano Apra, Italy’s best-known film critic and historian, whoseafterward leaves us within the circular ambiguity of Rossellini’s and Caminati’scritical approach to the practice and study of documentary cinema, with the inter-rogatory title ‘ Rossellini Documentarista? ’ (Rossellini Documentarian?) Caminati is afearless guide, and he brings the reader to the edge of current critical debates onthe ontology of documentary cinema without beating us over the head with thesequestions. He subtly reminds us that we have been here before, and encourages usto question where the field of documentary might journey next. There is only onedeficit in this work, the fact that it is only available in the Italian language. Thisbook would be an invaluable resource for scholars and students alike, but it is cur-rently not accessible to most of these readers. I strongly urge the book’s publishersat the Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia in Rome, Italy to option an Englishlanguage translation. Caminati’s research and insights fill a gap in the existing liter-ature on the work of Rossellini and the contours of 20th-century documentaryfilm-making that link the early utopic modern projects of state-sponsored narrativedocumentary to the contemporary genre of docufiction that spills out from theater,TV and computer screens into our daily lives.R EGINA  M. L ONGO The Albanian Cinema Project, Oakland, USA   2013 Regina M. Longo B O O K R E V I E W  3    D  o  w  n   l  o  a   d  e   d   b  y   [   R  e  g   i  n  a   L  o  n  g  o   ]  a   t   0   9  :   2   8   2   5   N  o  v  e  m   b  e  r   2   0   1   3
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