Blasetti, Alessandro

(1900-1987)
   Critic, screenwriter, director. Sometimes affectionately called the father of Italian cinema in recognition of the crucial role he played in the rebirth of Italy's film industry in the late 1920s, Blasetti graduated in law but subsequently chose to work as a journalist and film critic. In 1925, at a time when Italian cinema had reached its lowest historical ebb, Blasetti initiated a regular film column in the Roman daily L'Impero.
   He soon also founded several dedicated film magazines, beginning with Lo schermo (which would later become Cinematografo), in which he carried out a passionate campaign to revive national film production. In 1928, together with a number of other film enthusiasts, including Aldo Vergano, Umberto Barbaro, and Goffredo Alessandrini, he founded the Augustus company to finance his first feature, Sole (Sun, 1929), a powerful portrayal of harsh peasant life in the Pontine marshes that displayed the distinctive influences of the new Soviet cinema. Following the film's critical success, Stefano Pittaluga, the only film producer still working in Italy, invited Blasetti to join him at the newly restored Cines studios, which Pittaluga had equipped for sound. Blasetti accepted and in 1930 made Resurrectio, although, for a number of bureaucratic reasons, the film was not released until a year later, by which time Gennaro Righelli's La canzone dell'amore (Song of Love, 1930) had already crossed the line to become the first Italian sound film. Again at the urging of Pittaluga, Blasetti then directed Nerone (Nero, 1931), essentially a recording of one of the most famous stage revues of the celebrated comedian Ettore Petrolini. This modest exercise in filmed theater was followed by a return to the more marked style and rural themes of Blasetti's first film in Terra madre (Earth Mother, 1932).
   In the wake of Pittaluga's untimely death in 1931 and with Emilio Cecchi as the new artistic director at Cines, Blasetti produced a documentary on Assisi and a much-admired adaptation of Cesare Viviani's Neapolitan comedy La tavola dei poveri (The Table of the Poor, 1932) before directing what is generally regarded as his finest film, 1860 (also known as Gesuzza, the Garibaldian Wife, 1933). An epic recreation of Garibaldi's expedition to Sicily and his military triumph at Calatafimi, the film employed largely nonprofessional actors and a realistic style that would later lead many to see it as an early forerunner of postwar neorealism. Motivated by an idealistic faith in Fascism, which he abandoned after the invasion of Ethiopia a year later, Blasetti then made his only openly Fascist film, Vecchia guardia (Old Guard, 1934). Presenting a heroic picture of the historic march on Rome in 1922, the film also provided a measure of moral justification for the violent methods the Fascist gangs had used at the time. Ironically, however, Blasetti's film found very little favor with the party hierarchy, which was concerned at the time with projecting a much more respectable image of itself.
   Disappointed and frustrated, Blasetti turned to making more commercially viable films, beginning with the navy melodrama Aldebaran (1935), followed by the film that Blasetti himself would describe as his only white telephone film, La contessa di Parma (The Duchess of Parma, 1936). Then, after two elegant and feisty historical costume dramas, Ettore Fieramosca (1938) and Un'avventura di Salvator Rosa (An Adventure of Salvator Rosa, 1940), Blasetti produced the extraordinary La corona di ferro (The Iron Crown, 1941). A strange blend of fairy tale, historical fantasy, action adventure, and romantic melodrama, the film won the Mussolini Prize at the Venice Festival that year in spite of its openly antimilitaristic and antiwar sentiments. Indeed, Joseph Goebbels, who was present at the screening, is said to have remarked that if a German director had made such a film at the time he would have been immediately shot. Unperturbed, Blasetti had already gone on to make another historical costume drama, La cena delle beffe (The Jester's Supper, 1941), an adaptation of a dramatic poem about a family feud in Renaissance Florence that became famous, above all, for a scene in which Clara Calamai was shown, momentarily, bare breasted. Blasetti then returned to a contemporary setting in Quattro passi fra le nuvole (A Stroll through the Clouds, 1942), the charming story of a day in the life of a traveling salesman; the film, on the basis of its representation of everyday life and its adoption of a realist style, would later be numbered among the forerunners of neorealism.
   In the immediate postwar period, Blasetti was able to square accounts with his earlier involvement with Fascism by paying homage to the Resistance movement in Un giorno nella vita (A Day in the Life, 1946). He then went on, always with consummate professional competence, to direct an extraordinary variety of different sorts of films, ranging from the big-budget Roman-Christian sword-and-san-dal epic Fabiola (1948) to Prima comunione (Father's Dilemma, 1950), a modest but well-crafted neorealist comedy about a father trying to find a suitable dress for his daughter's first communion ceremony. After playing himself as the established director at Cinecitta in Luchino Visconti's Bellissima (1951), Blasetti also initiated the vogue for multiple-episode film with Altri tempi (Times Gone By, 1952) and Tempi nostri (The Anatomy of Love, 1953), the biting social comedy in many of the episodes prefiguring the coming trends of the commedia all'italiana. Then, demonstrating his habitual professional acumen, he brought Sophia Loren and Marcello Mastroianni together in Peccato che sia una canaglia (Too Bad She's Bad, 1955) and La fortuna di essere donna (Lucky to Be a Woman, 1956), two slightly scurrilous comedies that highlighted the considerable acting talents of both future stars. In 1959, with Europa di notte (Europe by Night, 1959), Blasetti also delineated the form of the exotic pseudo-documentary that would soon be taken up in the Mondo films of Gualtiero Jacopetti and others.
   From the late 1960s, however, having provided his own trenchant critique of the newly affluent Italian society in Io, io, io . . . e gli altri (Me, Me, Me . . . and the Others, 1965), he began to move away from the big screen in order to work mostly for television, where he came to be best known for his nine-episode series, Racconti di fantascienza di Blasetti (Science Fiction Stories by Blasetti, 1978-1979).

Historical dictionary of Italian cinema. . 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Blasetti, Alessandro — (1900–1987)    The most interesting film director of the Fascist period, Alessandro Blasetti is widely regarded as a precursor of neorealism. His first major movie, 1860, which was made in 1934, is considered by many critics to be his masterpiece …   Historical Dictionary of modern Italy

  • Blasetti, Alessandro — (1900 1987)    Critic, screenwriter, director. Sometimes affectionately called the father of Italian cinema in recognition of the crucial role he played in the rebirth of Italy s film industry in the late 1920s, Blasetti graduated in law but… …   Guide to cinema

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  • Alessandro Blasetti — (3 July 1900 1 February 1987) was an Italian film director who influenced Italian neorealism. Blasetti was born in Rome, where he also died. He was president of the jury at the Cannes Film Festival in 1967. elected filmography* Sole (1929) *… …   Wikipedia

  • Alessandro — ist ein männlicher Vorname. Für den Familiennamen siehe D’Alessandro. Bekannte Namensträger Vorname Alessandro Achillini (1463–1512), italienischer Philosoph und Arzt Alessandro Albani (1692–1779), Kardinal der katholischen Kirche Alessandro… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

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