By Carlo Celli, Marga Cottino-Jones
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Extra info for A New Guide to Italian Cinema (Italian & Italian American Studies)
In contrast, Assunta Spina represents a more humble sphere in everyday Italian society. Assunta is identified with the bare streets of Naples often appearing under a portrait of the Madonna with child in her room. She is deceived and brutalized by the immature males in her life and responds with self-sacrificial fatalism. 23 Even though production in 1920 reached prewar levels with 371 feature films produced, the increased competition from Hollywood made retention of the former market share untenable.
In both these films the heroines come from a foreign national and political culture, Russian Bolshevism, and their role was to present the evils of the alternate totalitarian political system. One of actress Clara Calamai’s films before Visconti’s Obsession was Boccaccio (1940) directed by Marcello Albani in which Calamai assumes male dress in order to impersonate her uncle, the fourteenth century writer Giovanni Boccaccio, because she is jealous of the female conquests of her cousin, Berto. This early reference to Boccaccio gives an indication of the continuing importance of female roles in the Italian cinema, a tradition from the days of the diva-like Francesco Bertini, which would continue after the war.
Another of the open portrayals of Fascism in the cinema is Marcello Albani’s Redenzione/Redemption (1943) made under the supervision of the Fascist point man Roberto Farinacci during the last period of Fascist rule in Rome. In this film, an Italian communist deserter in WWI changes his politics and sacrifices himself for the Fascist cause just before the March on Rome. The small number of dramas directly portraying Fascism indicates that filmmakers and producers prudently preferred to dress political themes in historical garb.