Scholar helps renew the attention of Italian filmmaker
LAWRENCE – Five years after the death of famous screenwriter and filmmaker Ettore Scola, an Italian culture scholar at the University of Kansas is helping to revive Scola’s film career.
Edward Bowen, assistant professor of Italian at KU, wrote an article on the critical reception of Scola’s films in the United States at the start of the filmmaker’s career (1970-87) in a special edition of the oldest film review from Italy, Bianco e Nero, or Black & White. Bowen’s article, written in Italian, can be found in a section of the issue devoted to welcoming Scola abroad. This publication follows the first book in English dedicated to the writer and director, “The Cinema of Ettore Scola”, (Wayne State University Press, 2020) which Bowen co-edited with Wake Forest University professor Rémi Lanzoni.
“Scola has had an illustrious career,” Bowen said. “He has directed 27 feature films as a director in addition to short films, documentaries and episodes of anthology films. He is best known for his films on Italian and French history as well as for his contributions to Italian-style comedy, satirical and grotesque comedies from the 60s and 70s that offer biting commentary on the challenges of adapting to rapid changes in Italian society.
Scola has been nominated four times for the Oscar for best foreign language film, and he won the award for best director in 1976 in Cannes for “Brutti, sporchi e cattivi” (“Ugly, dirty and bad”). Before first sitting in the director’s chair in 1964, Scola wrote dozens of comedic scripts, including several masterpieces of Italian-style comedy, Bowen said.
“In the 1970s and 1980s in the United States, his films circulated regularly in specialized theaters in New York, Washington, DC; Boston and Los Angeles. However, he’s someone who was a little off the radar of US-based researchers who publish on auteur cinema, ”Bowen said. “That said, he was certainly not off the radar of French or Italian academics. Before last year, you could find a dozen books on him in Italian and three books in French, but none in English. This is what prompted my colleague Rémi Lanzoni and myself to produce an edited volume, for which we have gathered 14 contributions from researchers based in five different countries.
Bowen attributes some of the renewed interest in Scola to the author’s death in 2016, but he said it was increasing even before that date, noting the DVD releases of two of the most well-known films Scola wrote for. scenarios. The Criterion Collection also released a 1977 DVD of the couple Sophia Loren-Marcello Mastroianni, “A Special Day”, and included other works by Scola in their streaming services,
Scola was a communist and Bowen said his films reflected his personal anti-fascism as well as his critique of exploitative capitalists and ineffective intellectuals and politicians, but never in a blunt manner.
“Scola has used allegorical characters in his films to refer to different political leanings and has used irony to point out hypocritical traits and weaknesses in each,” Bowen said.
Due to his off-screen political activism during the last decades of his life – primarily in defense of film production, exhibition and education sites (i.e. film schools and museums) – Bowen describes Scola as “statesman of Italian cinema”. He firmly believed in the role that cinema could play in the education of young people, in particular by helping them to develop a more critical vision of society. This is one of the qualities that Bowen, as an Italian film teacher, most admired in the director.
For the past 25 years, Bowen said, professors like him have used Scola’s masterpieces that revisit 20e– century of history in Italy, like “We all loved each other so much“ (1974), “A special day“ (1977) and “The family” (1987).
“I know many professors who have found his films effective in presenting students with major moments in Italian history, but also in making them reflect on the effects that historical events have on individuals and their relationships,” Bowen said. . “In recent years people have started to pay more attention to the fact that he was not only a director capable of commenting on the company at a specific point in time, or over a period of time, but that his signature style also contained many stylistic achievements, including his innovative use of flashbacks, long shots, visual transitions and voiceovers as well as a wide range of comedic techniques, including his use of the grotesque register, ”said Bowen.
“Some American critics in the late 1970s and early 1980s, including Roger Ebert, struggled to accept some of Scola’s grotesque portrayals of contemporary Italy and preferred his historical films, but this trend did not did not persist, “Bowen said. his grotesque comedy ‘Ugly, Dirty and Bad’ in New York theaters and streaming through Film Comment speaks to a growing reassessment of his work. “
Picture: Edward Bowen was a guest in the home library of the late Italian filmmaker Ettore Scola during a 2018 research trip to Rome. Credit: Marco Scola di Mambro