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Cinema of Italy: The 1990s


The economic and creative crisis that emerged in full scale in the 1980s will continue to pervade the following decade. With great directors gone, a weakness in commercial success and the inability to create new genres, the Italian cinema production will go on with improvisation.

Unfortunately, the prestige and international success of some of Italy's directors (among them Giuseppe Tornatore and Roberto Benigni), is not enough to guarantee a much needed resurgence of the Italian cinema Yet there are some signs of rebirth, at least at "popular" level, at the beginning of 1990s with "Nuovo Cinema Paradiso", the movie with which the previously mentioned Giuseppe Tornatore wins the Oscar for Best Foreign Picture in 1990, a success duplicated two years later by Gabriele Salvatore with "Mediterraneo", an ironic story about a group of Italian soldiers lost in a Greek island during WWII.

In spite of lukewarm reception by the critics, it deserves a recognition for a newfound visibility of Italian cinema at international level. However in the following years there will be more movies of distinct artistic value: "Le vie del signore sono finite" (1987) by Massimo Troisi; Gianni Amelio gets all the attention with "Porte aperte" (1989) and become a staple in the Italian cinema with "Il ladro di bambini" (1992) and "Lamerica" (1994); Nanni Moretti wins a prize a Cannes in 1993 with the acclaimed "Caro Diario"; Francesca Archibugi will excite us with "Il grande cocomero" in 1993.
Of not less importance are works like "La voce della luna", the last movie by Fellini in 1990; "Jona che visse nella balena" (1993) by Roberto Faenza, a dark fairy tale about the Nazi concentration camps; "L'amore molesto" (1995) by Mario Martone and interpreted by a memorable Anna Bonaiuto; "Senza pelle" (1994) by Alessandro D'Alatri who will re-launch the career of Kim Rossi Stuart.
Critics are divided about Cipri and Maresco, two authors that use their previous experience in television of "Cinico TV" in their debut "Lo zio di Brooklyn" (1995) and in the following "Totò che visse due volte" (1998) and "Noi e il Duca - quando Duke Ellington suonò a Palermo" (1999). The surreal and imaginary style of the two actors that comes from a multitude of episodes and goes into a hyperbolic universe is at the same time shocking, enthusiastic and bizarre. Gradually the comedy is again resurfacing, this time with contemporary themes and style: Massimo Troisi is acclaimed for "Pensavo fosse amore... invece era un calesse" in 1991 and Carlo Verdone will debut with "Maledetto il giorno che t'ho incontrato" in 1992 and "Perdiamoci di vista" in 1994.

Paolo Virzi is greeted by critic and public with "La bella vita" (1994), "Ferie d'agosto" (1995) and "Ovosodo" (1997); Leonardo Pieraccioni receives a huge popular success with "Il ciclone" in 1996. It is also important to remember "Il postino" (1994) directed by Michael Radford with an extraordinary Massimo Troisi, nominated for 5 Oscars among them Best Actor and Best Movie. It will win the Oscar for the soundtrack composed by Luis Bacalov.
A side note should also be reserved for the Italian/Swiss director Silvio Soldini, whose bittersweet style does not fit easily in any genre: during the 1990s he will direct some of his most popular movies: "L'aria serena dell'ovest" (1990), "Un anima divisa in due" (1993), "Le acrobate" (1997). Also among the debutants of that period is Mimmo Calopresti, who directs Nanni Moretti in the intense "La seconda volta" (1995) and establish himself with "La parola amore esiste" (1998).
The last years of the decade will see Gianni Amelio win a Leone d'oro in Venice with the challenging "Così ridevano" (1998), Bernardo Bertolucci comes back to direction in Italy with the captivating "L'assedio" (1998) and above all the international triumph of Roberto Benigni with "La vita è bella" (1997). The Tuscan actor-director, already awarded by the public with the previous "Johnny Stecchino" (1991) and "Il mostro" (1994), realizes his most ambitious film: a courageous and dramatic satire on Italy during the fascist era and the Nazi concentration camps.
The movie, among the numerous awards, will win the Oscars in 1998 as Best Foreign Movie, Best Actor and Best Original Soundtrack composed by Nicola Piovani.

Non ci resta che piangere
with Roberto Benigni and Massimo Troisi (in Italian and Neapolitan)