Italian movies started being
produced at the beginning of the twentieth century. During the first
ten years of the century, the first movie theatres were built in
the larger cities and production companies were established. Many
historical movies were produced. One of the firsts was La Presa
di Roma, 20 settembre 1870 by Alberini
and Santoni, in 1905.
In addition, comedy developed as a genre and, soon after, melodrama
became fashionable. Movies acquired a worldly character, with stars
and divas, such as Lyda Borelli, Francesca
Bertini, and Leda
During the First World War, production declined dramatically. After
the war, the emergence of Hollywood initially precipitated the downfall
of Italian movies. This situation turned around in the thirties,
under the influence of Mussolini. The government restricted imports
of American movies, more subsidies were available for movies, and
Cinecittà, the largest Italian movie studio, was constructed.
During the Second World War, neo-realism emerged, with the movie
Ossessione by Visconti
(1943). The neo-realist movies were filmed on location, without
artificial lighting, and thus provide a more realistic image than
the studio movies that were familiar up to then. Their content was
also realistic; entertainment seemed improper at that time and the
movies portrayed the social dissatisfaction after the war. Other
well-known neo-realists are Roberto
Rossellini, Vittorio de Sica,
and Guiseppe de Santis.
In the fifties, comedies were revived. Hollywood movies returned
to the market as well.
In the sixties the Italian movies really began to flourish, and
they become extremely popular both at home and abroad. Fellini made
La Dolce Vita (1960) and Marcello
Mastroianni, Sophia Loren, and Guilietta
Masina became international stars. Pasolini, Bertolucci,
the Taviani brothers and Scola all became famous as film makers.
Television caused a true crisis in movies during the seventies.
During the eighties and nineties new talents emerged, but the competition
from television remained strong. People reverted to old movies again
and to Hollywood productions.
La vita è bella by Benigni
won a number of Oscars in 1999 and the Jury Prize at the Cannes