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on 11 January 2006
Books on Italian Cinema usually follow a well-set formula: dedicate most of the work to neo-realism and throw in Fellini, and the darker works of Visconti and Cavani, for a neat summary of the 'best' its national cinema has to offer.
Wood's book offers a refreshing change of direction here. Whilst she quite rightly addresses these (they are key milestones in Italian cinema after all), what signals a new direction is her recognition of Italian genre cinema. So it is that the Peplum cycle, Italian horror and even the films of Bud Spencer and Terence Hill all get a worthy mention. About time, too.
As is the market is full of books that deal with classical Italian cinema and seem to forget the last thirty years. I'm pleased to say Wood's book is very much a living thing, recognising the both the depth and breadth of all Italy has to offer the silver screen. Highly recommended.
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on 24 July 2012
Mary P Wood: Italian Cinema (2005)

Italian Cinema presents an overview and analysis of one of the most prolific and influential of national cinemas. Italian film has always drawn on a wide range of popular themes - from ancient history to the mafia, the family, the Risorgimento, terrorism, corruption and immigration - and on an equally diverse range of film genres - from comedy to westerns, horror, soft-porn, epics and thrillers. Commercial constraints, state and European funding, international competition, as much as cultural and political trends, have all influenced the sorts of film that get made and exported. Outlining the artistic, cultural, technical and commercial context of film, Italian Cinema presents a history from silent to contemporary film. As well as illuminating the work of classic directors such as Visconti, Fellini, Rossellini, Antonioni and Rosi, the book explores the interaction between art and popular cinema, visual style and spectacle, space and architecture, gender representations and politics. (Publisher's Description)

Having read the book, I went to the amazon reference for placing my review. Only then did I realise that so far, there were only two reviews of the book, four years and as many stars apart, with titles as follows,
5 stars (2006) A refreshing overview of Italian Cinema in all its forms, and
1 star (2010) One of the most ill informed works on Italian Cinema.
I have since read both reviews and, star-wise, side with the earlier review, ie five.

For a change, I felt, a text of cross section type rather than the chronological narrative, offering analysis by topic. Not covering everything, but relating times and their films well, and following up developments on a subject - say masculinity - over various periods and in various genres. No evidence, to me, of lacking professional competence; on the contrary, a well written text with ample space per page to rest one's mind, and a well chosen, witty selection of illustrations.

fbus 50 - Mary P Wood: Italian Cinema (2005) - 24/7/2012
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on 19 March 2010
Mary Wood has chosen to break away from the traditional works of Italian cinema, which tend to solely focus on the importance of the Neorealist movement and other art house cinemas, giving instead consideration to some of the 'lesser' and more popular cinemas of the past 65 years or so such as the horror, peplum, giallo and western.

The problem with Wood is that her research and knowledge of these popular cinemas is extremely limited and her notions and conclusions are extremely easy to discredit upon researching the given topics. Wood's resources also appear extremely limited, particularly in her discussions of the horror and giallo cycle, which beg the question of whether she has even watched more than two films from each cycle (and if not why has she included chapters on them that are incredibly wide of the mark?)

As for her work on the neorealist and arthouse movements, these have already been covered in more detail and through better work by authors such as Peter Bondanella, whose extensive works leave this book looking extremely poor in comparison.
This book really doesn't seem to know what it wants to say, and is a particularly disappointing and poorly informed effort.

Avoid at all costs.
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