ITAL 470

The first two things you will learn this semester: silent cinema was never silent, and it was almost never in black and white. The first film ever shown at the White House? A magnificent (and hugely influential) Italian film entitled Cabiria, which left a lasting impression on cinema for the ages, with scenes that continue to resurface even today. After the French invented moving pictures, and before the US came to dominate them, Italy enjoyed a brief golden age of dominance with classical melodramas like Cabiria, musclebound adventurous heroes like Maciste, cross-dressing air pirates like Filibus, and a suite of tragic (and sexually promiscuous) women who dominated the silver screen — and who literally invented the word “diva.” This semester we will explore both the classics and the oddities of the Italian silent era, delving into a strange late Victorian culture that is at times like being an anthropologist on another planet, and yet sets the stage for the world of moving pictures that we are immersed in today.