That Federico neorealism?

Posted by · 5:47 am · November 29th, 2009

Marcello Mastroianni in La Dolce VitaOK, forgive the idle question that follows, but it’s a Sunday. Something has been bothering me about the lyrics to Kate Hudson’s “Cinema Italiano” number from “Nine”:

I feel my body chill
Gives me a special thrill
Each time I see that Guido neorealism
I love the dark handsome guys
With the skinny little ties
Dressed mod, looking out of sight…

And so on and so forth, as Hudson sings the praises of “shades in the middle of the night,” “the essence of Italian style” and Rome nightlife. You don’t need a PhD in film studies to gather that Fellini’s “La Dolce Vita” is the key reference point here.

Neither do you need such a degree to know that “La Dolce Vita” marked the director’s crucial departure from the working-class concerns of his earlier neorealist work. So when the song inaccurately equates Italian neorealism with these glamorous visual trappings, is that intended as an ironic comment on the Hudson character’s vapid ignorance? (She is a fashion journalist, I get that.) Or is the lyricist’s error?

Can someone who’s seen the film enlighten me? It’s a minor point, but it’s been gnawing at me.

→ 19 Comments Tags: , , , , | Filed in: Daily

19 responses so far

  • 1 11-29-2009 at 6:06 am

    Ziyad Abul Hawa said...

    Sorry about the off-topic, The GOLDEN SATELLITES AWARDS Nominees:

    Motion Picture, Drama

    The Hurt Locker
    Bright Star
    An Education
    The Messenger
    Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire
    The Stoning of Soraya M.

    Motion Picture, Comedy or Musical

    Julie & Julia
    The Informant!
    A Serious Man
    It’s Complicated
    Up in the Air

    Actress In A Motion Picture, Drama

    Emily Blunt, The Young Victoria
    Abbie Cornish, Bright Star
    Carey Mulligan, An Education
    Shohreh Aghdashloo, The Stoning of Soraya M.
    Catalina Saavedra, The Maid
    Penélope Cruz, Broken Embraces

    Actor In A Motion Picture, Drama

    Johnny Depp, Public Enemies
    Hugh Dancy, Adam
    Jeremy Renner, The Hurt Locker
    Jeff Bridges, Crazy Heart
    Michael Sheen, The Damned United
    Colin Firth, A Single Man

    Actress In A Motion Picture, Comedy Or Musical

    Meryl Streep, Julie & Julia
    Zooey Deschanel, (500) Days of Summer
    Katherine Heigl, The Ugly Truth
    Sandra Bullock, The Proposal
    Marion Cotillard, Nine

    Actor In A Motion Picture, Comedy Or Musical

    Daniel Day-Lewis, Nine
    Bradley Cooper, The Hangover
    Matt Damon, The Informant!
    Michael Stuhlbarg, A Serious Man
    George Clooney, Up in the Air

    Actress In A Supporting Role

    Emily Blunt, Sunshine Cleaning
    Mozhan Marnò, The Stoning of Soraya M.
    Mo’nique, Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire
    Anna KendrickUp in the Air
    Penélope Cruz, Nine

    Actor In A Supporting Role

    Christoph Waltz, Inglourious Basterds
    Alfred Molina, An Education
    Woody Harrelson, The Messenger
    James McAvoy, The Last Station
    Timothy Spall, The Damned United

    Motion Picture, Animated Or Mixed Media

    Where the Wild Things Are
    Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
    The Princess and the Frog
    Fantastic Mr. Fox
    Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs

    Motion Picture, Foreign Language Film

    Red Cliff
    The Maid
    The White Ribbon
    Broken Embraces
    I Killed My Mother
    Winter in Wartime


    Neill Blomkamp, District 9
    Rob Marshall, Nine
    Kathryn Bigelow, The Hurt Locker
    Lee Daniels, Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire
    Jane Campion, Bright Star
    Lone Scherfig, An Education

  • 2 11-29-2009 at 6:28 am

    Guy Lodge said...

    Where did you find these, Ziyad? I’m looking for a full list, but can’t find one.

  • 3 11-29-2009 at 6:36 am

    Encore Entertainment said...

    Okay. I love me some Kate Heigl, but in a world where the vapid and The Ugly Truth is nominated for comedy actress [and ANY AWARD] over Pfeiffer in Cheri is just nasty. And not even Julia in Duplicity? I used to love the Satellites…but…

    I haven’t seen Precious…but the lack of Sidibe is interesting. Satellite Drama winners usually make it to Oscar lineup.

    And in answer to the post, didn’t see Nine, but I have a feeling it’s a deliberate way of showing the silliness of the character.

  • 4 11-29-2009 at 6:37 am

    Jim T said...

    Guy, I’m taking a long shot. She just heard about the term and what it means and she threw it out there without caring much.

    Satellite people, COME ON! Have you actually seen the movies? Even the ones that have already been released. The “The Stoning of Soraya M.” is an interesting choice but “It’s Complicated”?

  • 5 11-29-2009 at 6:38 am

    Encore Entertainment said...

    And no Coraline. WHAAAAAAAAAAT?
    Okay…I’m done. I promise.

  • 6 11-29-2009 at 6:40 am

    Ziyad Abul Hawa said...


  • 7 11-29-2009 at 6:46 am

    Ziyad Abul Hawa said...

    There are more awards on the website as well…

    Mary Pickford Award For Outstanding Artistic Contribution To The Entertainment Industry
    Michael York
    Tesla Award In Recognition Of Visionary Achievement In Filmmaking Technology
    Roger Deakins
    Auteur Award
    Roger Corman

    Nine The Weinstein Company

    True Blood HBO

    Kristin Chenoweth for Glee

    Gabourey Sidibe for Precious: Based on the Novel “Push” by Sapphire

    10 BEST FILMS OF 2009 – [ listed alphabetically ]
    – (500) Days of Summer
    – A Serious Man
    – An Education
    – Bright Star
    – Inglourious Basterds
    – Nine
    – Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire
    – The Hurt Locker
    – The Stoning of Soraya M.
    – Up in the Air

  • 8 11-29-2009 at 6:48 am

    Jim T said...

    I haven’t seen “The Young Victoria” or “The Last Station” but Blunt instead of Swinton or Mirren???? I guess they just adore her. Two nominations!?!

  • 9 11-29-2009 at 7:00 am

    Jim T said...

    James McAvoy in supporting? Not a good thing for Plummer…

  • 10 11-29-2009 at 7:00 am

    Guy Lodge said...

    Ziyad: Thanks. Will add.

    Everyone: There’s a post on the Satellites up now, so please move the discussion to there!

  • 11 11-29-2009 at 7:02 am

    Erik said...

    I didn’t take it as her character equating the one with the other, I took it as her listing things she likes about Guido / Italy: she likes the handsome guys in the skinny ties AND she likes the neorealism (without necessarily assuming they are the same thing, though maybe she is quite stupid and does think so).

  • 12 11-29-2009 at 10:46 am

    Paul Outlaw said...

    They just read like bad lyrics to me…

  • 13 11-29-2009 at 10:50 am

    Guy Lodge said...

    Well, that too.

  • 14 11-29-2009 at 11:39 am

    Nigel Bridgeman said...

    The only thing I’ve really gotten out of the whole Nine thing (apart from those posters of Penelope Cruz) is that it’s reminded me that I’ve never seen a Fellini film.

    Gee, that’s a poorly constructed sentence. Sorry, just woke up.

    Oh, and I really like “Cinema Italiano”.

  • 15 11-29-2009 at 5:05 pm

    Nick said...

    “You don’t need a PhD in film studies to gather that Fellini’s “La Dolce Vita” is the key reference point here.”

    Or, you know, 8 1/2 which is what Nine is based on. How is Dolce Vita a reference point when the thing is freakin musical remake of 8 1/2?

    As for Fellini being a Neorealist, Fellini was NEVER a neorealist. You can make claims that films like La Strada or Nights in Cabiria have neorealist influences, but they’re also based heavily the performance and circus atomsphere that defines Fellini’s works.

    It’s pretty clear to me that the lyricist for this god awful piece of cultural garbage threw it in because he or she had heard the term. Guido in 8 1/2 makes movies like Fellini, like 8 1/2, and if this ridiculous remake falls inline with that, then Guido ain’t no neorealist.

    I know this just a silly little Oscar blog, but why do you feel qualified to write about movies when you haven’t seen any of them.

  • 16 11-29-2009 at 5:28 pm

    qwiggles said...

    Easy, Nick. I think Guy is right that La dolce vita seems to be the reference point — not a lot of skinny tie action and mod outfits in 8 1/2. But then again, there isn’t in LDV either: it’s just been misremembered that way, and is actually pretty critical of the lifestyle this song seems to be championing.

    I’d chalk both this sloppy referencing and complete misreading of “neorealism” up to what looks like the idiocy of the film’s fetishistic appropriation of ‘Italian’ culture in general.

    What is this cinema Italiano she’s yammering about? What filmmaker matches the style she’s describing? Antonioni, maybe? The mod part, at least. But not a lot of razzle dazzle going on there. Certainly not in Fellini. Who else could they have in mind?

    Going back to the musical, what the hell does “Be[ing] Italian” consist of?

    “Be a singer! (Be a singer)
    Be a lover! (Be a lover)
    Pick the flower now before the chance is past.
    (Before the chance is past)
    Be Italian, (Be Italian)
    You rapscallion! (You rapscallion)
    Live today as if it may become your last!”

    Seriously? I’m shocked they didn’t throw in a couple of “gooda for yous” and “bella pizza pie-as” and “linguini zucchinis.”

  • 17 11-29-2009 at 5:37 pm

    Guy Lodge said...

    @Nick: Yes, “Nine” is a riff on “8 1/2” — I hardly think that needs to be reiterated by this point. But just as “8 1/2” was Fellini’s meditation of sorts on his career to that point, it doesn’t seem inconceivable to me that “Nine” would expand its range of references beyond one film — and these lyrics seem to me to evoke the milieu of “La Dolce Vita” more than anything else. (The Stephanie character is, after all, singing about Contini/Fellini’s oeuvre rather than the film at hand.)

    As for Fellini’s own relationship with neorealism, you bring up a fair point — I did rather iron out some kinks in the argument for the sake of convenience, and there’s certainly much to discuss regarding the neorealist grey area of a film like, say, “Il bidone.”

    However, when you begin the conversation in such an impolite way, you’ll understand if I don’t feel obliged to engage further.

    As for your last comment, given that I’m not actually writing about “Nine” as a film, I’m not sure why you’re throwing such a hissy fit. If, on the other hand, you’re implying that I haven’t seen any Fellini films, I don’t have a smart reply, I’m afraid — I’ll simply say that you’re mistaken.

    Finally, I’m sorry you feel this is just a silly little Oscar blog. It rather invites the question of why you’re wasting your time here.

  • 18 11-30-2009 at 10:42 pm

    Nick said...

    Sorry for the tone, wasn’t neccesary. Thanks for taking the time to respond anyway though. Much of this blog extends beyond hyping and does take a real look at the elements of filmmaking in a way that avoids hype, as I’ve seen in some of the best of the decade posts, so again, sorry for coming off like an ass. My anger towards Nine was projected on this blog, won’t happen again.

  • 19 12-01-2009 at 1:34 am

    Guy Lodge said...

    Apology noted and appreciated, Nick.