Drama vs. Melodrama
When we’ve been unable to review a film ourselves, we’ve been forced to use other sources for reviews or plot synopses. Unfortunately, we’ve found a rather disheartening trend while doing so: that while films focusing on a man’s experience or emotional catharsis are typically described as “drama”, films focusing on a woman’s are inevitable downgraded to “melodrama”, “soap opera”, “weeper”, or in one case “romantic trivia”. (!) Leonard Maltin is a notorious example of this.
One of the reasons for this, in Italian films, is obvious: in the days before Italian neo-realism, the focus of films was largely emotional – it appealed to a passionate, emotional Italian audience. After the war, the focus shifted to the male war experience (war, savagry, brutality), and Italian neo-realism swept the Italian cinematic landscape. You’ll find that even now, with the limited exception of westerns and the Roman Empire “sandal” epics, most critics consider the only Italian cinematic trend of any merit to be neo-realism.
In the United States, our primary film critics have mostly been male, although there are some notable exceptions. We’re finding the need to re-review many of Rossano’s movies from a fresh prespective, not only as Rossano Brazzi fans, but as cinema fans refusing to accept condescension as the last word on a film because it doesn’t fit someone’s preconceived notions of what a “drama” should be.
Some of Rossano’s most famous films dealt with womens’ emotional catharses – women like: Katherine Hepburn in Summertime, Joan Fontaine and Christine Carrere in A Certain Smile, Jean Peters in Three Coins in the Fountain, Joan Crawford and Heather Sears in The Story of Esther Costello, Suzanne Pleshette in Rome Adventure. One of the few exceptions to the general dismissive attitude towards womens’ stories was the response to Alida Valli’s performance in Noi Vivi.
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