Neo-Realism and New Wave Cinematography

Categories: CinematographyRealism

Before the Indies and the French New Wave, the Italian Neo-realism wagered the new cinematic territory. One of the blanket terms that mean so much to people, neo-realism really has very few absolutes; however, there are some elements that set this Italian version definitely apart. Poet and screenwriter Cesare Zavattini was the one who wrote the actual manifesto that serves as the guide of neo-realism films; however, these creations were merely a result of chance, fluke, and timing.

Without a doubt, the greatest influence of Neo-Realism was the so-called “anti-Fascism” that marked the immediate postwar period of the 2nd World War.

Introduction The important elements of Neo-realism are its emphasis on the reality, real lives, a largely or entirely non-professional cast, and a focus on groups and collectivity rather than individuality. Solidarity is very important, together with the implicit criticism of status quo. The story and plot come organically and naturally from the episodes and they often turn on even the tiny moments.

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Cinematically, the Italian neo-realism pushed the filmmakers out of their studio and to the streets, the freed-up camera, and more vernaculars, the emphasis that drives away from fantasy and fiction to reality. The French New Wave on the other hand, was a movement that lasted for 5 years from 1959 till 1984. It was started by an underground organization called Cinematheque Francois. The organization regularly showed films, particularly the older ones, from all over the world.

This paved way on cine-club and by the early 1954; there were already 100,000 members in around 200 clubs.

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Several magazines were written and published from these clubs; the most famous ones were La Revue du Cinema, Postif, L’Ecran Francois, and the world famous Cahiers du Cinema. One of the most influential personalities during the French New Wave era was Alexandre Astruc who believed that the cinema or films are more and more becoming a great way of expressing something like the other forms of arts, especially novel and painting. Cinema is not a spectacle anymore.

It’s no longer a diversion that is equivalent to an old boulevard theater. For Astruc, cinema is little by little becoming a visual language or a medium by which and in which an artists can freely express his ideas, thoughts, and opinions, whether they are abstract or whatever, or a way in which the artist can freely and ultimately communicate his obsessions and desires as accurately and concisely as he can in today’s novel or essay. During the outbreak of the 2nd World War, Italy had been under the hefty thumb of Benito Mussolini since 1924.

During his heydays in 1930, swaggered productions were set in tony nightclubs, big hotels, and even ocean liners and these made up the so-called “white-telephone movies” which were the shorthand term for the decadent Deco interiors. The protagonist always found a way for his insipid dilemmas and the current Italian style as easy and as unchallenging as the blowing bubbles were. There were some American imports which were equally unreflective as the Italian realities. To describe this period, Federico Fellini said that for his generation who were born in the 1920s, the movies were very much America.

The American movies were actually more seductive and more effective as they showed where the paradise on earth was, and that is in the country called America. Whether the movies were being shown on the Roman past’s glories, the fascist future of the America, a country which was unreal outside the cinema, the Italians saw the images that actually reflected the people’s lives. In the early 1935s, Leo Longanesi, an anti-Fascist journalist urged the directors to go into the barracks, into the streets, train stations, and only in this way that an Italian cinema can be born.

Aside from the political realities, it is important to remember that the country Italy was in the very first stage of the huge transition from rural agriculture to urban manufacturing. People were struggling because the miracle on their economy was still over many decades away. However, some films showed this and paradoxically, everything were under the complete control and dictatorship of the regime. Going back to the French New Wave, what Astruc was saying on the first part of the paper was that the cinema was as personal as literature and paintings instead of merely a show.

The most influential on the period of the French New Wave was Andre Bazin who just like Astruc believed firmly that the cinema is very much like a novel. He believed on the deep focus of the Soviet Montage, a composition whose depth is very much seen as an egalitarian in such a way that virtually everything in that frame exist with so much clarity; thereby providing the spectator an optimum choice: the human eyes free to roam from the foreground to the background and everywhere else around. It is also very close to how we actually perceive and off-screen life, reintroducing ambiguity in the structure of an image.

Bazin was also a champion in the Italian Neo-realism movement because of his revolutionary humanism and it is in improvisational style, location shooting, use of non-actress and non-actors, and for its long takes. Around 1950, Andre Bazin established the Cahier du Cinema, a very popular magazine that was a champion in Film’s true author. At this magazine, Bazin developed and improved the director’s theory as the author of his own film. It was called the Auteur. He chartered the major parts of film studies thereby effectively creating the authorship and the discipline which led Andre Bazin to develop and enhance the politique des auteurs.

For many Italians, films falling under the Neo-Realism category place images to the Resistance ideas. In the film called “Cinema and Bianco e Nero”, the writers called for a type of cinema that was very much like the verismo or realism of the literature. This started in the 19th century as a literary movement which was ater on expanded by Italo Calvino, Alberto oravia, Pier Paolo Pasolini, Cesare Pavese, all of which wrote for the movies or cinemas as well. Even though the philosophical ideas informed about the Italian Neo-Realism, it is almost equal to a cinematic creation.

Just like what Calvino pointed out, the neo-realists are well aware of what was music was about not as the libretto. The aim here was not to record all the social problems in the society but to actually express them in a completely new way. The Cahier du Cinema combined the leading French film enthusiasts and critics of the Jean-Luc Godard, Francois Truffaut, Eric Rohmer, Claude Chabrol, and Jacques Rivette who started devouring the older movies, particularly silent films like Italian Neo-realism, German Expressionism, thirties French films, and particularly the American studio films that were specially banned during the Nazi occupation.

Because of this, they learned to adore directors like John Ford and Howard Hawks, the American masters who were almost ignored in the country not until the French critics made their artistry case. They also made the world become familiar with the genre. Some of these genres are the Gangster Films, Musicals, Film Noir, and Western Films. References: Keohane, N. (1986) Neorealism and Its Critics. Columbia University Press.

Updated: Jul 07, 2022
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Neo-Realism and New Wave Cinematography. (2016, Sep 12). Retrieved from

Neo-Realism and New Wave Cinematography essay
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