- De Santis, Giuseppe
- (1917-1997)Critic, screenwriter, director. Widely acknowledged as one of the founding fathers of neorealism, De Santis enrolled in directing at the Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia in 1941 and was soon one of the leading critical voices in the journal Cinema, which advocated a greater sense of realism in Italian films. This advocacy was put into practice in 1942 when he collaborated on the script and served as assistant director on the film that is generally regarded as the immediate forebearer of neorealism, Luchino Visconti's Ossessione (Obsession, 1943).In the immediate postwar period De Santis collaborated with Mario Serandrei, Luchino Visconti, Gianni Puccini, and others on the partisan documentary Giorni di Gloria (Days of Glory, 1945). He then made his directorial debut with Caccia tragica (Tragic Hunt, 1947), a film about the last days of the Resistance movement financed by the National Partisan Association (ANPI). A year later he achieved what would remain the greatest success of his career with Riso amaro (Bitter Rice, 1949), a film that daringly mixed a neorealist preoccupation with contemporary social conditions with the more popular elements of the American crime film and tragic melodrama. The film broke all box office records, launched the career of Silvana Mangano, and introduced a new upfront eroticism into Italian cinema. Despite his strongly theoretical background as a critic, De Santis proved to be an extremely eclectic director, making a wide range of films that included pastoral melodramas such as Non c'epace tra gli ulivi (No Peace under the Olive Tree, 1950), urban neorealist chronicles such as Roma ore 11 (Rome 11:00, 1952), the romantic rural fable of Giorni d'amore (Days of Love, 1954), and the epic Italiani brava gente (Attack and Retreat, 1964), a masterful recreation of the disastrous rout of the Italian army in Russia at the end of World War II. After this extraordinary film, and despite a host of projects, De Santis was strangely but consistently marginalized within the film industry. His only subsequent film, Un apprezzato professionista di sicuro avvenire (A Qualified Professional with an Assured Future, 1972), was very poorly received and generally panned. Nevertheless, after a long period of silence and neglect, his significant contribution to Italian cinema was finally recognized in 1995 when he was presented with a Golden Lion at the Venice Festival for his lifetime achievement.
Historical dictionary of Italian cinema. Alberto Mira. 2010.