Tuesday, May 18

Italy buries censorship in the cinema | Culture

Image of 'Saló or the 120 days of Sodom'.
Image of ‘Saló or the 120 days of Sodom’.

Giulio Andreotti, seven times Prime Minister of Italy and a skilled guide to political darkness, had other duties before becoming The celebrity who led the country. His silent and accurate way of seeing the world, however, always used the same optics. “Dirty clothes are washed at home”, he proclaimed during his time as Undersecretary of the Presidency and head of the entertainment sector on account of Italian neorealism and the film Umberto D, scored by Vittorio De Sica. According to the prince of a Christian Democracy who was already fighting against the Communist Party and exhibiting the reconstruction of the country after the war, that work offered a bad image abroad. “It is a terrible service to the country.” There were still times of post-fascism. But ten years later the law was approved that was still in force this week and that continued until recently modulating a long path of censorship and cuts in Italian cinema.

Italy has definitively disconnected the censoring machine. The law that allowed the imposition of the gag on certain films was liquidated this week by decree and replaced by a system of age ratings to be proposed by the producers and distributors themselves. “Film censorship is abolished and that system of control and intervention that still allowed the state to intervene on the freedom of artists has been definitively surpassed,” proclaimed the Minister of Culture, Dario Franceschini. A relative advance, since it basically scraps a law zombie and in disuse that, in addition, occurs just when movie theaters are closed in the middle of the pandemic. Precisely the historical moment in which there has been less material to censor.

The cuts were not in recent times a common practice either. Italy only used this instrument twice in the past 25 years, as the director general of Cinema, Nicola Borrelli, recalls. The last one was Morituris (2011), a horror film in which too much guts and blood were shown, according to the Ministry’s taste. “The problem is that there were particularly gory sequences, intestines, viscera, brains… But we thought it was something intentional. They made a good communication campaign at the expense of that. Very little was enough to satisfy the experts on the committee ”. That was the last case, remember on the phone.

Maria Schneider and Marlon Brando, in 'The last tango in Paris'.
Maria Schneider and Marlon Brando, in ‘The last tango in Paris’.

The previous case, with a bit more moral depth, had to do with comedy Toto lived twice. Here the film collided with the Church and with the chronic scandal at the blasphemy of a country that welcomes in its territory the Vatican and some of the most rigid Catholic customs. An argument similar to the one that had motivated so many other mutilations for years. The list of films denounced for an offense to morality is long (no more, without a doubt, than that of Spain in the Franco years). Pasolini, who was denounced for almost all his films and had to modify the script of Beggar (1961) or cut more than eight meters from Medea, holds the record: Mamma Roma (1962), Ricotta (1963), Theorem (1968), The Decameron (1971), The Canterbury Tales (1972) o Salò or the 120 days of Sodom (1975). But the inventory includes summits like Blow-up, by Antonioni or even The great feast, de Marco Ferreri.

The handling of the works of international and Italian filmmakers by the State experienced its peak during the fascist dictatorship (1922-1943), which used it as a propaganda weapon. It is true that the controls began to be diluted with the approval of the Republican Constitution of 1948, which recognized freedom of expression. But many directors remained under the yoke of the whims of the censors. Bernardo Bertolucci was one of his favorites with Twentieth century (1976) and especially with The last Tango in Paris (1972), whose works were destroyed alleging a crime of “obscenity” and whose director was deprived of his right to vote for five years.

The decree that now replaces the 1962 law will create a commission that will limit itself to cataloging the tapes by age. The commission will be made up of 49 members of “proven” professionalism from the cinematographic sector and will also have educators and associations of parents and animal lovers. If there were films that violate the rights of certain groups or could incite hatred or other crimes, there would always be the recourse of the ordinary courts, Borrelli recalls. “The penal code will always remain. Anyone can go to a judge and ask for what they see fit. But the important thing is that it can no longer be done with an administrative act through a ministry structure, “he says. After all, many think, censorship is already given in much more sophisticated ways than the scissors of the State.


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