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Great Directors: Roberto Rossellini

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The son of a prominent Italian architect, Roberto, together with his brother Renzo and his sisters Marcela and Micaela (the three of them younger than him), had the comfortable but not too ostentatious upbringing of children of bourgeois homes in a social environment where aristocracy, though completely ruined and decadent, still held a prestigious and not only decorative status – as a mummified ideal of excellence. Raised pre-War World II, in a society whose Christian traditionalism somehow 'delayed' the effects of the modernization process, Rossellini as a child and teenager lived out the same process portrayed by Proust along his youth and middle age – though with the Italian particularities depicted by Rossellini's contemporary Luchino Visconti in Il Gatopardo (The Leopard, 1963). He developed thus under this 19th century bourgeois conception of the world, its heritage clearly evident in his lifelong practical and active interest for invention.

His ideological horizon – regardless of his personal interests or beliefs – was the closest possible to the one in which cinema as an apparatus had its roots – the generation whose grandparents witnessed the arrival of photography, the generation that invented cinema. Yet his work is neither a sequel nor a return to Lumière, but an important testimony to the conflicts this tradition faced when all its dreams equating technological progress with human welfare broke down. From that moment on, not only was the social idea of technology entirely altered, but also cinema's place, function and bonds to society.

About Senses of Cinema:

Senses of Cinema is an online journal devoted to the serious and eclectic discussion of cinema. We believe cinema is an art that can take many forms, from the industrially-produced blockbuster to the hand-crafted experimental work; we also aim to encourage awareness of the histories of such diverse forms. As an Australian-based journal, we have a special commitment to the regular, wide-ranging analysis and critique of Australian cinema, past and present. Senses of Cinema is primarily concerned with ideas about particular films or bodies of work, but also with the regimes (ideological, economic and so forth) under which films are produced and viewed, and with the more abstract theoretical and philosophical issues raised by film study.

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