Cinema and Sicily
Sicily has always been a great open-air film set. From the countryside to the sea, from the cities of art to the historic residences, the island has been the favourite destination of great directors who have immortalised it with their cameras.
Already at the beginning of the century, in 1911 in Palermo, the Industrie Cinematografiche Lucarelli (Lucarelli Film Industries) was set up, and in 1913, in Catania, Morgana Film by the playwright Nino Martoglio, to name but two.
Cinema seems to be the natural evolution of literary and theatrical works. Writers of the calibre of Verga, Pirandello and others took an interest in the nascent film industry through short films and screenplays. Many directors and screenwriters were inspired by literary works and some films were adapted from novels and short stories by Verga and Pirandello, as well as De Roberto, Capuana, Brancati, Tomasi di Lampedusa, Ercole Patti, Sciascia, Vittorini and many others.
Moreover, we should not forget the many children of Sicilian immigrants, from Frank Capra to Al Pacino, who became superstars of the cinema and dedicated moving tributes to their old homeland.
Neorealism saw many notable movies filmed here in the 1940s and 1950s. Think of Luchino Visconti’s La Terra Trema, which made the real life sailors of Acitrezza protagonists in an extraordinarily innovative way, as in the realist novel I Malavoglia (The House by the Medlar Tree). Also of note are Mauro Bolognini’s Bell’Antonio, inspired by Brancati’s novel of the same name and set in Catania, Carmine Gallone’s Cavalleria Rusticana with Anthony Quinn, Luchino Visconti’s The Leopard, from 1973, with an extraordinary cast: Alain Delon, Burt Lancaster, Claudia Cardinale and the unforgettable ballroom scene filmed at Palazzo Valguarnera-Gangi in Palermo.
In the same period, other classics such as Michelangelo Antonioni’s The Adventure (discover the itinerary dedicated to the director’s masterpiece), set in the beautiful scenery of Lipari. Also in the Aeolian Islands, the same location for the extraordinary cinematographic enterprise of Prince Francesco Alliata di Villafranca who, with his Panaria Film and using equipment that was futuristic for its time, made underwater documentaries. And finally the film Volcano with Anna Magnani.
Let’s not forget Divorce Italian Style by Pietro Germi, Salvatore Giuliano by Francesco Rosi and To Each His Own with Gian Maria Volontè, inspired by a work by Sciascia.
In the 1970s it was the turn of, among others, The Seduction of Mimi by Lina Wertmuller, The Godfather – Part II – and Malicious by Salvatore Samperi, with Laura Antonelli.
The 1980s saw Kaos by the Taviani brothers and the first major Oscar winner for “Best Foreign Language Film” and a worldwide success, Cinema Paradiso by Giuseppe Tornatore in 1988, a great homage to cinema and a colourful Sicily, full of unforgettable characters.
These were also the years of fiction and of the scourge of the Mafia, also brought to the small screen: the famous La Piovra, by Damiano Damiani with Michele Placido and Barbara De Rossi, which has now been broadcast in ten series.
In addition to Tornatore’s film, Sicily also made its mark internationally for Michael Cimino’s The Sicilian starring Christopher Lambert and, above all, Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather – Part III starring Al Pacino, the last instalment of cinema’s most famous saga.
In the 1990s, Sicily remained a much-appreciated set for the second part set in the Aeolian Islands of Nanni Moretti’s Dear Diary, Roberto Benigni’s Johnny Stecchino, which won an award at Cannes, and Il Postino: The Postman, the last film by an extraordinary Massimo Troisi with a great Philippe Noiret, which was nominated for five Oscars in 1996, winner of Best Dramatic Score by Luis Bacalov and offers splendid landscapes of Salina, in the Aeolian Islands.
The island as a set today is identified above all with the fictional city of Vigata from Inspector Montalbano, the ruler of the small screen showcasing the extraordinary charm and light of the baroque heart of the Val di Noto such as Ragusa Ibla, Modica, Vittoria, Scicli, Donnalucata and Punta Secca. And the most avid fans will certainly not miss the opportunity to set off on a journey following the itinerary dedicated to Montalbano.
There are also Tornatore’s stories with Malena and Baarìa, the surreal stories of Daniele Ciprì and Franco Maresco with Totò Who Lived Twice and The Return of Cagliostro, tributes to Italian Verismo with Cavalleria Rusticana by Franco Zeffirelli, La Lupa by Gabriele Lavia and The Viceroys by Roberto Faenza, and finally Marco Tullio Giordana’s One Hundred Steps, set and filmed in Cinisi, in the province of Palermo.
The comedy genre, which was once represented by film characters such as Franco and Ciccio, is now being revived with the satirical films of Ficarra and Picone and Pif.
Now that cinematic Sicily holds no more secrets for you, literary Sicily awaits!
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