My research moves from films, and addresses their stylistic forms, their relation to the cultural forms of modernity, and their spectatorship. It tries to combine studies of texts, studies of context, and studies of audience, interweaving semiotics, cultural studies and reception studies.
Relocations. Thanks to convergence, media now overlap and merge. We read the newspaper on a PC, we listen to the radio on our cellphone, we watch a movie on a TV set. This does not mean that media have reached their end: although they no longer depend on a specific apparatus, they still have an identity, linked to the specific experience they offer. Newspapers survive even without paper, because there continues to exist a certain way of narrating the world. Radio survives, because we still engage in a certain way of listening to reality. Cinema survives because there still exists a certain way of wathcting things. Relocation designates the movement through which media migrate to new environments and to new devices, where they reenact their basic mode of experience. The concept of relocation is important for at least three reasons within the context of the digital revolution: it focuses on permanence within a great process of change; it highlights the experiential dimension over the technological one; and it reveals the relevance of a spatial dimension – where space acts both as a phisical environment and as techno-virtual setting.
- Cinema Lost and Found: Trajectories of Relocation. Screening the Past, No. 32, ‘Screen Attachments.’
- Back to the Motherland: the film theatre in the postmedia age. Screen, No. 52 (1), Spring 2011: 1-12.
- The Last Supper in Piazza della Scala. Cinéma&Cie, No. 11 (Fall 2008): 7-14.
- Filmic Experience. Screen, No. 50 (1), Spring 2009: 56-66.
- Elsewhere. The Relocation of Art. In Valencia09/Confines, Vaelncia: INVAM, 2009: 348-351.
Experience. There are at least three good reasons why we should place the filmic experience at the center of our attention. The first is that the seeing of a film, in the different ways that this may occur, while on one hand may constitute a particular experience, on the other hand, impresses and redirects our experience in general. Or finally how cinema highlights unprecedented aspects, previously ignored, which sanction the reinterpretation of reality in light of what appears on the screen. In sum, the common and everyday vision often finds itself following the example of filmic vision, to the point of becoming a “cinematographic” vision, demanding of the real cinematography in order to be truly apprehended. Cinema therefore is the site of an experience which has reshaped the meaning of experience.
Communicative Negotiations. In this paper I will deal with narrative, clearness, and transparency – with the aim of understanding what we mean by the expression “a realistic film” or, if you will, with “cinematic realism.”
The book Eye of the Century. Film, experience, modernity (New York: Columbia University Press, 2008; originally L’occhio del Novecento. Cinema, esperienza, modernità. Milano: Bompiani, 2005) connects the different perspectives of Casetti’s research. Through a broad-ranging analysis of film and a scrutiny of the film theories prevalent during the first four decades of the twentieth century, the book claims that cinema was able to negotiate between different stances of modernity. The result is a cinematic vision that—in permitting and permeating opposites—is modelled on the figure of the oxymoron. Namely, in the filmic gaze tensions of time found points of compromise—even if these compromises were often unbalanced—and the choices of modernity were “softened.”
The concept of negotiation, explored in Communicative Negotiation in Cinema and Television (Milano: V&P, 2002), provides a general framework in order to understand both the dynamics with which the audio-visual text pre-forms and responds the expectations and needs of a spectator, and the way in which the text inserts itself into a cultural context. Chinese (partial), 交际谈判的电影及电视, World Cinema, No. 2, 2004: 21-41.
A large and historical account of film theories is provided by Theories of Cinema. 1945-1995 (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1999; originally Teorie del cinema. 1945-1990, Milano: Bompiani, 1991; with translations also into Spanish, French, and Hungarian). The study reconfigures the post-war debate about cinema, seeking not only to give attention to its major authors, but to construct a cultural history of the research. The underlying hypothesis is that from 1945 there were three successive and major “styles of thought” about the cinema. They correspond to three major theoretical generations and to the three distinct institutional frameworks within which research was undertaken (film journals, film departments, media and cultural studies). The interest for the history of film theory is also reflected in the large essay “L’immagine del montaggio” (“The image of montage”, introduction to Eisenstein’s Montaz 37, translated in Italian as Teoria generale del montaggio, Venezia: Marsilio, 1985), and in the more recent essay “Theory, Post-theory, Neo-theories: Changes in Discourses, Change in Objects” (Cinémas, Vol. 17, No. 2-3, Spring 2007: 33-45).
The book Inside the Gaze: The Fiction Film and Its Spectator (Bloomington-Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 1999; originally Dentro lo sguardo. Il film e il suo spettatore, Milano: Bompiani, 1986; translations also in French and Spanish, and winner of the Best Italian Film Book Award of the year) is a large inquiry in different forms of gaze provided by film, and a an attempt to answer the question how film addresses and pre-forms its spectator, in a dynamic and open dialogue. The book goes through the analysis of numerous films, as well as through a re-reading of spectatorship theories from ’50s to ’80s.
I devoted my critical attention to methodology in film and audio-visual text studies in a number of volumes, largely used as text-books in Italian film and communication programs: Analisi del film and Analisi della televisione (Analysis of Film and Analysis of Television, Milano: Bompiani, 1990 and 1998, both written with Federico di Chio; translations in Spanish).
The book Bernardo Bertolucci (Firenze: La Nuova Italia, 1975) reviews the work of the director, highlighting the major themes and the principle of construction in each film. Close analyses are also developed in a series of monographs on Italian films after the Second World War. This includes an analysis of Visconti’s The Earth Trembles (“Per un’analisi testuale”, in L. Miccichè (ed.), La terra trema. Analisi di un capolavoro, Torino: Lindau, 1993), De Sica’s Sciuscià (“Lo spazio instabile” in L. Micciché (ed.), Sciuscià di Vittorio De Sica, Torino: Lindau, 1994), and Visconti’s The Leopard (“Dialoghi e cerimoniali” in L. Miccichè (ed.), Il Gattopardo, Napoli: Electa Napoli/CSC, 1996).
- B. Testa, Film Theory and Enunciation. The Semiotics Review of Books, Vol. 12.3, Spring/Summer 2002: 7-18.
- W. Buckland, The last word on filmic enunciation? Semiotica, No. 135, 2001: 211-226.
- G. Muscio, R. Zemignan, Francesco Casetti and Italian Film Semiotics. Cinema Journal, No. 2, Vol. 30 (Winter 1991): 23-46.