Palermo as a postmodern carnival: forms of resistance in the cinema of Ciprì and Maresco

PhD thesis

Longo, A. 2016. Palermo as a postmodern carnival: forms of resistance in the cinema of Ciprì and Maresco. PhD thesis Middlesex University Education
TypePhD thesis
TitlePalermo as a postmodern carnival: forms of resistance in the cinema of Ciprì and Maresco
AuthorsLongo, A.

This thesis aims to assess the originality, the aesthetic value and the ethical stance of Daniele Ciprì and Franco Maresco’s cinema through an examination of the representation of Palermo in their three feature-length films Lo zio di Brooklyn / The Uncle from Brooklyn (1995), Totò che visse due volte / Totò Who Lived Twice (1998) and Il ritorno di Cagliostro / The Return of Cagliostro (2003) and their works on video. The aim is to demonstrate how their cinema reflects a need to delve deeply into the most unsettling aspects of Sicilian society and acts as a form of resistance against dominant ideologies and sources of power.
In addition to areas traditionally related to film studies, the thesis encompasses perspectives ranging from anthropology, ecocriticism, philosophy and psychoanalysis to cultural, social and urban studies. It examines Ciprì and Maresco’s use of humour, drawing on Peter Sloterdijk’s studies on Kynicism, Luigi Pirandello’s concept of humour as ‘the art of the opposite’ and the carnivalesque as discussed by Ella Shohat and Robert Stam in their application of Mikhail Bakhtin’s studies to cinema.
Focusing on how representations of spatiality convey meanings and reflect the real city, Chapter 1, ‘Cityscapes’, deals with how urban aspects of contemporary Palermo have inspired Ciprì and Maresco’s vision of an enclosed archaic world of ruins and rubble, assessing the impact that the Second World War bombings and the remains of illegal buildings have had on Palermo and considering the phenomenon of the sprawling city. The investigation draws on Bakhtin’s notion of ‘chronotope’ with reference to studies on the road movie and flânerie.
Chapter 2, ‘Bodies’, investigates the most characteristic aspects of Ciprì and Maresco’s representation of the human body. It looks at the carnivalesque and the neo-baroque aspects of their cinema and examines how the conflictual relationships between sons and mothers in their all-male world leads to a constant need for sons to affirm their primacy as macho men. It also examines how their representation of masculinity is strongly identified with the feminine and concludes with a discussion on hunger and its association with death and the sacred.
Chapter 3 deals with identity and the concept of the Other seen in relation to a type of Sicilianity claimed by Ciprì and Maresco. It looks at how their representation of Palermo presents an autarchic world controlled by an all-powerful Mafia and a hybrid of Christianity and paganism coupled with an obsessive fear of the hereafter. Finally, it examines their use of mock-documentary, the influence of literary texts and the use of Italian subtitles for the Palermitan dialect spoken in their films, focusing on how dialect predominates relegating Italian to the language of the Other.
The conclusion includes a review of the directors’ poetics, focusing on what most characterises their vision of Palermo and evaluating the key findings that emerge from the thesis. It considers how their cinema fits into the context of contemporary art cinema and assesses their impact on Italian cinema, concluding with suggestions for further research.

Department nameEducation
Institution nameMiddlesex University
Publication dates
Print29 Apr 2016
Publication process dates
Deposited29 Apr 2016
Output statusPublished
Accepted author manuscript
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