The Philosophy of Martin Scorsese

Topics: Italy, Italian language, Italian diaspora Pages: 375 (136242 words) Published: April 28, 2013
I Could Have Been a Contender A Semiotic Analysis of Representative Films on Italians Outside Italy


Antonio D’Alfonso

A thesis submitted in conformity with the requirement for the degree of PhD Graduate Department of Italian Studies University of Toronto

© Copyright by Antonio D’Alfonso 2012

D’Alfonso ii

I Could Have Been a Contender A Semiotic Analysis of Representative Films on Italians Outside Italy PhD 2012 Antonio D’Alfonso Graduate Department of Italian Studies University of Toronto

This thesis offers an in-depth analysis of five films (Pane e cioccolata, Queen of Hearts, L’Emmerdeur, Mediterraneo sempre, Raging Bull) which deal with the Italian reality outside of Italy. The segment-by-segment study of these works reveals overlapping themes that define parameters that can be used to define a deterritorialized culture which the author of this study names the Italic culture. The analytical system produced can help scholars and students to understand what constitutes the filmic narrative of ethnic films. The title of the thesis derives from a monologue spoken by Jake LaMotta in Raging Bull by Martin Scorsese, which is a paraphrase of another monologue said by Terry Malloy in On the Waterfront by Elia Kazan. Though the words of the speeches are similar, their meaning is different. What for Malloy was a need for success becomes for LaMotta a criticism of this success. Presented at once as a study of forms and a survey of cultural connotations, this investigation proposes a journey into the representative world created by immigrants and children of immigrants who, by refusing to disappear into sameness, question what it means to be Italian in the world today.

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I wish to express my gratitude to the University of Toronto and the Graduate Department of Italian Studies for the fellowship that made it possible for me to write this thesis in complete economic freedom. I would also like to acknowledge my appreciation to Dr. Salvatore Bancheri who, first, encouraged me to do a PhD. I thank Dr. Rocco Capozzi who read and commented the work throughout its various phases. I also would like to stress my thankfulness to Dr. Michael Lettieri and Dr. Francesco Guardiani for guiding me in my research on a so rich a topic; the courses and the insight of these professors made it possible for me to carry to a different dimension the ideas and hypotheses I have been writing about for the past forty years. Every professor teaching at the Department of Italian Studies provided me with the apparatus which enabled me to connect the various facets of the many peoples that have come to be known as Italians. I dedicate this thesis to Elisabeth Pouyfaucon with whom I spent years discussing and refining the ideas and methodology that became the backbone of my research.

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1. Introduction 2. Pane e cioccolata (1974), by Franco Brusati 3. L’Emmerdeur (1973), by Édouard Molinaro 4. Queen of Hearts (1989), by Jon Amiel 5. Mediterraneo sempre (2000), by Nicola Zavaglia 6. Raging Bull (1980), by Martin Scorsese 7. Conclusion Films Cited Works Cited



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D’Alfonso 1

Cinema is a weird profession. They discover you once you are dead. So, Manfredi, don’t worry. Just wait and see all the films they’ll want you to do when you’re dead and gone. Every director will be asking for you. Totò to Nino Manfredi, Jean A. Gili, Le cinéma italien (253)

What we emphatically do not want is that these distinctive qualities should be washed out into a tasteless, colorless fluid of uniformity. Randolph Bourne, “Trans-national America” (1916)

D’Alfonso 2


Grouping five disparate films directed by five unrelated artists, produced in five different countries, at various times, can, in many ways, be questionable on the artistic, social and political levels. Yet, as we...
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