Cinema, Gender, and Everyday Space: Comedy, Italian Style by Natalie Fullwood

By Natalie Fullwood

Commedia all'italiana, or Comedy, Italian kind, turned well known at a time of significant social switch. This booklet, using comedies produced in Italy from 1958-70, examines the genre's illustration of gender within the daily areas of shorelines and nightclubs, workplaces, autos, and kitchens, in the course of the exploration of key spatial motifs.

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I explore some of the key ways in which the genre has been debated in the past, especially regarding the status of auteurs and the genre’s supposed vocation of social critique, and I outline the way in which my gendered and spatial approach to the genre differs from, and moves beyond, previous work. Comedy, Italian Style: A Genre? There is a growing body of scholarship about this group of popular comedies, yet it is fair to say that there is still considerable ongoing debate about the exact nature of the genre.

This is an essential point. In my approach to space and gender, I see neither concept as the dominant one from which the other flows. Instead, I understand space and gender as interdependent constructs that produce each other. This happens in a myriad of complex ways through a variety of social systems and structures. It is my contention that mass media representations such as those of the cinema are one conduit that facilitates the mutually constitutive relationship between space and gender. Space and gender are interlinked social constructs that have very real impacts on lived realities, but they nonetheless remain constructs, and therefore subject to change through their constant need to be renegotiated and maintained.

The film gives much more attention to Manfredi’s performance than Spaak’s. He discusses narrative developments with a friend, whereas Spaak’s character has no similar outlet to voice her schemes. The film also offers ample opportunities for Manfredi to display his comic performance skills. Particularly memorable is the sequence toward the end of the film with Manfredi in drag, as he tries to stop Spaak from sleeping with a company executive by seducing the man himself. Manfredi makes a very successful performance of femininity.

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