Nationality: Italian. Born: Finale Ligure (Savona), 4 September 1913. Education: Educated in Argentina to 1925, then in Geneva; studied architecture in Milan. Career: Journalist, then scriptwriter for Camerini, Genina, Soldati, and Blasetti in 1930s; assistant to Blasetti, 1940; directed first film, Un Colpo di pistola, 1941. Awards: Best Film, Venice Festival, for Sotto il sole di Roma, 1948; Best Film, Cannes Festival, for Due Soldi di speranza, 1952; Golden Lion, Venice Festival, for Giulietta e Romeo, 1954. Died: 28 December 1985.
Films as Director:
Un Colpo di pistola (+ co-sc)
Zaza (+ sc)
La Donna del Montagna (+ sc)
Mio Figlio Professore (Professor My Son) (+ co-sc)
Sotto il sole di Roma (Under the Sun of Rome) (+ sc)
E'primavera (It's Forever Springtime) (+ co-sc)
Due Soldi di speranza (Two Cents Worth of Hope) (+ sc)
Giulietta e Romeo (Romeo and Juliet) (+ sc)
I sogni nel cassetto (+ sc)
Nella città l'inferno (And the Wild, Wild Women) (+ co-sc)
Il Brigante (+ sc)
Mare Matto (+ co-sc)
"La Vedova" episode of Tre notti di amore (Three Nights of Love) (+ co-sc): "Una Donna d'Afari" episode of Controsesso (+ co-sc)
Questi fantasmi (Ghosts Italian Style) (+ co-sc)
Una breve stagione (+ co-sc)
Leonardo da Vinci (condensed from five-part TV series) (+ co-sc)
L'oròlogio a Cucu (Mastrocinque) (co-sc); Batticuore (Camerini) (co-sc); Castelli in aria (Camerini) (co-sc)
Grandi magazzini (Camerini) (co-sc, asst d); Il documento (Camerini) (co-sc); Un'avventura di Salvator Rosa (Blasetti) (co-sc, asst d); Due milioni per un sorriso (Borghesio and Soldati) (co-sc)
Centomila dollari (Camerini) (asst d); Una romantica avventura (Camerini) (co-sc); La corona di ferro (Blasetti) (co-sc, asst d)
La cena della beffe (Blasetti) (co-sc)
Malombra (Soldati) (co-sc)
Quartieri alti (Soldati) (co-sc)
Malia (Amato) (co-sc); Notte di tempesta (Franciolini) (sc)
Resurrezione (Auferstehung) (Hansen) (co-sc)
Venere imperiale (Delannoy) (idea only—begun by Castellani in 1958, discontinued due to dispute with producers and star Gina Lollobrigida)
Matrimonio all'italiana (de Sica) (co-sc)
By CASTELLANI: article—
"Putting Gloss on Prison," in Films and Filming (London), April 1959.
On CASTELLANI: books—
Armes, Roy, Patterns of Realism: A Study of Italian Neo-RealistCinema, New York, 1971.
Leprohon, Pierre, The Italian Cinema, New York, 1972.
Atti del Convegno della X mostra internazionale del nuovo cinema, Venice, 1975.
Verdone, Mario, Cinema neo-realista da Rossellini a Pasolini, Palermo, 1977.
Gili, Jean A., Le Cinéma italien II, Paris, 1982.
Trasatti, Sergio, Renato Castellani, Florence, 1984.
On CASTELLANI: articles—
Frosali, S., "Renato Castellani: Regista 'inattuale'?" in Biancoe Nero (Rome), January-March 1984.
Obituary in Variety (New York), 1 January 1986.
Pintus, Pietro, "Renato Castellani viaggiatore instancabile," in Biancoe Nero (Rome), April-June 1986.
* * *
Poggioli, Lattuada, Chiarini, Soldati—the "calligraphers"—were the directors, novelists, and critics with which Castellani was associated at the beginning of his film career (1940–1948). The "calligraphers" were interested in form above all, strongly attached to the narrative tradition of the nineteenth century, committed to an essentially bourgeois cinema, refined, cultivated, intellectual. Their aesthetic was articulated in theory and in practice, and resistant, even antithetical, to the demands of the new realism voiced by De Santis and others in Cinema, and by Visconti in Ossessione. Un colpo di pistola, Zaza (a comedy in the French manner set during the "belle époque"), and La donna della montagna are films of escape. Through them Castellani managed his own flight: from the reality of the present, to be sure, but also from fascist propaganda and fascist censorship. The opposition between "calligraphy" and neorealism must be treated cautiously, as Roy Armes points out in Patterns of Realism. Not only did the two tendencies share a number of temptations (to historicism, for example), but individual artists, Castellani among them, passed with apparent ease from one to the other. A "Calligrapher" as late as 1946, Castellani joined the neo-realists with Sotto il sole di Roma, announcing his new allegiance in the very first frame with this intertitle: "This film was inspired by events that actually took place. It was performed by non-professional actors, and shot entirely in Rome, in the neighborhoods depicted in the film." While the presence of Alberto Sordi undermined the claim of a nonprofessional cast, his performance as a shoe salesman (recalling, in comic mode, the shoes of Paisà and Shoe Shine), the music of Nino Rota, the theme of black marketeering, the Roman locales and dialect, and the coverage of events of early summer 1943 to the end of summer of 1944 (from the invasion of Sicily to the liberation of Rome) cast the film firmly in the honored mold of Rossellini and De Sica. The chronology of Sotto il sole di Roma is that of Paisà; it is the story of the coming of age of a group of adolescent boys, matured by destruction and death. At its conclusion, unlike the children of Open City, Bicycle Thief, and Shoe Shine, they face the future with confidence—in themselves and in the society of which they are a part.
Two films followed in the wake of Sotto il sole di Roma to shape a trilogy on youth and young love: E primavera and Two Cents Worth of Hope. To their scripts are linked the names of Suso Cecchi d'Amico, Cesare Zavattini, and Titina de Filippo, names in turn allied with Visconti, De Sica, and the master family of Italian comedy. Shot on location from one end of the peninsula to the other, the burning questions of the day—the mezzogiorno, unemployment, Communist vs. Christian Democrat—addressed in the films are cloaked in humor and, more importantly, an optimism that, as Leprohon notes in The Italian Cinema, official Italy found reassuring. Threatened by the bleak view of Italy exported by the post-war Italian cinema, the government reacted by passing the Andreotti Law (1948) in the same year Castellani launched what came to be known as "rosy neorealism."
The trilogy was followed by Giulietta e Romeo. This story of young love thwarted by parents and convention had already found expression in the contemporary working class settings of the three previous films, and was drawn from two Renaissance versions: Shakespeare's and Luigi Da Porto's. Professional and non-professional actors, including a Juliet chosen from an avalanche of responses to a talent search conducted in the neorealist style, combined to create a tension of text and performance that elicited considerable critical controversy. Once again, Castellani had adapted neorealism to his own uses. This time it was a literary neorealism, redefined to suit his inspiration, and dependent as always on the rejection of mimicry and doctrine.
—Mirella Jona Affron