Nationality: Italian. Born: Genoa, 14 September 1914. Education: Instituto Nautico; studied acting and directing at Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia, Rome. Career: Directed first film, Il testimone, 1946; retired from Amici miei project because of ill health, 1974. Awards: Oscar for Best Story and Screenplay, with Alfredo Giannetti and Ennio de Concini, for Divorce Italian Style, 1962; Best Film (co-recipient), Cannes Festival, for Signore e signori, 1966. Died: In Rome, 5 December 1974.
Films as Director:
Il testimone (+ co-sc)
Gioventù perduta (Lost Youth) (+ co-sc)
In nome della legge (Mafia) (+ co-sc)
Il cammino della speranza (The Path of Hope) (+ co-story, co-adapt)
La città si difende (Four Ways Out) (+ co-sc)
La presidentessa (Mademoiselle Gobette) (+ co-sc); Il brigante di Tacca del Lupo (+ co-sc)
Gelosia (+ co-sc)
"Guerra 1915–1918" episode of Amori di mezzo secolo
Il ferroviere (The Railroad Man; Man of Iron) (+ co-sc, role)
L'uomo di paglia (+ co-sc, role)
Divorzio all'italiana (Divorce Italian Style) (+ co-sc)
Sedotta e abbandonata (Seduced and Abandoned) (+ co-sc)
Signore e signori (The Birds, the Bees, and the Italians) (+ co-sc, co-pr)
L'immorale (The Climax; Too Much for One Man) (+ co-sc)
Serafino (+ co-sc, pr)
Le castagne sono buone (Till Divorce Do You Part) (+ co-sc, pr)
Alfredo, Alfredo (+ co-sc, pr)
Retroscena (Blasetti) (asst d, co-sc)
Nessuno torna indietro (Blasetti) (asst d)
I dieci comandamenti (Chili) (co-sc)
Monte Cassino (Gemmiti) (role)
Fuga in Francia (Soldati) (role)
Jovanka e le altre (Five Branded Women) (Ritt) (role)
Il rossetto (Damiani) (role)
La viaccia (Bolognini) (role); Il sicario (Damiani) (role)
The Directors (pr: Greenblatt) (appearance)
Amici miei (Monicelli) (co-sc, + credit "A Film by Pietro Germi")
By GERMI: articles—
"Man Is Not Large Enough for Man," in Films and Filming (London), September 1966.
On GERMI: books
Giacovelli, Enrico di, Pietro Germi, Firenze, 1991.
Sesti, Mario, Tutto il cinema di Pietro Germi, Milan, 1997.
On GERMI: articles—
Passek, J.L., "Pietro Germi," in Cinéma (Paris), February 1975.
Monicelli, M., "Pietro Germi, mon amour," in Ecran (Paris), September 1976.
Pattison, B., "Pietro Germi," in Film (London), October 1976.
"Pietro Germi," in Film Dope (London), December 1979.
Filméchange (Paris), Autumn 1984.
Gincovelli, E., "Germi, il grande falegname," in Castoro Cinema (Florence), no. 147, May-June 1990.
Gili, Jean A., and others, "Redéc ouverte de Pietro Germi," in Positif (Paris), no. 406, December 1994.
Pietro Germi, though often regarded by scholars as fundamentally a neorealist director who made a transition in mid-career to social comedy, never actually considered himself to be an adherent to the style popularized by Roberto Rossellini. Like several other Italian directors achieving prominence in the late 1940s, notably Alberto Lattuada, Alberto De Santis and, of course, Vittorio DeSica, he produced films notable for breaking with prevailing themes that dealt with the immediate aftermath of World War II. His early works addressed themselves instead to the fundamental, even timeless, social issues affecting postwar Italy and in particular, those exemplified in the poverty of the island of Sicily.
Germi's early films, notably In nome della legge and Il cammino della speranza, owe as much, if not more, to the influence of American director John Ford as they do to neorealism. In Germi's work, Sicily easily replaces Ford's Monument Valley and the island's traditional knife duels supplant the American director's classic showdowns. In all other respects, the fundamental issues in Germi's first few films differ little from a typical John Ford production like Stagecoach. Indeed the themes of the aforementioned Germi films (in In nome della legge, a clash between a young judge and the local Mafia over his attempts to enforce the law and, in Il cammino della speranza, the problem of illegal immigration) deal with problems not too far removed from those of the actual post-Civil War American West.
Interestingly, the fact that Germi dared to propose solutions to the problems that he examined in these and in succeeding films effectively removed him from the realm of pure neorealism which, as construed by Rossellini and his immediate followers, must limit itself merely to the exposition of a particular social condition. It cannot suggest solutions. Unfortunately, in a number of cases (Il cammino della speranza, in particular), the director's solutions were overly romanticized, pat, and simplistic.
During the latter part of the 1950s, Germi began to compress the scope of his social concerns to those affecting the individual and his relationship to the family unit, albeit as components of the larger society. In Il ferroviere and L'uomo di Paglia, however, he continued to be plagued by his penchant for simplistic and overly contrived solutions as well as a tendency to let the films run on too long. They are redeemed to some extent by their realistic portrayals of working class characters which. Though considered melodramatic by many reviewers at the time of their release, these characterizations have come to be more highly regarded.
Germi corrected his problems in the 1960s by changing his narrative style to one dominated by satirical devices. Yet he did not compromise his family-centered social vision. Divorzio all'italiana, for which he won an Academy Award for best screenplay, Sedotta e abbandonata, and Signori e signore all magnify social questions all out of proportion to reality and thus, through the chaos that results, reduce the issues to absurdity.
Divorzio all'italiana, in particular, is a craftsmanlike portrayal of the internal upheavals within a family, set in the oppressive atmosphere of a small Sicilian village. It features the deft use of a moving camera that passes swiftly, almost intimately, through endless groups of gawking townspeople. In addition, the director's use of actors, including Marcello Mastroianni and Daniella Rocca, as well as his own latent sense of humor, make the social commentary in this film quite possibly more penetrating than in his early neorealist films.
Though Germi shifted over the length of his career from social dramas to socio-moral satires, his social concerns and his favorite setting for them—Sicily—remained constant. As is not normally the case with many artists of his stature, his most polished and commercially successful efforts also turned out to be the critical equals of his earlier and more solemn ones.
—Stephen L. Hanson