Editor. Pseudonyms: Mark Sirandrews; Mark Suran. Nationality: Italian. Born: Naples, 23 May 1907. Career: 1942—began editing career with Luchino Visconti's Ossessione (based on James M. Cain's The Postman Always Rings Twice); coined the term "neorealism," first used to describe Ossessione and later Italian films of the 1950s and 1960s. Awards: Received acclaim in special Italian cinema awards for Ossessione, Rocco and his Brothers, and The Battle of Algiers.Died: 17 April 1966.
Films as Editor:
La Terra Trema (The Earth Trembles) (Visconti)
Senso (Wanton Contessa) (Visconti)
Il Bidone (The Swindle) (Fellini)
Le Notti Bianche (White Nights) (Visconti)
La Ragazza con la Valigia (Girl with a Suitcase) (Zurlini); Rocco e i suoi fratelli (Rocco and His Brothers; Rocco et ses freres) (Visconti)
Estate Violenta (Violent Summer) (Boisroud)
Boccaccio '70 (Visconti, De Sica, and Fellini); Salvatore Giuliano (Visconti)
Il Gattopardo (The Leopard) (Visconti)
La Donna Scimmia (The Ape Woman); Le grande Olimpiade (The Grand Olympics) (doc)
La Battaglia Di Algeri (The Battle of Algiers) (Pontecorvo); Italiano Brava Gente (Attack) (De Santis)
"The Witch Burned Alive" ep. of Le Streghe (The Witches) (Visconti)
On SERANDREI: articles—
"Visconti's Rocco," in New York Times, 21 September 1991.
"Neorealism and Style," in American Cinematographer (Hollywood), May 1972.
"Ossessione and Neorealism," in Film Quarterly (Berkeley), Spring 1985.
* * *
When we hear the word "neorealism," we associate it with the movement in Italian cinema when film was evolving into a phase of extreme reality, in which moviemaking was attempting to replicate everyday life. This era began in 1942 with Luchino Visconti's Ossessione—an Italian masterwork based on James M. Cain's The Postman Always Rings Twice. This film marked the quintessential debut for budding film editor Mario Serandrei, who incidentally was the one who coined the term "neorealism."
Throughout the course of cinema history, the film director has been credited with being an "auteur," but essentially it is the genius of the editor in postproduction who allows the director's voice to resonate. Along these lines, it can be said that Serandrei, along with the unique formal contributions of Visconti and other directors, is one of the "fathers" of neorealism.
In the same way film theoreticians and critics were able to detect specific stylistic and thematic motifs present in a director's ouevre (such as the French writers of Cahiers du Cinéma), the same can be accomplished with the works of the film editor. Perhaps one of the reasons that it was Serandrei who recognized this new phase of neorealism is that he himself had his own vision of film form. Unlike the earlier films of Sergei Eisenstein (Battleship Potemkin and Strike) which practiced the rapid juxtaposition of shots known as montage—Serandrei's style is quite different; essentially, it can be deduced that Serandrei—quite aware of technique—was taking an anti-montage approach with his editing.
Beginning as early as Ossessione, Serandrei appeared to have a critical eye for depicting reality on the screen. This film—along with Visconti's Bellissima and Rocco and his Brothers—as well as Federico Fellini's The Swindle became critical neorealist movies. Serandrei's meticulous editing took on new conventions as he practiced this anti-montage style. These films—which had a number of long shots and parallel camera movements—were replete with limited cuts; this preserved the continuity of the form and story lines. The benefits of these infrequent cuts allowed the directors' shots to be studied at greater lengths, and consequently the films could be viewed as true illusions of reality.
Unlike contemporary film editor Thelma Schoonmaker (Martin Scorcese's editor for such films as Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, and Goodfellas) who argues that continuous editing is overrated, Serandrei is more interested in bringing the concept of "real time" to the silver screen. This concept is supported by film scholar André Bazin who wrote extensively on Visconti, De Sica, and other neorealist directors of the time in Cahiers du Cinéma. Although these writings focused on the directors, the work of Serandrei and his contributions to neorealism certainly can not be overlooked.
After Ossessione, Serandrei entered the post-World War II years. His first films after the war included La Terra Trema—a less recognized work—along with Visconti's Bellissima, Senso, and White Nights. In 1960 he edited two rather prominent neorealism films—Visconti's Rocco and his Brothers and Girl with a Suitcase, directed by Valerio Zurlini; once again, Serandrei's editing reflected this postwar realism. After the war, cinema took a drastic turn internationally; many movies were commenting on society, pop culture, and politics. Serandrei worked within the norms of technical cinema to show that film was attempting to be more raw and candid in attempting to display real events in a real society.
In 1964, he edited his first documentary, The Grand Olympics. Within the realm of this very different style of filmmaking, Serandrei continued to practice his neorealistic techniques to create a sense of reality. Although not considered a major work in the neorealistic movement, editing this documentary allowed him to get as close to the truth of reality as possible.
By practically inventing the term "neorealism," it is apparent that Serandrei was more or less an auteur of sorts; he was able to analyze the different signatures of Visconti, Fellini and even De Sica. In 1962 Serandrei edited Boccaccio '70—a trilogy of stories directed by these three great directors (perhaps the film was the precursor to the American New York Stories). The three episodes that made up the film were De Sica's "The Raffle," Visconti's "The Job," and Fellini's "The Temptation of Dr. Antonio." Nearing the twilight of his career, this film explores Serandrei's technical wizardry. As an editor, it was essential for him to depict the neorealistic styles of Visconti and De Sica as well as the peculiar and surreal form of Fellini. In this film, it appears that Serandrei combines his editing skills in an advanced manner; he utilizes anti-montage in the Visconti and De Sica films—but is challenged to do quite the opposite with Fellini. The juxtaposition of shots in Fellini's film are entirely dream-oriented, and thus the style of editing is purposely fragmented and discontinuous: reality versus nonreality.
Serandrei seemed to retire in 1968 after he edited a short Visconti episode in The Witches. He is a man who made his mark in cinema history; he will always be remembered and studied as not only a talented technical artist—but as the man who started the entire Italian Neorealism revolution.
—David Gonthier, Jr.