Gender, genre and sociocultural change in the Giallo: 1970-1975

Mackenzie, Michael (2013) Gender, genre and sociocultural change in the Giallo: 1970-1975. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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This thesis examines representations of gender in the Italian giallo, a short-lived but tremendously popular, lucrative and prolific body of films in the murder-mystery thriller tradition that enjoyed their heyday in the early-to-mid 1970s. Traditionally, both academic and populist responses to these films have focused on the output of a small number of maverick directors that have been elevated critically above their peers. Conversely, this thesis aligns itself with a more recent trend towards eschewing auteurist readings in favour of examining the giallo as a broad ‘filone’ (cycle) defined by shared iconography, narrative conventions and underlying anxieties. Building on the typological approach of this body of literature, I place the gialli within the historical context of their initial production and release, relating the anxieties they exhibit in their depiction of gender and sexuality to the seismic sociocultural changes that occurred during this period. Drawing on the methodologies employed in criticism of the American film noir movement of the 1940s and 1950s, I explore the gialli not as straightforward allegories of real world events but rather as discursive texts that engage in a refracted form with contemporary sociocultural concerns.

As its central hypothesis, this thesis asserts the giallo uses the generic conventions of the ‘whodunit’ thriller to negotiate a crisis of norms in which traditional notions of masculinity and femininity have been destabilised. In exploring the ways in which this crisis manifests itself across a corpus of sixty films, I adopt the unique approach of restructuring the giallo into two distinct subcategories – ‘M-gialli’, focusing on male protagonists, and ‘F-gialli’, focusing on their female counterparts – and examining the differing ways in which they negotiate the same anxieties about gender and modern sociocultural transformation, and the differing solutions (or lack thereof) that they propose. I also examine the portrayal of gender/sexual minorities, children and teenagers as further articulations of concerns relating to the transformation of society. I argue that the gialli are characterised by a marked sense of ambivalence towards the upheavals of this period, precluding these films from being straightforwardly pigeonholed as either reactionary or progressive in their overriding ideology. This manifests itself in a plethora of uncertainties and contradictions in their narratives, mise en scène and the portrayal of the aforementioned characters, and an inability to provide credible solutions to the problems posed by the changing face of society.

This thesis moves criticism of the giallo beyond merely describing its conventions to actively explaining them, and highlights the value in reading popular filmic movements as articulations of the prevalent anxieties, attitudes and worldviews of their era.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: giallo, filone, Italian cinema, popular cinema, popular European cinema, genre, gender, Italy, Europe, cinema
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General) > PN1993 Motion Pictures
Colleges/Schools: College of Arts & Humanities > School of Culture and Creative Arts > Theatre Film and TV Studies
Supervisor's Name: Boyle, Professor Karen and Eleftheriotis, Professor Dimitris
Date of Award: 2013
Depositing User: Dr Michael Mackenzie
Unique ID: glathesis:2013-4730
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 10 Jan 2014 11:57
Last Modified: 10 Jan 2014 15:01

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