La Dolce Morte

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With the exception of die-hard aficionados of European or Italian horror cinema, most people may not have heard of giallo cinema or have seen many films in this subgenre of horror. Most academic film studies tend to ignore horror cinema in general and the giallo specifically. Critics often deride these films, which reveal more about the reviewers' own prejudices than any problem with the works themselves. As a counter to such biases, Mikel J. Koven argues for an alternative approach to studying these films, by approaching them as vernacular cinema—distinct from "popular cinema." According to Koven, to look at a film from a vernacular perspective removes the assumptions about what constitutes a "good" film and how a particular film is in some way "artistic." In La Dolce Morte: Vernacular Cinema and the Italian Giallo Film, Koven explores the history and evolution of this aspect of cinema, and places these films within the context of Italian popular filmmaking. He addresses various themes, motifs, and tropes in these films: their use of space, the murders, the role of the detective, the identity of the killer, issues of belief, excess, and the set-piece. In addition to being the first academic study of the giallo film in English, this book surveys more than fifty films of this subgenre. In addition to filmmakers like Mario Bava and Dario Argento, Koven also looks at the films of Lucio Fulci, Sergio Martino, Pupi Avati, Umberto Lenzi, and others. In all, the works of twenty-five different filmmakers are considered in this book. Also explored are the inter-relationships between these films: how one influences others, how certain filmmakers take ideas and build off of them, and how those ideas are further transformed by other filmmakers. Koven also explores the impact of the giallo on the later North American slasher genre.

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Editorial Reviews

Killing In Style interesting study of Giallo...a very detailed analysis of the main themes of the genre...
Rue Morgue
La Dolce Morte is an informed and engaging examination of neglected and marginalized films that purposely provokes readers to re-examine biases against the giallo.
Senses Of Cinema
La Dolce Morte presents sound and interesting textual analysis of an impressive number of gialli.
Film Studies
...a carefully constructed presentation and discussion of one of the most important phenomena in modern cinema.
Reference and Research Book News
"Giallo," Italian for "yellow," is applied to a vernacular film genre (e.g., Sergio Martino's Torso, 1973) based on mystery novels with bright yellow covers that an Italian publisher has been producing since the 1920s. In the context of psychodynamics and Italian audiences, Koven (film and television studies, U. of Wales, Aberystwyth) explores themes including the outsider, sexually-driven murder, the amateur detective's role, and a view of these films from Pasolini's theory of a "cinema of poetry." He concludes that gialli, like other horror cinema, reflect modernity's ambivalence toward both traditional folk beliefs and science.
Gothic Studies
Koven's study is highly detailed and wide ranging. Koven clearly adores his chosen subject and explores it with an eye to accessibility—he often writes wittily but always lucidly—and these are reasons why the book is so engaging.
The American Society Of Cinematography
Koven's well-organized catalog of the subgenre's characteristics makes his book a valuable reference tool as well as an incisive critical study.
...this is a serious contribution to film studies. It opens a side of Italian cinema that is rarely studied. Recommended.
...this is a serious contribution to film studies. It opens a side of Italian cinema that is rarely studied. Recommended.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780810858701
  • Publisher: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.
  • Publication date: 10/28/2006
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 206
  • Product dimensions: 0.44 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 6.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Mikel J. Koven is Senior Lecturer in Film and Television Studies at the University of Worcester. He is the author of Blaxploitation Films (2001) and Films, Folklore and Urban Legends (Scarecrow, 2007).

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Table of Contents

Part 1 Preface Part 2 Acknowledgments Chapter 3 1. What is Giallo? Chapter 4 2. Toward an Understanding of Vernacular Cinema Chapter 5 3. Space and Place in Italian Giallo Cinema: The Ambivalence of Modernity Chapter 6 4. Murder and Other Sexual Perversions Chapter 7 5. Watching the Detectives: Amateur Detectives and the Giallo as Detective Cinema Chapter 8 6. The Killer's Identity Chapter 9 7. "Weird Science of the Most Egregious Kind": The Ambivalence of Belief in the Giallo Film Part 10 8. "A Perverse Sublime": Excess and the Set Piece in the Giallo Part 11 9. The Giallo as Cinema of Poetry Part 12 10. From Giallo to Slasher Part 13 Filmography Part 14 Bibliography Part 15 Index Part 16 About the Author

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 6, 2006

    A Much needed contribution

    This is a truly remarkable book. Koven's study is a much needed contribution to the study of world horror cinmea. While certainly 'academic', Koven's writing is clear and accessible to the intelligent reader. A must read for anyone interested in European cinema, horror cinema in particular.

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