Keywords: Italian Cinema; Oscars; National Imaginary; Sentimentalism; Nostalgia.
This article explores the reasons for the international success of postwar Italian cinema by considering the films and personnel that have been the recipients of Academy Awards (Oscars). It begins by examining the image of the peninsula that took shape in the west during the Grand Tour of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. It highlights the role of heritage and art on the one hand and of uncontaminated nature on the other. The Italians who have been the most consistent recipients of Oscars - the directors De Sica and Fellini, and the actress Sophia Loren - are shown to have provided versions of Italian-ness which in some way keyed in with established ideas. De Sica's early postwar work drew in spectators and forced them to feeling aged with a suffering country and its people. His films with Loren celebrated a vital and unchanging popular culture at a time when, in reality, the country was undergoing a dramatic process of modernization. Fellini meditated critically on change and its implications, while simultaneously offering a celebration of Italy's continuing creativity, spontaneity, seduction and beauty. The sense of Italy as pre-industrial 'Other' with respect to the countries which industrialized earlier lost meaning in the last decades of the twentieth century but it nevertheless was repeatedly explored or exploited by film-makers whose work was at intervals rewarded with an Oscar.