La Dolce Cinema

We Pay Tribute to Cinecittà, Queen of Italian Film

Baseball has Yankee Stadium. Music has Abbey Road. Settings for miraculous happenings, they have achieved a kind of holy status. For cinema that place is Cinecittà. Rome’s great “Film City” has played an integral role in many of the most beloved movies of all time, from Visconti’s Death in Venice to Wes Anderson’s The Life Aquatic. Now this storied grande dame of Italian movies once again takes the lead as the wondrous, surrealist focus of Gregory Crewdson’s newest series of photographs, Sanctuary. Here we take a look back at some of the greatest moments in Cinecittà’s career.
 
Ben-Hur (1959) 
Dir: William Wyler

Though it was built as an agent of propaganda by Mussolini in 1937, only the great Cinecittà could provide the awesome staging for the revenge of Rome’s greatest slave, Ben-Hur—as director Willam Wyler well knew, having filmed portions of Roman Holiday there six years prior. Can you imagine the chariot race in Burbank?
 
Cleopatra (1963) 
Dir: Joseph L Mankiewicz

After moving production from London, the most sensational epic of its time nearly bankrupted Fox by going over budget by 5,000 percent, and kickstarted the romance between Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor, the greatest tabloid love affair of the 20th century. And then it won four Academy Awards.
 
Open City (1945) 
Dir: Roberto Rossellini

A vanguard of the Italian neo-classical realism movement, this classic, starring Anna Magnani, featured actual Nazis before they’d had time to flee the newly liberated Eternal City.
 
Gangs of New York (2002) 
Dir: Martin Scorsese

Scorsese’s large-scale extravaganza 25 years in the making followed in a Cinecittà tradition by going wildly over budget and failing to match the wonder of the on-set gossip (Daniel Day-Lewis prepared for his role of The Butcher by listening to Eminem). Rumor has it George Lucas scoffed at the Byzantine set when he visited, saying, “Sets like that can be done on computer now.” But where’s the fun in that?
 
Intervista (1987)
Dir: Federico Fellini

So integral to his work was Cinecittà that Fellini composed this ode to the studio on the occasion of her 50th birthday. Through the mockumentary framing of the story, the auteur tells of his decades-long romance with Film City, beginning when he first walked on set as a journalist interviewing a star, through the generations when he was the artist-in-residence on the lot. Almost all of his masterpieces were filmed on site, including La Dolce Vita, 8 ½, Satyricon and Roma––as well as of course Intervista, his penultimate picture, which recognized Cinecittà for the movie star she is.

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