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By James Hay

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In Italy in the 1920s and 1930s, however, the desire to purge cinema of these theatrical qualities began to assume ideological resonances, especially for Popular Film Culture in Fascist Italy 12 those like Pavolini who saw theater as an expression of the older, Liberal, upper­ bourgeois order. This rhetoric is apparent, for example, in the evolution of film criticism during the late 1920s and the 1930s when film criticism took two directions: one which continued, as Casetti has noted, to appropriate the termi­ nology of theater criticism and another which sought to develop new categories and a new critical vocabulary.

And, in so doing, it encouraged audiences and filmmakers to begin looking for new experiences and new ways of representing experience. )35 Stories generally concerned the same kind of upper-crust characters and other drawing-room or classical settings characteristic of these more tradi­ tional forms. Few literary authors or playwrights, however, contributed directly to the cinema, finding it difficult-as did D'Annunzio-to bring their lengthy and sometimes florid descriptions into the discursive economy of silent film.

Popular Film Culture in Fascist Italy 10 culture attempts to account for commercial and governmental efforts to develop centralized institutions as well as for the culture's felt need for a common center, one to which these cinematic messages always refer and through which Italy's burgeoning cultura popolare could create for itself a new image. When I speak of the "production" of a popular film culture, I am not intending to weight either the role of those who encode (those who own and direct the material means of production) or the role of those who decode films (the audience or consumer) .

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