"Le anni di piombo" ("the years of lead").
This decade during which, between december 12, 1969 and August the 2nd, 1980, Italy saw its foundations crumble under left and right-wing terrorism in what is referred to by historians as "a low intensity civil war".
Strange coincidence, 30 years after, three Italian films released this year are looking back at this troubled period of their country: Michele Placido's 'Romanzo Criminale' (based on judge Giancarlo de Cataldo's eponymous novel), Nanni Moretti's 'Il Caimano' and Michele Soavi's 'Arrivederci amore, ciao' - the latter being well know from giallo fans for his 'Dellamorte dellamore' (1994).
Romanzo Criminale is probably the most spot on as it directly addresses the political events of the 1970s, building on the true story of a Rome gang which took advantage of the political mess to rise and conquer the city. Their path often crosses history, highlighting the ambiguous relationship between criminality, politics and terrorism during these years, until the Bologna railway station massacre in 1980.
Historically accurate, with a good cast and an efficient soundtrack, Romanzo Criminale is a must-see for anyone interested in understanding better what Italy was like in those days (not to mention the "poliziesco" style of the film).
As if it was a follow up to this first film, Arrivederci mi amore, ciao is the tale of a former political activist coming back to Italy nowadays, after years spent hiding in Latin America. Also adapted from a book by Massimo Carlotto, it depicts a pretty dark reality, showing how a man initially in search of starting a normal life is finally falling back into the dark side.
Finally, Il Caimano. Beyond the political statement about Berlusconi, this is a beautiful film about Italian genre cinema and its decline (when private TV rose in Italy, during the 80s).
It's also an emotional story of a family broken up by a divorce, as the main character, a has-been film director who used to be successful with B-movies during the 70s, progressively realises that his wife is walking away from him and his fantasies.
In order not to sink, he throws himself into a seemingly impossible project: making a movie denunciating the unclear origins of Berlusconi's overwhelming political and economical power. Somehow, an allegory about how cinema can still be a subversive power, and how genre cinema used to fulfill this role thirty years ago.
Overall, Moretti doesn't sign a movie directly about the anni di piombo, but certainly raises questions about the new powers which rose after the 70s and their consequences on the current Italian political structure - On a lighter note, but not to be missed, is the hilarious tribute to genre cinema in a memorable scene where an evil food critic is being murdered in a restaurant he had criticised.
Three films, three angles to reach a similar conclusion: not only have the mysteries of 1970s Italy not been completely elucidated, but they still have a strong influence on today's Italian society.
It seems that these films are not that easy to get to watch beyond Italy and France - apart from "Il Caimano", which was presented in Cannes this year. A shame as they're very insightful for anyone interested in the strong connections between Italian genre cinema and the history of the country in the 1970s.