Giuseppe De Santis

Active - 1943 - 1972  |   Born - Feb 11, 1917   |   Died - May 16, 1997   |   Genres - Drama, War

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Biography by Sandra Brennan

Among Italy's most idealistic neorealistic filmmakers of the '40s, Giuseppe de Santis made powerful but at times sensationalistic films punctuated by ardent cries for social reform. His third film Riso Amaro/Bitter Rice (1948), the story of a young woman working in the rice fields who must choose between two socially disparate suitors, was a landmark of the new cinematic style. A native of Fondi, Italy, de Santis was first a student of philosophy and literature before entering Rome's Centro Sperimental di Cinematografia. While working as a journalist for Cinema magazine, de Santis became a major proponent of the early neorealist filmmakers who were trying to make films that mirrored the simple often tragic realities of proletariat life using location shooting and nonprofessional casts. In 1942, de Santis collaborated on the script for Ossessione, Luchino Visconti's debut film. While still working for the magazine, he began to increasingly work as a screenwriter and assistant director until 1947 when he made his own directorial debut with Caccia Tragica. Like the two films to follow, it was a sincere call for better living conditions for the Italian working class. By the early 1950s, the neorealist movement was fast falling out of favor with critics and audiences alike. New filmmakers began using dramatic stories that centered on relationships and de Santis also altered his focus. Unfortunately this had an adverse effect on his films, and though he continued making movies through the early '70s, they were never as powerful as those first few. Still, he is regarded as one of Italy's great filmmakers and when he passed away on May 16, 1997 following a heart attack, his country mourned.

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