The Mafia in Film: From Italy to Hollywood by Thomas Lockwood
As cinema audiences developed an interest in crime films, which can be seen with the popularity of noir, it was not long until the Mafia made its debut on the silver screen.
Thomas Lockwood is a CE lecturer and a Film PhD student at the University of Liverpool within the Department of Modern Languages and Cultures, his research focuses on the links between crime films and society/culture.
Originating in Sicily during the 19th century before expanding to America, the Mafia has become known as one of the most influential organised crime groups in the world. The groups association with violent criminal activities, including robbery, murder, racketeering, bribery, illegal gambling etc. as well as their complex and ruthless behavioural code, has captivated the world for over a century. As cinema audiences developed an interest in crime films, which can be seen with the popularity of noir, it was not long until the Mafia made its debut on the silver screen.
The first Mafia film, The Black Hand,(above) was released in 1906 but it was not until the 1930s, when notable films such as Little Caesar (1931), The Public Enemy (1931) and Scarface (1932) were released, that the genre started to develop from film noir into what we know today.
This increase in popularity in the 1930s can be linked with the organized crime subculture which developed in the United States post-Great Depression, with Mafia films acting as representations of American society, which had become strained from disillusionment with the American life caused by the instability within the American economy. In the post-1930s period there was a decline in the popularity of the genre until the 1970s when The Godfather (1972) reinvigorated interest, so much so that high profile Mafia films are continuing to be made to this day by influential filmmakers such as Martin Scorsese. The resurgence in the 1970s also saw other countries, notably Italy, creating their own Mafia films to cash in on the popularity of their American counterparts.
Films play an important role in understanding the past, often acting as a reflection of societies and cultures. We will be focusing on the role the Mafia played within American and Italian society and how this was represented in film. There will be particular emphasis on how accurate on screen representations were to the real-world counterparts and how violence, class, genre and politics were approached in film. To achieve this we will be exploring the history of the Mafia in Italy and America, which will help us to contextual the topic. From there we will be watching scenes from a range of American and Italian Mafia films, such as The Godfather, Goodfellas (1990), A Bronx Tale (1994), Gomorrah (2008) etc. We will be briefly exploring the poliziotteschi genre, Italian crime films which were created in the 1970s to cash in on the success of The Godfather. We will also be introducing and using film studies techniques to analyse camera shots, editing, use of music etc. of the clips we will be viewing as a means of drawing deeper understanding of the symbolism within Mafia films and how this relates to the societies they were created within.
Join Thomas for his Saturday workshop Mafia Film: From Italy to Hollywood on the 7 December 2019 – for more information click here