Journal of Romance Studies

Desiring desire in Visconti’s Ossessione

Journal of Romance Studies (2012), 12, (2), 33–58.

Abstract

A considerable amount of critical literature on Luchino Visconti’s film Ossessione [Obsession] questions whether there is a “gay” storyline that subtends its narrative. This paper shifts the emphasis to the film’s representation of desire, which, it argues, is structured not through the pursuit of an object but a desire for desire itself. It assesses how the filmic representation of desiring desire counters and troubles a trenchant form of clerico-fascist normalization, using insights from queer theory and sexuality studies to shed light on the formation of such desire. The essay tracks the nomadic trajectories of the protagonists, and ultimately claims that its melodramatic narrative does not indulge its viewers with a fulfilled fantasy of liberatory revolt, but offers, rather, a capillary model of resistance that emerges through its anomalous form of immanent desire.

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Bacon, Henry (1998) Visconti: Visions of Beauty and Decay (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press). Visconti: Visions of Beauty and Decay Google Scholar

Benadusi, Lorenzo (2012) The Enemy of the New Man: Homosexuality in Fascist Italy (Madison: University of Wisconson Press). The Enemy of the New Man: Homosexuality in Fascist Italy Google Scholar

Ben-Ghiat, Ruth (Autumn 1996) ‘Envisioning modernity: desire and discipline in the Italian Fascist film’, Critical Inquiry 23.1, 109–44. Envisioning modernity: desire and discipline in the Italian Fascist film Critical Inquiry 23.1 109 44 Google Scholar

Ben-Ghiat, Ruth (2004) Fascist Modernities: Italy, 1922–1945 (Berkeley: University of California Press). Fascist Modernities: Italy, 1922–1945 Google Scholar

Buchanan, Ian. ‘Deleuze, Gilles and Félix Guattari’, in The John Hopkins Guide to Literary Theory and Criticism, http://litguide.press.jhu.edu (accessed 17 May 2011). Google Scholar

Casarino, Cesare (2002) Modernity at Sea: Melville, Marx and Conrad in Crisis (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press). Modernity at Sea: Melville, Marx and Conrad in Crisis Google Scholar

Deleuze, Gilles and Félix Guattari (1987) A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press). A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia Google Scholar

Duffy, Enda (2009) The Speed Handbook: Velocity, Pleasure, Modernism (Durham: Duke University Press). The Speed Handbook: Velocity, Pleasure, Modernism Google Scholar

Elsaesser, Thomas (1991) ‘Tales of Sound and Fury: observations on the family melodrama’, in Imitations of Life: A Reader on Film & Television Melodrama, ed. Marcia Landy (Detroit: Wayne State University Press), 68–91. Tales of Sound and Fury: observations on the family melodrama Imitations of Life: A Reader on Film & Television Melodrama 68 91 Google Scholar

Forgacs, David (2002) ‘Sex in the cinema: regulation and transgression in Italian films, 1930– 1943’, in Re-viewing Fascism: Italian Cinema, 1922–1943, ed. Jacqueline Riech and Piero Garofalo (Bloomington, Indiana: Indiana University Press), 141–71. Sex in the cinema: regulation and transgression in Italian films, 1930– 1943 Re-viewing Fascism: Italian Cinema, 1922–1943 141 71 Google Scholar

Foucault, Michel (1990) The History of Sexuality (New York: Vintage Books). The History of Sexuality Google Scholar

Foucault, Michel (2002) ‘Of other spaces’, in The Visual Culture Reader, ed. Nicholas Mirzoeff (New York, Routledge), 229–36. Of other spaces The Visual Culture Reader 229 36 Google Scholar

Gori, Gigliola (2004) Italian Fascism and the Female Body: Sport, Submissive Women and Strong Mothers (New York: Routledge). Italian Fascism and the Female Body: Sport, Submissive Women and Strong Mothers Google Scholar

Grazia, Victoria de (1992) How Fascism Ruled Women: Italy, 1922–1945 (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press). How Fascism Ruled Women: Italy, 1922–1945 Google Scholar

Ingrao, Pietro (26 March 1976) ‘Scoperta della realtà italiana’, Rinascita 13: 33–34. Scoperta della realtà italiana Rinascita 33 34 Google Scholar

Landy, Marcia (ed) (1991) Imitations of Life: A Reader on Film & Television Melodrama (Detroit: Wayne State University Press). Imitations of Life: A Reader on Film & Television Melodrama Google Scholar

Lefebvre, Martin (ed) (2006) Landscape and Film (New York: Routledge). Landscape and Film Google Scholar

Micciché, Lino (1990) Visconti e il neorealismo: Ossessione, La terra terma, Bellissima (Venice: Marsilio editori). Visconti e il neorealismo: Google Scholar

Mitchell, W. J. T (ed.) (2002) Landscape and Power (Chicago: University of Chicago Press). Landscape and Power Google Scholar

Muñoz, José Esteban (Summer 2007) ‘The sense of watching Tony sleep’, South Atlantic Quarterly 106.3, 543–51. The sense of watching Tony sleep South Atlantic Quarterly 106.3 543 51 Google Scholar

Nochimson, Martha (Spring 2003) ‘The melodramatic Neorealism of Luchino Visconti’, Cineaste 28.2, 45–8. The melodramatic Neorealism of Luchino Visconti Cineaste 28.2 45 8 Google Scholar

Pierson, Inga (2009) ‘Youth and tragedy: children and political censure in Italian Neorealist cinema’, Denuncia: Speaking up in Modern Italy conference. New York University. Youth and tragedy: children and political censure in Italian Neorealist cinema Google Scholar

Puar, Jasbir (2007) Terrorist Assemblages: Homonationalism in Queer Times (Durham: Duke University Press). Terrorist Assemblages: Homonationalism in Queer Times Google Scholar

Reich, Jacqueline (2004) Beyond the Latin Lover: Marcello Mastroianni, Masculinity and Italian Cinema (Bloomington, Indiana: Indiana University Press). Beyond the Latin Lover: Marcello Mastroianni, Masculinity and Italian Cinema Google Scholar

Reich, Jacqueline (introd) (2002) ‘Mussolini at the movies: Fascism, film, and culture’, in Re-viewing Fascism: Italian Cinema, 1922–1943 (Bloomington, Indiana: Indiana University Press), 3–29. Mussolini at the movies: Fascism, film, and culture Re-viewing Fascism: Italian Cinema, 1922–1943 3 29 Google Scholar

Rondolino, Gianni (1981) Luchino Visconti (Turin: UTET). Luchino Visconti Google Scholar

Santis, Giuseppe de (Spring 1985) ‘Visconti’s interpretation of Cain’s setting in Ossessione’, trans. Luciana Bohne, Film Criticism 9, 23–32. Visconti’s interpretation of Cain’s setting in Ossessione Film Criticism 9 23 32 Google Scholar

Schama, Simon (1996) Landscape and Memory (New York: Vintage). Landscape and Memory Google Scholar

Sedgwick, Eve Kosofsky (1993) Tendencies (Durham: Duke University Press). Tendencies Google Scholar

Visconti, Luchino (October 1943) ‘Cinema antropomorfico’, Cinema, 173–4. Cinema antropomorfico Cinema 173 4 Google Scholar

Visconti, Luchino (1978) ‘Anthropomorphic Cinema’, in Springtime in Italy: A Reader on Italian Neo-Realism, trans. and ed. David Overbey (London: Talisman Books), 83–4. Anthropomorphic Cinema Springtime in Italy: A Reader on Italian Neo-Realism 83 4 Google Scholar

‘Vita difficile del film “Ossessione” Intervista con Luchino Visconti’, Il Contemporaneo (monthly supplement of Rinascita) (April 1965), special issue on ‘Resistenza e cultura’ [‘Resistance and Culture’ for 20th anniversary of liberation on 25 April], 7–8. Google Scholar

Wanrooij, Bruno P.F. (1990) Storia del pudore: la questione sessuale in Italian 1860–1940 (Venice: Marsilio). Storia del pudore: la questione sessuale in Italian 1860–1940 Google Scholar

Warner, Michael (1993) Fear of a Queer Planet: Queer Politics and Social Theory (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press). Fear of a Queer Planet: Queer Politics and Social Theory Google Scholar

Watson, William Van (2002) ‘Luchino Visconti’s (homosexual) Ossessione’, in Re-viewing Fascism: Italian Cinema, 1922–1943, ed. Jacqueline Reich and Piero Garofalo. (Bloomington, Indiana: Indiana University Press), 172–93. Luchino Visconti’s (homosexual) Ossessione Re-viewing Fascism: Italian Cinema, 1922–1943 172 93 Google Scholar

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Mullins, Jonathan