Lorenza Mazzetti, the genius·The Italian Files
play_circle play

Primary Sources

Dixon, Bryony and Christophe Dupin. 2001. ‘Soup Dreams’, Sight and Sound 11:3 (March), pp. 28-30. This is an interview with Mazzetti on the anniversary of the first Free Cinema screening, which was reconstructed at the BFI in March 2001, with the surviving members in attendance. The authors link Free Cinema with Grierson’s group, especially Humphrey Jennings, although they highlight differences in attitudes and aesthetics between the two groups. According to them, the liveliest of the films emerged from the group are those made by the outsiders, like Mazzetti or the Swiss duo Goretta-Tanner, whose contribution has been overshadowed through the years. In the interview, Mazzetti recalls the now famous incident of her admission to the Slade, which was originally refused because she wasn’t British. There, she was subsequently championed by Coldstream as she started to make films. Mazzetti also importantly discusses her mental health: unable to express her traumas, she channelled her anxiety into the making of Together, projecting her own feeling of being different and an outsider onto the two main characters. The failed and tumultuous love affair with Denis Horne, the screenwriter of the film, also represented another trauma that also led her to give up on other projects. She goes on to talk more about the production and the origins of Free Cinema in a café in Soho. Finally, Mazzetti talks about the abandoned project Teddy Boys and her return to Italy, where, despite the championing from Zavattini, gave up filmmaking to channel her own psychoanalytical process into writing Il cielo cade.

Free Cinema Manifesto

Mazzetti, Lorenza. 2010. (Selected images from) Album di Famiglia: diario di una bambina sotto il facismo: la tragedia della famiglia Einstein. Roma: Luca Sossella Editore.

Mazzetti, Lorenza. 2007. Il cielo cade. Palermo: Sellerio Editore.

Mazzetti, Lorenza. The Sky Is Falling, tr. Livia Franchini, forthcoming 2023, Another Gaze Editions.

Mazzetti, Lorenza. London Diaries. Zidane Press, 2018

Sermonti, Bianca. 1966. ‘Quando il regista è donna’, Rivista del Cinematografo 8, pp. 536-43. This is an article from the Italian film magazine Cinematografo in which the journalist interviews four Italian women directors who were active at the time: Lina Wertmüller, Cecilia Mangini, Anna Gobbi, and Lorenza Mazzetti. The article highlights the limited vision of the role of women in the entertainment industries as only singers and actresses, while there are many who work in other important roles behind the camera. The journalist provides a historically imprecise overview of women directors in European and U.S. cinemas. Despite the recuperative intent, however, the journalist is mostly interested in the interviewees’ views on women’s liberation, (a conventionally defined) femininity, and family. The interview with Mazzetti (pp. 542-43) focuses again on these themes. Mazzetti starts by recounting her beginnings as a director at Slade and admits that she wouldn’t have been able to make a film like Together in Italy because the context (of the industry, but also society at large) would have made it impossible. She also brings up the theme of the outsider both in relation to her filmmaking practice and her writing. On the theme of women’s emancipation, she says to be scared by those women who are too “masculine” and wishes that instead they would seek emancipation through the embracement of their diversity. A sort of psychotic reaction to changes in society emerges from her words as well as a more traditional conception of femininity, unlike Gobbi and Mangini.

Together. 1956. Dir. Lorenza Mazzetti. UK. The film follows two deaf-mute dock workers in their everyday life, as they work in the Butler’s Wharf area, wander around the bombed out East End, and go seeking entertainment. They are played by sculptor Eduardo Paolozzi and painter Michael Andrews, a fellow student at Slade who had also acted in Mazzetti’s shorts. In various interviews, Mazzetti has stated that these two characters represent her feeling as an outsider, but also a double of her and her twin sister Paola (with Lorenza being closer to the one played by Andrews). Children playing are also a central feature of the film as well as views of this part of the docklands.

Together with Lorenza Mazzetti. 2022. Dir. Brighid Lowe and Henry K. Miller. UK. The documentary is based on an interview that Lowe and Miller conducted with Mazzetti in Rome in 2018 and archival footage from her films, other interviews, and her talk at Slade in 2013. They focus on her family and upbringing, discussing the traumatic past also with her sister Paola, but mostly on her work as a filmmaker while at Slade, reconstructing her collaborations with other artists. Images from The Country Doctor, which has been found mislabelled in a library of an American University, are also included.

Secondary Sources

Drazin, Charles. 2014. ‘The Origin, Practice and Meaning of the Free Cinema Manifesto’. Journal of British Cinema and Television 11: 2-3: 294-311. This article focuses on Lindsay Anderson and his views on cinema as emerged in the film magazine Sequence (1946-52) at first. It provides some useful context to Free Cinema as well as to critical debates on this topic, which have mostly focused on Anderson. Sequence started as a film magazine linked to a students’ society at Oxford University, but soon became an independent publication of which Anderson was the main figure. Other contributors like Penelope Houston and Gavin Lambert went on to write for the newly founded Sight and Sound. The magazine wasn’t concerned with topical issues, but driven by the contributors’ and especially Anderson’s interest, recuperating directors like Hitchcock and Ford as auteurs. Already in 1951, Anderson was writing articles about American avantgarde cinema in which he proposed a kind of filmmaking that should be a personal and expressive use of the medium, free from the constrains of the industry. Later on, Anderson dictated the direction of Free Cinema, even though the filmmakers had institutional support and were not as free nor outsiders as Anderson was saying. The author concludes by tracing the different directions in which Anderson vs. other Free Cinema filmmakers went: the former fossilized on his views, the others (Reisz and Richardson among the others) adapting to mainstream cinema, something that Anderson saw as a betrayal of their original ethos. Mazzetti is quoted (not directly but from another secondary source) on the origins of Free Cinema, recounting the key role that Anderson had in editing Together and writing the Manifesto.

Harper, Sue, and Vincent Porter. 2003. British Cinema of the 1950s: The Decline of Deference, pp. 185-95. Oxford: Oxford University Press. The chapter traces some groups of filmmakers at the periphery of the mainstream industry that, however, are representative of the variety and richness of the British film culture in this decade. The section on Free Cinema (pp. 189-191) is relevant here to give some context to Mazzetti’s work and involvement with them. While Free Cinema was received as a movement at the time, it would not be accurate to describe it as such, also because of its origins as a publicity stunt of sorts to get some films seen by the public. Lindsay Anderson, who had been the driving force behind the film magazine Sequence (1946-52), was the catalyst, as the one who brought the filmmakers together and wrote the manifesto. According to Harper and Porter, the filmmakers associated with Free Cinema considered themselves as outsiders, identifying with those at the edges of society, although they demonstrated an ambivalent attitude towards the working class, patronized and feared at once. The first screening in 1956 was especially successful with the intellectual Left, which opposed commercial cinema, but also created some polarization for their provocative tone and modus operandi.

Lowe, Brighid and Henry K. Miller. 2021. ‘A History of the Slade Film Project’. Slade School of Fine Art. Lowe and Miller detail the origins of their research project on the role of Slade in promoting film as an art medium from the 1950s until its remodelling in the 1980s. The project provides a broader context for their documentary on Mazzetti, which represents one of the main outputs. Miller recounts how Mazzetti emerged as a catalyst figure at Slade, where she came back in 2013 for a talk and the screening of the then-recently restored short K. Mazzetti was awarded an Honorary Fellowship from Slade in 2018. They also outline the scope of the project more broadly and the other figures that have been the object of their examination. During the project and the making of their documentary, Lowe and Miller have also retrieved a copy of another early short by Mazzetti adapted from Kafka, The Country Doctor, images of which are included in their film.

Massarenti, Francesca. 2020. ‘“Not My Country, Not My Home, Nobody In The Whole World”: The Life And Cinema Of Lorenza Mazzetti (1928 – 2020)’. Another Gaze, 8 January.

Miller, Henry K. 2007. ‘The Slade School and Cinema: Part 2’, Vertigo 3:5 (Spring). This is the second of a planned series of four articles tracing the history of filmmaking at the Slade School (UCL). Miller did not write parts three and four at the time. Part one instead traces the role of Coldstream and Dickson at Slade and before, their connections to the London Film Society, Grierson and other documentarists associated with his GPO unit, and the art world in the 1930s. This article instead focuses on the 1950s, when Coldstream was at the helm of the School and part of the Establishment, while Dickson was one of the teachers there. Mazzetti was one of Coldstream’s protégées, having persuaded him to allow her to study there. Coldstream invited Forman, the director of the BFI at the time, at a screening of the Slade Film Society in 1953, where Mazzetti’s short adapted from Kafka was screened. This resulted in Forman inviting Mazzetti to apply for the BFI Experimental Production Committee, which greenlit Glass Marbles (a.k.a. Together) in March 1954. Coldstream, Dickson, and other documentarists like Basil Wright were influential in supporting and shaping the Free Cinema group, including Mazzetti during the shooting and post-production of her film.

Pasqualini, Mauro. 2015. ‘A politics of emotions in the Italian Left: gender, consumption and intimacy in Lorenza Mazzetti’s advice columns and novels, 1961-1969.

Scholes, Lucy. 2020. ‘Re-Covered: The Sky Falls by Lorenza Mazzetti’. The Paris Review, 7 January/