Neapolitan Carousel/Carosello Napolitano (Ettore Giannini, Italy, 1954)


EttoregianniniEttore Giannini lived in or near Naples all his life (1913-1990). There are few details of his career available, apart from records of his involvement in a number of films.  As an actor in Rossellini’s Europa ’51 he played Ingrid Bergman’s cousin, taking her to see the ‘other Rome’.  He was the writer or co-writer on several films. On Luigi Zampa’s The City Stands Trial (Processo alla città) 1952 he was one of 6 credited writers.  He co-directed two earlier films before his only solo directorial credit, Neapolitan Carousel (1954)


Neapolitan Carousel could be called a history of Naples over several hundred years. But this Naples belongs to the same world as the Venice we see in Powell and Pressburger’s The Tales of Hoffmann (1951), a place of studio sets, streets smooth enough and wide enough for large dances, and colours as vivid as the imagination.  When an iterant storyteller (Paolo Stoppa) sees his sheet music blown around by a wind those songs become the heart and motor of the film.

Carosello Napoletano - 1953In 1954 a number of Italian films were released that became classics – Rossellini’s Journey to Italy and Fear, Fellini’s La Strada, Visconti’s  Senso –and a large number of films directed at the domestic audience with actors like Toto, Alberto Sordi and Gina Lollobrigida. Many  of the names are now largely forgotten but not a then 20 year old Sophia Loren.  In that year’s output Neapolitan Carousel stands out because it is so hard to classify. It is as lush and as musical and as fantastic as an MGM musical (think, for example, of Minnelli’s The Pirate). 

As the program note for its screening at Cinema Ritrovato 2018 noted, “Through a sort of enormous songbook of unique cultural and emotional intensity, the director follows and reveals the glorious and painful epic tale of the culture, civilization and people of Naples through a phantasmagorical play with lights, sound and aromas. “

The filmmaking is a constant source of delight. Like a carousel, it is a non-stop whirl of song and dance, drawing on the rich legacy of Naples’ street song tradition.  But as the note above suggests it is not just a Broadway revue of big and spectacular and disconnected numbers, although the numbers do leave you marveling at their scope and variety. In a way, it’s an early instance of exploring a history through popular culture with the songs capturing the zeitgeist of moments in Naples’ past.

The extreme studio bound production design creates its own reality – just as in The Tales of Hoffmann or those glorious MGM Minnelli musicals. Think Yolanda and the Thief (1945) or The Pirate (1948). And just how many meticulous and colourful period costumes were created for the film?  At times you’d like to have another chorus or two of some of the songs, but the pace is non-stop.

Individual numbers are linked through the storyteller and his family, the relationship between performance and representation and the ways the characters personal and public lives intermix. Especially important is the “perfect interpreter and mouthpiece for his tale in the mask of Pulcinella.”  Léonide Massine plays Pulcinella.  He also choreographed the film. Massine also starred in and co-choreographed The Tales of Hoffmann, and you can see the similarities

One of the numbers features a young Sophia Loren, already at twenty a veteran of small roles in many films.  In 1954 she appeared in ten films including Neapolitan Carousel.

As a city and a community, Naples has had its share of very dark and tragic moments, the film unsurprisingly doesn’t explore most of these.  World War II, only nine years before, is almost ignored.  But this film does not set out to be a neo-realist work. It establishes its own format and style that results in what is really a unique piece of filmmaking, a constant joy and delight, with just the right amount of darkness.


Neapolitan Carousel was screened in competition at the Cannes Film Festival in 1954, and was one of nine films awarded the International Prize.  It returned to Cannes in 2018 in a new restoration by the Cineteca di Bologna and the Film Foundation at L’immagine Ritrovato, Bologna. In particular, the original Pathécolor is bright, vivid and true. This screening for Cinema Reborn also marks its return to Australia. In the 1950s there were circuits showing popular films (frequently un-subtitled) from Italy and Greece for the large number of migrants then arriving in Australia from those two countries.  Carosello Napoletano was released in August 1957 on that circuit.

Restored by the Cineteca di Bologna at L’Immagine Ritrovato laboratory and The Film Foundation, with funding provided by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association.


Neapolitan Carousel/Carosello Napoletano

Dir: Ettore GIANNINI | Italy | 1954 | 129 mins | Colour | Sound | DCP (originally35mm)| Italian with English subtitles | U/C15+.

Prod. Co: Lux Films | Prod: Carlo PONTI | Scr: Remigio DEL GROSSO , Giuseppe MAROTTA, Ettore GIANNINI | Photo: Piero PORTALUPI | Edit: Niccolò LAZZARI | Des/Art: Mario CHIARI | Music: Raffaele GERVASIO | Costume: Maria DE MATTEIS.

Cast: Léonide MASSINE (Antonio Petito), Sophia LOREN (Sisina), Clelia MATNIA (Donna Concetta), Maria FIORE (Donna Brigida), Agostino SALVIETTI (Prompter), Paolo STOPPA (Salvatore Esposito)

Source: Cineteca di Bologna. (Thanks to Guy Borlée, Carmen Accaputo & Claudia Menzella)

Author: Cinema Reborn

A site devoted to news and information about Cinema Reborn's festivals of classic film restorations

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