Genina, Augusto

(1892-1957)
   Director and screenwriter. A prolific director whose career spanned four decades and over 100 films, Genina entered the silent-film industry in 1912 as a story writer, intially supplying subjects for the Film D'Arte Italiana and the Celio Film company. A year later he made his directorial debut with an Italian-Spanish coproduction, La moglie di Sua Eccellenza (His Excellency's Wife, 1914), filmed on location in Barcelona. During the next decade Genina worked for most of the major Italian studios, writing and directing a host of sophisticated comedies and dark melodramas full of love and betrayal, intrigues and disguises, nobles and paupers, foundlings, and femmes fatales. Having thus acquired a reputation for unerring professional competence, he was hired by the Unione Cinematografica Italiana (UCI) in 1919 to head one of their studios in Turin, where he produced, among others, a very effective adaptation of Edmond Rostand's Cyrano De Bergerac, which won first prize at the Turin Film Festival in 1923 and much praise in France some time before its Italian release.
   Following the collapse of the UCI and the Italian film industry generally by the mid-1920s, Genina migrated to Germany in 1927, where he made several films with the UFA. In 1929 he moved to Paris, where he worked with Rene Clair, directing the outstanding Prix de beaute (released in Italy in 1930 as Miss Europa), a film starring Louise Brooks and coscripted by Genina and Clair, from a story by G. W. Pabst. Although shot silent, the film was dubbed into six languages and released to great acclaim.
   With the industry slowly beginning to recover in Italy in the early 1930s, Genina returned and, in spite of lacking any strong personal commitment to Fascism, directed several films that appeared to echo the regime's militaristic rhetoric and to support its colonialistic aspirations: Squadrone bianco (White Squadron, 1936), L'assedio dell'Alcazar (The Seige of Alcazar, 1940), and Bengasi (1942). Although the considerable aesthetic achievement of these films was always acknowledged—indeed, Alcazar was highly praised by both Luigi Chiarini and Michelangelo Antonioni—their ideological basis counted strongly against Genina in the immediate postwar period. This negative evaluation of the director was redeemed to some extent by Il cielo sulla palude (The Sky above the Swamp, 1949), an effective, quasi-neorealist biography of the modern saint Maria Goretti, a young girl who had allowed herself to be murdered rather than compromise her virginity. The film received the award for Best Film and Best Director at the Venice Festival in 1949 and the Nastro d'argento for best direction in 1950. Genina's last film, Frou-Frou, filmed in Paris in 1955, was a well-made and colorful romantic melodrama not dissimilar in style and spirit to many of the films that he had produced in his early silent period.
   Historical Dictionary of Italian Cinema by Alberto Mira

Guide to cinema. . 2011.

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