The Age of the Medici
The great Italian filmmaker Roberto Rossellini (1906–1977), who pioneered Italian neorealism in post-WWII films such as Open City and Paisan, ended his illustrious career with a series of historical films made for television. These wide-ranging docudramas, made during the 1960s and ’70s, were designed to educate audiences about some of the great, influential figures of Western civilization, whom Rossellini tried to humanize.
Compared to conventional costume dramas, these relatively low-budget movies were radical and minimalist—talky, didactic, emotionally flat, and somewhat static. They shunned name actors and traditional movie “illusionism” and embraced artifice and proffered philosophical arguments. Yet these detached, cerebral works teem with fascinating incidents and ideas, and have engendered a coterie of ardent fans around the world.
The three-part The Age of the Medici, made in the midst of Rossellini’s historical cycle and first broadcast in 1972–73, dramatizes how the banker Cosimo de’ Medici, great-great-great-grandfather of Catherine de’ Medici, founded the political dynasty that fostered the flowering of the Italian Renaissance. In December, we show the entire series (in its original English-language version) in Morley Lecture Hall. Admission to each part is $10, CMA members $7.
Curator of Film
“A ravishingly beautiful experience . . . The Age of the Medici has the effect of reducing every other film you’ve seen recently to the status of an ornament.” —Vincent Canby, New York Times
Cosimo de’ Medici, head of a prominent banking family in 15th-century Florence, amasses wealth and consolidates power before running afoul of the rival Albizzi clan.
Returning from exile in Venice, Cosimo the Elder turns patron of the arts while continuing to accrue money and influence
15th-century Italian architect, author, and “Renaissance man” Leon Battista Alberti takes center stage in the concluding part of Rossellini’s historical saga.