Understanding the Cinemagoing Experience in Cultural Life: The Role of Oral History and the Formation of ‘Memories of Pleasure’

Daniela Treveri Gennari


The new cinema history approach asserts the importance of investigating the historical reception of films. In the past two decades, empirical research on film audiences has significantly developed methodologies and questions related to film and memory. Some of these studies concentrate on a period of time in which cinema was an essential leisure activity for millions, before the arrival of television, multiplexes, videos and home cinema. Combining ethnographic audience study with cultural and cinema history has allowed new insights into the historical reception of films and confirmed the vital role of oral history for a better understanding of cinema audiences. Italian Cinema Audiences (2013–2016) – an AHRC-funded inter-institutional research project – sits precisely within this new body of research and responds to the urge of using a bottom-up approach to shed new light on the cultural history of a country in a particular historical moment. This article will make use of the findings of the Italian Cinema Audiences research project to explore the role of oral history in the process of understanding cinemagoing as a cultural practice and to better comprehend how this type of research can enrich our understanding of the cinemagoing experience in particular and film cultures more broadly. It will also reflect on the process of remembering what I will define as ‘memories of pleasure’.

Keywords: Cinemagoing; oral history; methodology; individual and collective memories; memories of pleasure

DOI: 10.18146/2213-7653.2018.337

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ISSN: 2213-7653