I don't know what Eva Green is doing on a cover of a book on Italian cinema but it sure looks good. Bertolucci was of course born in Italy but that's probably the only Italian connection the film has. The book itself, which is authored by Mary Wood who teaches film studies at the University of London, is very boring and dull. Its main focus is the financial aspects of film making, namely how the existing production, distribution and marketing mechanisms and infrastructure decide which kinds of films are made and which succeed in finding an audience and becoming part of mainstream, either artistic or popular. She uses the career of Francesco Rosi as an example and then discusses in tedious detail how he secured finances for each of his films from various sources including international co-productions. "No student of cinema can afford to ignore the industrial realities of film-making, least of all in the Italian context", she says in the introduction to the book. That might be the case but personally it doesn't interest me much. What I was looking for was a good introduction to Italian culture and society and the socio-political issues as they are represented in the films. On that front it didn't have anything new to say. She barely gets into the changing role of Church, the rise and decline of the influence of the Communist party, barely touches the problem of Mafia and I don't think even mentions the name of Silvio Berlusconi anywhere. There is a stand-alone chapter on gender representation which is comparatively interesting.
One chapter towards the end in which she discusses "visual style and cinematic space" in Italian cinema is interesting though. It is also one of the main aspects of Italian films that interests me a lot - their innovative and very expressive use of mise en scene and the attendant use of tracking shots rather than fast cutting to tell the story. It has of course its roots in the neo-realist films with their on location shooting, use of medium length shots, avoiding close-ups etc but later the same technique was used in many different and much more experimental ways, most notably in films of Antonioni, Rosi and Bertolucci. Rossellini used the same technique even when his subjects, milieu and concerns changed over time.
The concept of a national cinema itself has become an anachronism in our current increasingly globalised world, specially in Europe which is becoming more and more post-nationalistic. Whatever there is to "Italian-ness" it is preserved as a theme-park meant only as a showcase for the tourists. The concept of a national identity doesn't have much to say about how people live now. So may be that Eva Green picture on the cover is after all not that inappropriate.