I’ve discovered RAI’s Milleluci (1974) this week at the Discoteca di Stato. Mina and Raffaella Carra’ host the eight episode series that aims to shine ‘mille luci’ (a thousand lights) on the world of lo spettacolo. Each episode focuses on a different aspect of the entertainment industry, including the radio, television, cafe’ chantant, Broadway, cabaret and l’avanspettacolo. For each episode, Carra’ performs the song and dance routine for the opening credits, and Mina performs at least two different songs each week, as well as ‘Non gioco piu” for the final credits. In addition, the two are involved in the various sketches and routines dedicated to the entertainment sector that is the theme for the week.
These sketches and routines offer the viewer a nostalgic trip down memory lane. The first episode of the series focuses on the radio and celebrates its fifty years of broadcasting. Famous voices from the past are invited to come on the show and perform their well-known songs, including Alberto Rabagliati (first Italian pop music star thanks to the radio) and Nilla Pizzi (representing the radio’s coverage of the annual song festival at Sanremo). Mina duets first with Rabagliati and then with Pizzi and her pleasure at this trip down memory lane is tangible as she laughs at her mistakes and becomes emotional as she waves to the crowd alongside these two music ions. Her pleasure becomes ours; this, then, is an example of a ritualised, collective nostalgia for Italy’s popular music and popular music stars of the past, in which we as audience members are expected to be involved.
But what does this nostalgia represent? Is it an example of escapism from the social and political upheaval of the anni di piombo and associated terrorism? Or is it nostalgia for a simpler time and a simpler form of popular culture and leisure activities? Is nostalgia here a kind of pastime? Even the way in which Milleluci is put together suggests a form of nostalgia for the variety shows of the 1950s and 1960s, with song and dance routines by the famous performers of the period.
But whose nostalgia is it anyway? In the episodes dedicated to the radio and to the television, all things Italian are remembered fondly and with a certain pride. However, in the cafe’ chantant and cabaret episodes, French music and popular cultural forms are evoked; and the Broadway episode clearly references the American tradition of the musical. Whose traditions are being remembered here as something positive? There is a certain amount of benevolent satire involved in these episodes too: are we as the audience supposed to enjoy this trip down memory lane, all the while remembering that the Italians do it best after all?
These are some of my initial thoughts after watching Milleluci. I’m not sure yet how to respond to the programme (and in the same way, I’m not sure yet how to respond to Mina’s perm!). I think there is something important here as regards the televised and ritualised celebration of what can be deemed iconic cultural forms, and I also think that the way in which national, collective, ritualised forms of nostalgia are constructed and performed on the show, is also significant. There is certainly a lot going on here: more thinking and reflection required!