In the present discussions on Japanese war guilt there has been no mention of the magnificent apologias sent out by some of that country's leading film-makers in the late 1950s and early 1960s - Kobayashi's trilogy The Human Condition, Ichikawa's The Burmese Harp, and Fires on the Plain.

In the immediate aftermath of the Second World War the movie- makers in the defeated Axis countries were not apportioning blame but they did make some powerful observations on the confusion and chaos in the wake of war's end. Japan's films, although made to the specifications of the American occupying forces, were not exported. Unsurprisingly, people in Britain were not interested in Germany's problems in rising - literally - from the rubble. Yet many were moved by such Italian contributions as Giuseppe De Santis's Caccia Tragica ("Tragic Hunt", 1948) and Vittorio De Sica's Sciusia ("Shoeshine", 1946) - statements on the havoc wrought on ordinary people by the conflict. The most famous of these was Rossellini's Roma, Citta Aperta ("Open City", 1945) and it was that which provided the pattern for Nanni Loy in 1962 when he made Il Quattro Giornate di Napoli ("The Four Days of Naples").

By this time movies were more dispassionate about those particular events and although this film celebrates the Neapolitan uprising against the Germans in the face of the Allied advance on the city, it is not blindly chauvinistic but, rather, a fresco of bravery, knavery, treachery and horror. Loy had cleverly dovetailed individual incidents, clearly based on fact, into a reconstruction of greater events.

It was Loy's fifth film and the first to bring him international attention. Only two others of the dozen he made - the last was in 1993 - have been shown in Britain, and Made in Italy (1965) was one of a plethora of sketch films designed to examine what it meant to be Italian, few of them astringent enough and most of them drowning in whimsy.

Loy was born in Cagliari, the Sardinian capital, in 1925, and graduated in law before studying documentary production at the Experimental Film Centre in Rome. Afterwards he worked as assistant to the directors Luigi Zampa, Augusto Genina, and Goffredo Alessandrini. He made several documentaries before directing his first feature, the detective film Parola di Ladro ("The Robber's Word", 1957).

Loy's best film is Detenuto in Attessa di Guidizio (1971), with Alberto Sordi (who won the Best Actor award at Berlin) as an Italian engineer who returns to his homeland with his Swedish wife for a vacation. At the customs post he is questioned - "Just a formality" - and then bundled into a series of prisons. Bewilderment follows paranoia, confidence becomes subservience, confusion gives way to hopelessness. All is humiliation: searched in the anus for drugs; unable to go to the lavatory without a guard; mocked for his thermal underwear. All he learns is that he has supposedly killed a German. He has hardly even met a German.

In Britain, the film was retitled Why?, which was belittling, and the film was dismissed as facile by the few critics who went to the Rex, in East Finchley, for the preview. It was unsubtle and straightforward. It had an axe to grind and it grinds it. It was less about prison than passing the buck. It was in the best native tradition of examining one of the "what-if" aspects of contemporary life. In that tradition Francesco Rosi was then making at least two masterpieces, I Caso Mattei and Cadaveri Eccelenti. It is a tradition so strong that it cannot be expunged, but few recent examples have had the rigour and anger of the form at its best.

Loy's more recent work includes Mi Manda Picone ("Picone Sent Me", 1983), the story of an unemployed Neapolitan who is mistaken for a member of the local Mafia and whose life is thus transformed, and Scugnizzi ("Urchins", 1989), about the street children of Naples.

At the end of his career, Loy concentrated on making films and programmes for television, and acquired a new celebrity as the producer of the Italian version of Candid Camera.

David Shipman

Nanni Loy, film-maker, screenwriter: born Cagliari, Sardinia 23 October 1925; died Fregene, Italy 21 August 1995.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Ashdown Group: HR Manager Shared Services - Uxbridge, - 1 Year contract

£50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: HR Manager Shared Services - Uxbridge, Stock...

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Human Resource Officer and Executive Assistant

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join one of...

Ashdown Group: HR Assistant (Events business) - Central Manchester - £20K

£18000 - £20000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Assistant (Events busi...

Recruitment Genius: Project Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This privately-owned company designs and manuf...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

Confessions of a former PR man

The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

The mother of all goodbyes

Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions