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Michael Henry Wilson
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"I saw these movies. They had a powerful effect on me. You should see them." That's Martin Scorsese's message for this documentary. We meet his family on Elizabeth Street in New York; he's a third generation Italian with Sicilian roots. Starting in 1949, they watched movies on TV as well as in theaters, lots of Italian imports. Scorsese, with his narration giving a personal as well as a public context, shows extended clips of these movies. Films of Rossellini and De Sica fill part one; those of Visconti, Fellini, and Antonioni comprise part two. Scorsese takes time with emotion, style, staging, technique, political context, and cinematic influence. It's his movie family. Written by
How does a filmmaker get out of being asked in every interview what films influence him? He makes a movie about them.
How does a filmmaker get out of being asked in every interview what films influence him? He makes a movie about them. Martin Scorsese's lengthy documentary, My Voyage to Italy has been making the rounds on film festival circuit since 1999. It is now available to the general public on two-disc DVD.
Scorsese says in the beginning of My Voyage to Italy that his film was made so that people, especially today's youth, can realize that not all great films are born deep in the heart of Hollywood, USA. Scorsese directs and narrates this documentary about the history of Italian cinema. My Voyage to Italy includes home video from Scorsese's childhood and footage from 24 movies made between 1914 and 1966. It is these films that inspired him to become one of America's most well known and beloved directors. Scorsese gives us plot points, character descriptions and even endings of each classic film, pointing out specific elements that make the movie great. He tells us the strengths and weaknesses of each film and what he got out of it. At one point, he even shows us the same scene twice so we can spot exactly what he wants us to see. And, although you know the ending of these films, you are somehow still compelled to go out and see them anyway. It is as if he is a close friend who is describing a movie he just saw and tells you to go see it. This is a person whose opinion you can have confidence in.
The films featured in My Voyage to Italy opened the door for today's writers and directors. In a time where free speech was only something the press could take advantage of, many of the films were considered scandalous and provoked boycotts and law suits in the US. Roberto Rossellini's film Il Miracolo (The Miracle) prompted a US court to rule that filmmakers are entitled to the same freedom of speech as the media. Where would modern cinema be without this landmark decision?
Scorsese's main influences were the films made during the Italian neo-realism movement. All of the films in the genre focused on the reality of World War II; the horrors and sacrifice, liberation and compassion; all of the emotions felt during that time are on the screen, giving the audience little-to-no optimism or silver-lining. Through these films, the viewer experiences the filmmaker's response to that moment in history. They were not about a hero or a villain, but about life during and after the most extensive and costly war in the history of the world. Through these movies, Scorsese was subjected to the true Italian life and culture he couldn't experience at home in New York.
My Voyage to Italy should be required viewing for people who want to pursue a career in film; it is like a four-hour advanced film class that is as interesting as it is entertaining. It is obvious to the viewer that the films Scorsese highlights are dear to his heart. Based on the films that he loves, you can clearly see their influence reflected in the darker movies he has directed. Films like Taxi Driver and Goodfellas came to life because of the old movies he watched on the tiny black-and-white TV in his childhood home.
Before watching My Voyage to Italy, I had never seen even a frame of a film by Rossellini or Federico Fellini. Now, I feel compelled to go out and study each one. That, I suppose, was Scorsese's intention all along.
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