Dedications: My four late friends Rory, Stan, Bryan, Jeff - shine on you crazy diamonds, they would have blogged too. Then theres Garry from Brisbane, Franco in Milan, Mike now in S.F. / my '60s-'80s gang: Ned & Joseph in Ireland; in England: Frank, Des, Guy, Clive, Joe & Joe, Ian, Ivan, Nick, David, Les, Stewart, the 3 Michaels / Catriona, Sally, Monica, Jean, Ella, Anne, Candie / and now: Daryl in N.Y., Jerry, John, Colin, Martin and Donal.

Thursday, 20 October 2011

My Voyage to Italy - Martin Scorsese

The perfect documentary for me is Martin Scorsese's MY VOYAGE TO ITALY, I missed this whenever it played on television - did it ever play here in the UK? - but at least the dvd is now avalable. Scorsese of course as an Italian-American is the ideal guide through Italian cinema, he grew up watching these films and they have inluenced his work. It is a given that he would have loved Fellini's I VITELLONI (which I raved about here a while back), it is a major influence on his MEAN STREETS.

This four hour documentary charts the landmark films and directors of the post-war era, including Vittorio de Sica, Luchino Visconti, Federico Fellini, Roberto Rosselini and Michelangelo Antonioni, good to see the usually neglected Rossellini given his due here. Given Marty's wealth of knowledge and infectious passion, just watching this DVD is like attending the best film class. He knows what he’s talking about and gives precise, eloquent descriptions of each movie, using his years of experience in front of a screen as well as behind the camera. Most of all this is 246 minutes of one of the great US directors imparting his passion about some of the most important films of the 20th century. It makes one want to go back to the movies and experience them all over again, particularly Visconti's great SENSO, De Sica's UMBERTO D, and those Fellini and Antonioni masterworks. I VITELLONI for instance remains a timeless pleasure and makes me want to see those other early Fellini films.

If you care about the medium, then it is an essential purchase. Scorsese introduces various segments and through judicious use of clips and an informed, eloquent voiceover takes us on a journey of the following films:

Paisà (1946))
Rome, Open City (1945)
Stromboli (1950)
Europa ’51 (1952)
Shoeshine (1946)
Bicycle Thieves (1948)
Umberto D (1952)
The Gold of Naples (1954)
Ossessione (1943)
La Terra trema (1950)
Senso (1954)
I Vitelloni (1953)
La Dolce Vita (1960)
Voyage to Italy (1954)
L’avventura (1960)
L’eclisse (1962)
His focus of course is on classic Italian cinema, but a broader view would encompass the sword-and-sandal peplum films popular in the late 50s/early 60s (like GIANT OF MARATHON, Leone's rather good THE COLOSSUS OF RHODES, THE LAST DAYS OF POMPEII and the Steve Reeves spectaculars, APHRODITE, MESSALINA (see Belinda Lee label), and the giallo thrillers by the likes of Mario Bava and Dario Argento (Jean Sorel label), as well as the popular Loren-Mastroianni films and the delicious comedy films of Monica Vitti, Alberto Sordi et al (BOCCACCIO 70, LE BAMBOLE, LE FATE etc); and those films from the works of Alberto Moravia (TIME OF INDIFFERENCE (Claudia Cardinale label), TWO WOMEN), Georgio Bassani (THE GARDEN OF THE FINZI CONTINI'S) and those intriguing novels by Natalia Ginzburg (DEAR MICHAEL (CARO MICHELE), FAMIGLIA etc). Other strands of Italian cinema I liked are those Lina Wertmuller films like SEVEN BEAUTIES, the Taviani's PADRE PADRONE and new comedies like LOOSE CANNONS (review at Italian label), and the lesser known films by Alberto Lattuada (THE TEMPEST, DOLCI IGNANNI), Mauro Bolognini (LA NOTTE BRAVA, SENILITA, CORRUZIONE, GRAN BOLLITO, METELLO), Monicelli etc; Visconti's 1952 BELLISSIMA and 1965 operatic melodrama SANDRA (VAGHE STELLE D'ORSA) being my recent re-dioscoveries. I will have to comment separately on the polarising works of Bertolucci and Pasolini!

I have written about these in more detail at Italian, De Sica, Antonioni, Fellini labels at labels for Loren, Vitti, Valli, Cardinale, Magnani, Mangano, Mastroianni. We sure love those Italians!

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