Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Martin Scorsese's Voyage through Italian Cinema

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Martin Scorsese's Voyage through Italian Cinema

Article excerpt

It is always a major treat when the elite of the film industry deign to dabble in television.

Martin Scorsese's My Voyage to Italy (Turner Classic Movies, June 7, 8 p.m. to 12:15 a.m.) is the most stimulating autobiographical documentary I've ever seen.

Written and directed by the maestro, Scorsese also narrates and hosts the film, taking us through the history of Italian cinema with special emphasis on Italian neorealism and its effect on world and American cinema - including his own.

What is great about this work is Scorsese's explication of Italian cinema's historical and aesthetic importance, the personal journey each movie took him through in his youth, and his great affection for them and their makers.

Moreover, he saw them all first on television.

Scorsese chose to shoot his film in black and white to match most of the neorealist movies and to approximate the television experience he had as a child in New York City.

As he narrates the stories of each film, he provides telling details in each of them that influenced, guided, or uplifted him. He's coaxing us to understand the way cinema works, and the revelations of human experience of which it is capable.

"I wanted to shake the dust off film history and ground it within common, everyday lived experiences," Scorsese has said.

"Ultimately, I wanted to do with these films what the best teachers did for me, which was to create a sense of continuity between the past, the present, and the future."

And he succeeds marvelously. Taking us through the work of Vittorio De Sica ("The Bicycle Thief," "Umberto D"), Roberto Rossellini ("Open City," "Paisan"), Luchino Visconti ("La Terra Trema," "Senso"), Michelangelo Antonioni ("L'Avventura," "La Notte"), and the greatest of the lot, Federico Fellini ("8 1/2," "La Strada"), Scorsese teaches us how to watch movies, how to understand another culture, and how that culture has influenced our own.

The "little Italy" he grew up in, like so many other cultural enclaves, melded into American society and produced some of America's greatest artists.

This can be dangerous TV. …

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