By Hemanth Kissoon
“The purest expression of love for the cinema that I know of,” Scorsese on 8½.
Why can’t Martin Scorsese make more of these cinema documentaries? How can at nearly four hours this not seem long enough? Released for the first time on DVD, this feels like a personal journey through his influences, culturally, but primarily cinematically. My Voyage to Italy has to be on the must-see list for any of the maestro’s fans. The first images of the film are from Paisa (1946), and then an introduction, where he states that he is neither a Hollywood director (or what he perceives as one), nor an Italian one (his heritage is Sicilian). Scorsese states he also concerned about American movie predominance over other nations. And four hours later he says that what we have watched is meant to be a passing down of history rather than a school lesson. Through his mellifluous voice, passion, and clear comprehension of the subject matter he has fashioned, with long-time collaborator Thelma Schoonmaker, an enlightening picture; discussing five filmmakers: Rossellini, De Sica, Visconti, Antonioni and Fellini.
The selection of films is as interesting as what he conveys about them. We are in autobiography territory. The impact on him as little boy of six, up to his 20s; as well as on the generations in his family above him and the immigrant community in New York he grew up in. The movies of these filmmakers were transporting, a window into another world, and a glimpse of some of the harsh realities of life. Via his love of the medium he makes us understand why these films are important. Every major director should do something similar.