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My Voyage to Italy (1999) – DVD Review


Directed and Hosted by: Martin Scorsese

Released by: Miramax
Region: 1
Rating: PG-13
Anamorphic: Yes

My Advice: Rent It.

Movies that come out of Hollywood are easy to identify. Teenage comedy, action-adventure, historical epic; all these and more have very established rules and requirements that the major studios follow to the letter. Sometimes you want something different. So you go to the foreign section of your local video store. But once you go off the beaten track, it’s easy to be intimidated by the unfamiliar sights and sounds these films offer. There is help. Noted director Martin Scorsese acts as your tour guide through the great flowering of Italian cinema from the grim postwar years to the sexy hedonism of the Swinging 60s. You’ll be able to follow Scorsese as he takes the viewer through what he calls My Voyage to Italy.

[ad#longpost]Most English teachers will tell you that you cannot simply write that you like something. You must go into detail explaining your reasons why you like it. This is the essence of this documentary. This is a tribute, a love letter if you will, from Scorsese to Italian cinema. So don’t expect a critical analysis of this genre, Scorsese has nothing but praise. Recounting his memories of watching these films with his family in New York, you can tell these films hold a special place in his heart. But there is more to this than merely gushing.

Scorsese detailed the context in which these movies were made, how they reflect the times and the culture. For example, with the destruction and privations from both the Allies and the Nazis, neo-realism became the relevant style during the dark days of post-war Italy. And with the sexual revolution of the 60s and the growing commercial culture, the exploration of surrealism was a natural outgrowth. Scorsese does talk some about the directors and stars that made these films: Rossellini, Renoir, Fellini, Bergman, Mastroianni. But it is the films that are his focus.

That may be the problem. Scorsese uses specific movies to illustrate the themes and styles Italian movie making went through. But he not only talks about these movies, he goes through them detailing plot from beginning to end. It’s as if in his passion to show you these movies, he leaves nothing for you to discover on your own. After he goes in length about Umberto D, Senso, or La Dolce Vita, you wonder why you should watch them in their entirety.

my voyage to italy eight half

Still, having some of the symbolism and subtext explained can help those who may have missed it by simply viewing the film. Without knowing about Fellini’s own battles with dealing with fame and the expectations his success generated, you might not get some of the themes in 8 ½. But to have the entire film practically mapped out, it restricts you from finding your own interpretations of Fellini’s vision.

I was surprised that there weren’t any extras on this two-disc set. Even a filmography of the various directors featured listing the movies they worked on would have been nice. The films featured are important, but they aren’t the only movies these filmmakers made in their careers.

my voyage to italy la dolce vita

My Voyage to Italy is a good survey of the height of Italian cinema by someone who truly loves these films. However, as I stated, be prepared to have spoilers presented to you if you’re unfamiliar with Italian cinema before you go in. If you’re someone who has already seen the films detailed here and just want Scorsese’s take on them, soldier on. But if you want to explore on your own, you might not want to watch this.

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