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May 17 - May 29, 2002

GLOBAL VISIONS
Martin Scorsese’s Voyage in Italy

This series was inspired by the pending release of Il Mio Viaggio in Italia (My Voyage in Italy), director Martin Scorsese’s incomparable survey of the postwar Italian cinema and the impact it continues to exert both on his own work and on our understanding of the art of film. While the Archive has presented the works of Fellini, Rossellini, and Antonioni on numerous occasions, Il Mio Viaggio in Italia provides us with startlingly fresh perspectives through which to revisit the cinematic contributions of these artists. Through Scorsese’s singular sensibility, we encounter anew the successful 1930s actor named De Sica (the Italian Cary Grant) who would emerge in the late 1940s as one of the most profound observers of the daily plight of the common man; the Northern Italian aristocrat Luchino Visconti, whose contact with French filmmaker Jean Renoir and wartime politicization would thrust him into the center of this new movement; the young documentary filmmaker Rossellini, who would meld fiction and actuality into his unvarnished form of neorealism. With exquisite visual material derived from new prints to represent their achievements and with a director’s eye to guide us through their artistic innovations, Scorsese’s film more than accomplishes his intended goals: expressing his deep affection for this body of work and making it into a cinematic port of call for a new generation of cinephiles.

The Archive wishes to thank Kent Jones and Cappa Productions as well as Miramax Films for their help with the series.


May 17 (Friday) 7 pm
May 19 (Sunday) 7 pm

Il Mio Viaggio In Italia (My Voyage in Italy)

Directed by Martin Scorsese
Italy/US 2001, 35mm, b/w and color, 246 min.
English and Italian with English subtitles

This personal but enormously informative and inventive exploration of the modern Italian cinema begins with the Scorsese family’s 16-inch black-and-white television set and the access it provided the young director-to-be to the tradition of the Italian epic, to the great masters who emerged from the neorealist period, and to his own family’s social and cultural roots. Working with extraordinary prints and the editing skills of Thelma Schoonmaker, Scorsese guides us on a brilliantly incisive journey that blends vivid social history, skillful formal analysis, and a pure cinephilic delight in the incomparable artistry of these directors, their writing partners, and the extraordinary group of actors who performed in their films. 

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May 18 (Saturday) 7 pm
May 22 (Wednesday) 9:15 pm

The Miracle

Directed by Roberto Rossellini
Italy 1948, 35mm, b/w, 40 min.
With Anna Magnani, Federico Fellini
Italian with English subtitles

The concluding segment of the omnibus production Ways of Love, which included work by French directors Jean Renoir and Marcel Pagnol, The Miracle features a tour de force performance by Anna Magnani as the village idiot in a remote Italian town. Nanni is seduced by a stranger (Fellini, who also authored the story on which the film is based), whom she mistakes for a saint. Based on this belief, she comes to regard her subsequent pregnancy as an immaculate conception, while her cruel neighbors deride her as both a madwoman and a sinner. Before its inclusion in the anthology, the film was denied an exhibition permit by the New York State Board of Censors for “blasphemy”—an act that set in motion a series of ground-breaking court cases dealing with film censorship.

The Flowers of St. Francis (Francesco, giullare di Dio)

Directed by Roberto Rossellini
Italy 1950, 35mm, b/w, 80 min.
With Aldo Fabrizi, the Monks of Nocere Inferiore
Italian with English subtitles

Blending the documentary-like shooting strategies of neorealism with the generic conventions of a biblical biopic, Rossellini succeeded in creating a singular portrait of the thirteenth-century founder of a new monastic order. The Flowers of St. Francis chronicles with great simplicity and a humility worthy of its subject the key moments in the life and work of St. Francis, from his arrival with his monks at Rivo Torto and the building of their chapel to his celebrated sermon to the birds and his tender embrace of a reviled leper—one of the most wrenching passages in all of Rossellini’s work. Aldo Fabrizi, the only professional actor in the film, plays a medieval warlord who is confused by the unstinting devotion and gentleness of this saintly monk. 

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May 18 (Saturday) 9:15 pm
May 21 (Tuesday) 7 pm

I Vitelloni (The Wastrels)

Directed by Federico Fellini
Italy 1953, 35mm, b/w, 109 min.
With Franco Interlenghi, Alberto Sordi, Franco Fabrizi
Italian with English subtitles

Partly autobiographical, I Vitelloni is a study of five young men adrift in the wasteland of their provincial home town on the Adriatic coast. Middle-class layabouts who live aimlessly by cadging off their families as they nurse vague ambitions and spend their days in pursuit of amusement and girls, the characters are trapped as much by their own moral bankruptcy as by the futureless society in which they have never quite grown up. Beautifully shot and performed, and governed by an inextricable mixture of affectionate sympathy and acid satire, I Vitelloni bares the neorealist roots Fellini would later shake off.

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May 20 (Monday) 7 pm

L'Avventura

Directed by Michelangelo Antonioni
Italy/France 1960, 35mm, b/w, 145 min.
With Monica Vitti, Gabriele Ferzetti 
Italian with English subtitles

After an argument with her lover during a yachting party, a woman disappears from the Sicilian island they’ve been exploring. Both her lover and best friend set out to find her, but the urgency of their search dissipates as they fall into a disquieting sexual relationship. Antonioni’s celebrated film, which he once described as “a detective story back to front,” displays the director’s fascination with landscape, geometry, and architectural forms as means of expressing the troubled state of postwar Italy.

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May 21 (Tuesday) 9 pm
May 24 (Friday) 9 pm

Umberto D

Directed by Vittorio De Sica
Italy 1952, 35mm, b/w, 89 min.
With Carlo Battisti, Maria Pia Casilio
Italian with English subtitles

Drawing inspiration from King Vidor’s powerful critique of urban life in The Crowd, De Sica worked with his screenwriter, Cesare Zavattini, on this unsentimental story of the plight of a pensioner cast out by a society in hot pursuit of its economic miracle. In his first film role, white-haired university professor Carlo Battisti plays Umberto as a proud and not entirely sympathetic loner who finds himself unable to maintain his already meager lifestyle. De Sica combines striking imagery shot in the streets of Rome (a rally with Umberto and dozens of other protesting retirees, the park where he walks his dog) with eloquent studio scenes (the huge hospital ward, the charity soup kitchen) to create a searing portrait of a society that has lost its convictions and compassion. 

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May 22 (Wednesday) 7 pm

Paisan

Directed by Roberto Rossellini
Italy 1946, 35mm, b/w, 115 min.
With Maria Michi, Gar Moore, Dale Edmonds
English and Italian with English subtitles

Rossellini’s follow-up to Rome, Open City is a compendium of six episodes that focus on a series of cross-cultural encounters during the Battle of Italy (1943–45)—all unified by the director’s neorealist strategies (location shooting, use of nonactors) and his search for signs of humanity in even the most brutal of circumstances. Among the film’s most poignant sequences are a story set at night on the coast of Sicily as an American G.I. and a local girl attempt to elude a group of German soldiers; a vignette in which a black G.I. on leave in Naples tries to recover his stolen boots, only to be shocked by the miserable conditions in which the homeless young thief and his compatriots live; and the concluding episode, set in the Po Valley, in which the partisans fight in a losing cause alongside Allied paratroopers. 

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May 23 (Thursday) 7 pm

La Terra Trema

Directed by Luchino Visconti
Italy 1948, 35mm, b/w, 160 min.
Italian with English subtitles

Shot on location in Sicily and cast entirely with nonactors, La Terra Trema was planned as the first of a trilogy of works on the plight of the rural working class (the other two, never realized, focused on miners and farmers). Visconti examines the exploitation experienced by the fisherman of Aci Trezza and their virtual enslavement to the canotieri, the local fish merchants who buy their catch at unfair prices. Shot over a period of seven months by the celebrated Italian cinematographer G. R. Aldo, the film manages to accomplish Visconti’s goal of capturing “the whole dramatic theme as a direct outcome of an economic conflict” while imbuing the struggles of his characters with almost mythic dimension. 

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May 25 (Saturday) 9 pm
May 29 (Wednesday) 7 pm

Europa 51

Directed by Roberto Rossellini
Italy 1952, 35mm, b/w, 110 min.
With Ingrid Bergman, Alexander Knox
English and Italian with English subtitles

Europa 51 is the second in a trilogy of post-neorealist films that Rossellini made in the early 1950s with Ingrid Bergman, in which he cast the celebrated actress in roles that gave him a new perspective through which to capture aspects of Italian society. Here, Bergman plays a wealthy American living in Rome whose life is shattered by the suicide death of the beloved young son whom she has ignored. Taking the advice of a politically engaged friend, she turns to families in real need and finds solace in selfless acts of giving. The world from which she came, however, interprets such “communistic” activities as a sign of madness.

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May 26 (Sunday) 7:30 pm

8 1/2

Directed by Federico Fellini
Italy 1963, 35mm, b/w, 135 min.
With Marcello Mastroianni, Claudia Cardinale, Anouk Aimée
Italian with English subtitles

Recipient of over sixty international awards, 8 1/2 is one of the most lauded works in the history of cinema and one of the most celebrated creations about the inability to create. A famous movie director (Mastroianni), unable to find the inspiration to start his new film and harried by his wife, his mistress, and an assortment of industry hangers-on, retreats into personal recollections, dreams, and fantasies—replete with harems, spaceships, and a luminous actress (Cardinale). Described by Fellini as “something between a muddled visit to a psychiatrist and an examination of a disordered conscience with Limbo as the setting,” 8 1/2 is a brilliant portrait of the creative process and a powerful meditation on the relationship between the realms of fantasy and film.

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May 27 (Monday) 9 pm
May 28 (Tuesday) 8:45 pm

Senso

Directed by Luchino Visconti
Italy 1954, 35mm, color, 115 min.
With Alida Valli, Farley Granger, Massimo Girotti

Hailed by Scorsese for the singular manner in which its director “works through total artifice as way to the truth,” Senso chronicles the relationship between an earthy, materialistic Austrian officer (Granger) and his aristocratic Italian mistress. Set amidst the Risorgimento battle for independence and the unification of Italy in Austrian-occupied Venice of 1866 and sumptuously produced (with costumes by Escoffier and cinematography by G. R. Aldo, who died in a car crash during production), the film is an intriguing amalgam of the neorealism of Visconti’s earlier work and the lush romanticism of his later films. Because of the obvious parallels the film draws to contemporary Italian history, Senso suffered at the hands of producers and censors. While the HFA print is an English-dubbed version, there is compensation in the richness of the dialogue, written by Tennessee Williams and Paul Bowles.

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