Friday, March 9, 2018

Trailblazer Liliana Cavani and her Direction of Charlotte Rampling, Helena Bonham Carter and Micky Rourke in Unforgettable Performances

Born in 1933 in Carpi near Modena, located in the northern region of Emilia-Romagna, Liliana Cavani forged a name for herself along with her male counterparts Bernardo Bertolucci, Pier Paolo Pasolini and Marco Bellocchio from the region that exploded onto the filmmaking scene in the 1970s.

Raised in a household that embraced the arts, Cavani grew up with her artitect father taking her to art museums and going to the movies with her mother, a film aficionado. She originally studied literature and philology at Bologna University in 1960, but a year later, decided to head south to Rome to study filmmaking at the renowned Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia. Success came right away. Before her studies were finished, Cavani was noticed by executives at RAI television and was hired there as the director of historical documentaries. Shortly thereafter, she began making documentaries for the network.

Cavani rose to international prominence with her 1974 feature Il portiere di notte (The Night Porter). Her style is fierce and she does not hold back from showing the hard, honest reality of life. Her movies are not for the faint of heart. She’s worked with actors like Charlotte Rampling, Helena Bonham Carter and Micky Rourke when they were in the early years of their careers. The depth of emotion she provokes from her actors is exceptional and deeply moving. The classical music, lush, exquisite sets and rich cinematography create visual symphonies. In fact, the music in her films is influential in the story, almost like separate a protagonist.

Her 1974 breakout film, The Night Porter is a heavy, dramatic story about a concentration camp survivor who comes face to face with her former abuser and lover after many years. When Lucia, played by Charlotte Rampling checks in to a Vienna hotel with her classical musician husband, she and Max, the night porter, played by British actor Dirk Bogarde, recognize each other right away. Lucia spends a sleepless night haunted by her flashbacks of life in the camp. She tells her husband to finish his European tour without her and stays behind at the hotel. When Max confronts her, paranoid that she has searched him out to turn him into the police for war crimes, the two have a passionate confrontation and realize they love each other. What follows is the pain and pleasure of a tortured, doomed love. Cavani’s balance of tenderness, violence, death and darkness is expressed through the extraordinary performances of her actors. The scenes in the concentration camps in particular show the natural human desire for the beautiful things in life like culture, music, dance and closeness but on the grey, corrupt and tragic set of the holocaust. Cavani’s camera moves smoothly in time with the classical music soundtrack, contrasting the extravagance of the Vienna hotel with the cold reality outside its doors as if the hotel is a sanctuary but once the couple leaves, they must fend for themselves.

Based on the novel Ripley's game by Patricia Highsmith, Calvani’s 2002 film by the same name stars John Malkovich as a vengeful former hitman who attempts to retire to a mansion in northern Italy. When he hears a neighbor insulting him, while at the same time, an old colleague is trying to bring him back from retirement, he orchestrates some serious payback. His neighbor who was once a hardworking family man gets dragged into an underworld of organized crime. This is another dark story but less of a drama and more of a suspenseful thriller. Malkovich is genius in his portrayal of a calm, cool, intellectual murderer with no conscience whose last so-called job is the one that finally gets to him. The film premiered out of competition at the 2002 Venice Film Festival.

Cavani’s 1989 Francesco starring Mickey Rourke and Helena Bonham Carter is the story of St. Francis of Assisi told from the point-of-view of his followers, which gives the film a documentary feel, reflecting Cavani’s beginnings at RAI. The film succeeds in showing key facets of the saint’s personality including his love for animals, his humility, his generosity as well as his initial inner battles with staying in the protected world of his father’s wealth vs. helping the desperately poor, a world that sometimes scared him. My only criticism is the one I also have for Gian Maria Volenté in Christ Stopped at Eboli and perhaps it's a bit superficial but it's something I noticed in both films. The 30-something Mickey Rourke may be too handsome to portray St. Francis. It’s almost distracting. I enjoyed his performance nonetheless.

Francesco wasn't the first time Cavani worked on a project about Saint Frances. In 1966, she directed a made-for-tv movie about the saint that aired on RAI. Starring Lou Castell, known for his role in Marco Bellocchio’s Fists in the Pockets, Cavani’s television version is described on the Internet Movie Database (IMDB) as “The life of Saint Francis of Assisi retold from the sixties political radical point of view.” It's interesting to note that RAI was also listed in the credits as one of the producers of the 1989 film version.

At 85-years-old, Cavani has another film in production. Death is for the Living is the story of Angela, an academic who studies death and its rituals. A series of copycat murders leads her to seek the assistance of a world-renowned medium.  

All the above films are available to stream online. The Night Porter is available through FilmStruck. Ripley's Game and Francesco are available through Amazon.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Strong Italian Presence in the 2018 Tribeca Lineup

The Man Who Stole Bansky
Some great contemporary Italian filmmakers are in this year's lineup of the Tribeca Film Festival including Laura Bispuri's Daughter of Mine, Susanna Nicchiarelli's Nico 1988 and Marco Proserpio's much anticipated The Man Who Stole Banksy. 

Proserpio's documentary film begins with the Palestinian perspective on the most important street artist in the world and soon turns into the discovery of an extensive secret market of masonry stolen from city streets around the world, of cultures meeting and clashing in the face of an unsustainable political situations, and of the ongoing debate of commercialization versus preservation in street art. It’s not a single story, but many.
The story is told through interviews with art dealers, restorers, copyright lawyers and street artists themselves. They all take a side, and this film gives unique access to all of them. In the last three years the director and his crew gained their trust – crucially, before they went under fire in the public forum. 

Proserpio is not looking to express a specific opinion. The goal is simply to pose questions. If graffiti is by definition an ephemeral form of art, should it then be allowed to disappear as the artists intended?

Daughter of Mine
Daughter of Mine is the story of a 9-year-old girl torn between the loving mother who raised her and the biological mother who wants her back. Starring Alba Rohrwacher and Valeria Golino as the mothers, and newcomer Sara Casu, the film was shot in rural Sardinia, which has vast landscapes that contrast the film being set in the present. 

In an interview with Variety, Gregorio Paonessa of Vivo Film called the plot a “very contemporary theme.” He said the film is "totally in line with Laura’s journey as a director” explaining, "her films have always been meditations on the female condition. In the first one it was gender identity, now she is taking further a step and tackling the theme of maternity.” Bispuri has said that American writer A.M. Homes’s memoir The Mistress’s Daughter was her inspiration behind the film.

Nico 1988
Set between Paris, Prague, Nuremberg, Manchester, the Polish country side and the Roman seaside, the biopic movie starts in 1987 with Nico, 48, strung out on heroin but going on tour in Europe as a soloist with a new manager and getting off drugs as the tour progresses. She is with her son Ari, who she claimed was conceived with Alain Delon, though Delon denied paternity. Nico died in 1988 while on vacation with Ari on the Mediterranean island of Ibiza.

The 2018 Tribeca Film Festival runs April 18 — 29.  Click here for the complete lineup. For more information on the films and directors, visit FilmItalia.

Monday, March 5, 2018

Verona's Fondazione Aida Introducing Italian Maestros to a New Generation

Pasolini on the set of his 1961 film Accattone in the
Gordiani zone of Rome

To mark the 96th anniversary of Pier Paolo Pasolini's birth, we're revisiting our interview with members of Fondazione Aida, an organization bridging Italy with the world and educating new generations about the maestros of Italian cinema and beyond. 

Based in Verona, Italy, home of Romeo and Juliet, Fondazione at introduces the great Italian authors and illustrators to youngsters in a way that is both entertaining and informative. Aida`s hands-on approach directly involves children by bringing theatre productions right into schools. The members of Aida also reach beyond the borders of Italy and take their productions on the road.

Members of Aida participated in a New York City tribute to Pier Paolo Pasolini by bringing their production of Trash to the Big Apple. I sat down with Roberto Terribile, one of the foundation’s artistic directors and Cecilia Cinelli, the former head of international relations. They told me what Fondazione Aida is all about at how its homage to the great Pasolini keeps his spirit alive and his work relevant.

What is the mission of Fondazione Aida?
Our foundation is a professional theatre company for young audiences. It's been around for more than 20 years. Its mission is to promote, among the new generation, the classic writers and masters of Italy, to keep alive the importance of the masters' personalities and work. They weren't just filmmakers or poets, but intellectuals, complete artists.

Tell me about Trash.
Every year, we have at least five or six new productions. A performance of Trash was orginally performed in Italy a couple of years ago when we organized an exhibition dedicated to Pasolini. There was a theatre performance that was presented to university students but it was just with one actor. So this performance in New York is not only with English text, but there are two actors; Rhonda Moore, who is an American actress and Lorenzo Bassotto, an Italian actor and director. 

Where did the name, Trash, come from?
The performance is made up of several poems by Pasolini. The poems were written about the lives of young people living in the rough suburbs of the big cities. He had a very special eye for the most humble people. He compared those neighborhoods to trash because of the violence and poverty that was taking place. It wasn't just a chronicle that he made of society. His way was always poetic with his gentle eye towards these poor people. So this performance highlighted the way he expressed what he saw.

How do children find out about your foundation?
Our headquarters is in Verona. We are known for our weekly performances, which students attend and on Sunday afternoons. We have a special family day in which students come with their families. We organize workshops and we tour Italy, performing at schools, theatres and festivals. Our company has also toured Mexico and Guatemala, participating in the Festival International Cervantino. We travel all over the world and have done many productions in the United States with different authors and illustrators.

Is your foundation open to American children?
Yes, we are always looking for co-productions where we can work with American actors and dancers like we're doing with this Trash performance. So, we're very open to meeting people, meeting actors. 

Can you tell me about other interesting projects?
Well, we're working on many projects, but one of our most important is an exhibition on Gianni Rodari, a famous children's author in Italy. He's also very well known all over the world. He died in 1980. He just loved children and had a great relationship with them. He knew how to relate to them. The exhibition consists of videos of him interacting with children and a performance of one of his novels, Grammatica della Fantasia (The Fantasy of Grammar).  

For more information about Fondazione Aida, visit them online at

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Filmmakers Damiano and Fabio D'Innocenzo Create Buzz in Berlin

One of the most talked about films at the 68th Berlin International Film Festival is Damiano and Fabio D'Innocenzo’s La terra dell’abbastanza (Boys Cry).

According the Berlinale, the story centers on best friends, Mirko and Manolo who live in the suburbs of Rome with their single parents. Surrounded by poverty, the boys spend their days at high school and their nights delivering pizzas. One night, disaster strikes when a man steps in front of their car near the Stadio Olimpico in Rome. The boys flee the scene. Manolo’s father learns that the police believe the dead man to have been involved in a feud between two rival mafia groups. It transpires that the Mafiosi, several of whom went to school with Manolo’s father, had already singled out the deceased as a marked man. On account of this Manolo is given an introduction to the mob. He receives his first assignment – as a test. Mirko insists on accompanying him. Before long, Mirko in particular finds himself sucked into a maelstrom of violence, drugs and prostitution. Bit by bit, he becomes estranged from his girlfriend, his mother and even from Manolo, until one final, desperate attempt to break away.

Directing and writing duo Fabio and Damiano D’Innocenzo were born in Rome in 1988. They spent their childhood on the outskirts of Rome painting, writing poems and taking photographs. Without any formal film-making training, they have created video clips, films for television and the cinema as well as a theatre play. Their debut as feature film directors La terra dell’abbastanza (Boys Cry) is screening in the Panorama section.

The Berlin International Film Festival runs through February 25. Click here to visit the festival’s website.

Monday, February 19, 2018

The Poetry of Il Postino - Then and Now

Movies are personal, intimate expressions of those who make them and those who identify with them. When you are really moved by a film, you will always remember that time in your life associated with it.

Michael Radford’s Il Postino arrived in America during the summer of 1995. I had been living in New York City, Brooklyn to be exact, sharing a studio apartment with a bunch of actors I met on a short film. Chasing a dream to be a screenwriter, I held a day job in public relations for a museum and took film jobs on the side. One of them was a “Parking PA” on Woody Allen’s Mighty Aphrodite. The shift was 6pm – 6am. It was the entry level position of entry level positions.

Hearing and feeling the West Coast calling my name, I went back to my hometown in Upstate New York for the summer before heading to San Francisco with a one way bus ticket. That’s when Michael Radford’s film came to town. I just remember sitting there after the credits rolled, in tears with that ending knowing that Massimo Troisi passed away shortly after filming. The cinematography, the story of friendship, that amazing soundtrack made for an emotional couple hours and stayed with me long after leaving the theater. After heading out west, I settled in an apartment in Pacific Heights with another bunch of 20-somethings. Switching to the news business, I worked as a video editor at CNN in San Francisco. So my days started later than the rest. I would cook pasta for lunch and listen to that soundtrack. I would spend the mornings and early afternoons with the likes of Glenn Close, Willem Dafoe, Andy Garcia, Madonna and Julia Roberts as they read the versus of Pablo Neruda's timeless poems. With the Pacific sun shining through the windows of my upper floor apartment, my glass of California wine in hand while pursuing my childhood dream of living in California.. it was truly a beautiful time in my life. That soundtrack reached beyond the film and became the soundtrack to my life. It made me curious about the Italian culture, and was the driving force in asking for a transfer to the Rome bureau, which I was granted the following year. 

To this day, when I hear that theme from Il Postino as I did on the Red Carpet at the 2016 Rome Film Festival, I savor the moment and remember the innocence of 1995 when everything was new and curiosity was endless. During my years of covering Italian cinema, I’ve written about many aspects of Il Postino, including the lead actress Maria Grazia Cucinotta and the beloved late actor Massimo Troisi. However, one thing I haven’t written about is the poetry element.

Today to mark what would have been Massimo Troisi’s 65th birthday, I want to write about poetry because it was relevant in the mid-90s when Il Postino was released and it was such a strong force in the film and soundtrack. During those years in San Francisco, there were quite a number of poets and young writers. Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s City Lights bookstore was thriving and North Beach cafés were full of us hopeful writers with our notebooks and cappuccinos. I left all that behind after moving back to NYC in '98, but every now and then, I’ll search for poets online to see if there are still open mics and if anything new and exciting is happening.

Last year, I was doing just that when I stumbled upon an interesting channel on YouTube. Stephen Blackehart is the creator of Words with Stevie, a collection of videos, which feature poems read by him, a Shakespearean-trained actor. Among the collection are works by Edgar Allen Poe, Robert Frost and William Shakespeare. I contacted Stephen Blackehart on social media to ask him about the videos and his thoughts on contemporary poetry in general. What I found was an accomplished actor and gifted writer. At the time, I didn’t know exactly where I would use our interview, seeing that I write about Italian cinema. Even so, he was generous with his answers to my questions. His new movie, James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2 was just about to premiere. It had literally been years since I went to the movies to see an American film, so I credit him with my return to American cinema, which I’ve continued since seeing Guardians of the Galaxy 2, a film I enjoyed so much.

Stephen Blackehart in a scene from The Belko Experiment
Gunn and Blackehart have collaborated many times over the years. They met during a casting call when Blackehart auditioned for the role of "Benny Que" in Lloyd Kaufmans’s 1996 Tromeo and Juliet, a B-movie take on Shakespeare’s classic. The film has since become a cult favorite and was shown at the Museum of Modern Art in 2016 as part of the its series Breaking Bard: Shakespeare on Film. Gunn co-wrote the script with Kaufman. In the years that followed, Gunn went on to write the screenplays for the Scooby-Doo films, Dawn of the Dead, The Belko Experiment and both volumes of Guardians of the Galaxy, with a third one on the way. Over the years, the professional collaboration between Gunn and Blackehart turned into a deep friendship. If you browse through their photos on social media, you can see how close they are, and in these days of Hollywood scandals, it is nice to see an authentic friendship between a couple of guys who have maintained some kind of normalcy in their lives in the midst of making Hollywood blockbusters.

Although Blackehart is not an Italian filmmaker, he certainly has been influenced by the great directors of Italian and Italian-American cinema. “The Italian and Italian-American culture were both huge influences on me as a teen and throughout my growth as an actor. I definitely came of age being enraptured by the films of Francis Ford Coppola, Scorsese, Brian DePalma, Cimino, Bertolucci, Fellini, Franco Zefirelli, Sergio Leone, and later on with Sergio Corbucci, Dario Argento, Rosellini, De Sica, Antonioni, Tarantino, and of course my favorite actors were DeNiro and Pacino and John Cazale and Anna Magnani... and popular actors like John Travolta and Sly Stallone. Those, and others like them, were the directors and actors that inspired me to work in this business. I wanted to be a part of the kinds of films that to me were more than just entertainment... they were fine art. I desperately wanted to be like them, to light up audiences the way I'd been lit up by them. They seemed to understand reality, and even absurdity, on a level that no one else was seeing. I loved it, and still do to this day. I would say that Italian and Italian-American culture had a bigger role in shaping and forming me, artistically, into who I am than anyone or anything else.

I asked Blackehart about his thoughts on Il Postino and he kindly shared a special memory with me, which further validates my belief that most of my fellow 20-somethings were living freely in the wonderful 90s. “I remember at the time it came out, I was working as a waiter in a Sicilian restaurant in Manhattan and had become obsessed with the culture there. I took a girl to the movie that I'd just met, and we both became so enamored of the film's mood and beauty that we started an intensely passionate fling together that lasted for some time afterward. So yeah, that film stands out in my memory pretty strongly.”

Apart from Il Postino, I also asked him about his thoughts on poetry- then and now, and how it goes beyond the realm of just poems to influence other works of art. His responses were so fascinating and so articulate, it made me hopeful that we’ll see more from him in terms of writing in the future.

Do you write poetry or do you just prefer to read?
Poetry didn't really exist for me as a young man, other than the usual syrupy greeting cards I'd dig through at the store near holidays and birthdays. It just wasn't anything kids or adults around me were interested in, so I wasn't really exposed to much of it outside of a few perfunctory mentions in English class. By the time I was a teen, the only poet I'd read much of was Edgar Allen Poe. His beautiful, darkly romantic works really got inside my adolescent head and made themselves at home. Annabelle Lee would waft through my brain for days on end. It wasn't until I was studying classical theatre in London many years later that it came back onto my radar. The English drama schools take their verse reading quite seriously, and I fell in love with it all over again. Shakespeare first and foremost, but also Jon Donne, Edith Sitwell, Swinburne, Shelley, Frost, Dylan Thomas, Plath and many great ones that my mind was reeling. I loved the rigor that was shown there and how the right reading could unlock the otherwise hidden beauty in great poetry. It re-ignited my love of the language. Not long after moving back to New York to further my dramatic studies, I was cast in "Tromeo and Juliet", a raucous, punk retelling of Shakespeare's classic. I had been working in a classical repertory theater company at the time, and the chance to do something on film was intriguing to me. I played Benny Que (the Benvolio role) in the film and as such got to do some of the versed storytelling, and even performed Sonnet 91 ("Some Glory in Their Birth...") during a love scene. It was challenging, goofy, awkward, and a lot of fun to do. It was also something of a non sequitur in the film and didn't make the final cut, but it's still on the DVD bonus features and maybe on the web somewhere.
The writing I've done over the last few years has mostly been prose.  Naturally, being in Hollywood, I've written a number of screenplays and so on. I even self-published a trio of novellas in 2014 called "A Stranger to the Darklands". Silly campfire stories, really. Nothing to be taken seriously, though I really enjoyed doing them. And writing material of my own has given me a deeper appreciation and understanding of poetry, to be sure!

Tell me about Tromeo and Juliet..
I went into playing in it with great trepidation. I was a Shakespearean actor in a classical repertory company in New York at the time, and was thrilled to be able to do something on film, but was very uneasy about most of the Punk or "Trash Cinema" elements that they were doing with it. I had to be talked into taking the role by James Gunn at the time. And although the film became popular and enjoys a certain status today (when we debuted it in Cannes, the French considered it to be American Avant Garde), the big thing that I got from my experience was the friendships that I made while working on it. James became my best friend, and people like Lloyd Kaufman, Valentine Miele, Jane Jensen, Tiffany Shepis, and Frank Reynolds are good friends of mine to this day. I remember Kenneth Branagh, who was in Cannes at the time promoting his Hamlet, was asked about Tromeo. I don't think he actually saw the film, but did agree that it looked to be close in spirit to what audiences in Shakespeare's time would have expected.

Watch the Tromeo and Juliet intro. Blackehart’s character Benny Que is shown in the opening credits.

Tell me about the poetry videos on your YouTube channel.
I became so caught up in chasing an acting career around (as well as working an endless variety of odd jobs to keep the rent paid between gigs) that I didn't have time to enjoy verse very often. Occasionally, my roommates and I would throw on theatrical clothes and powdered wigs and challenge each other to bark out Rudyard Kipling's "Charge of the Light Brigade" or some other Victorian classic to each other, but only in fits of silliness. It wasn't until the last few years, when my career slowed down for a while, that I started again to pick up those great books of poetry and find myself lost in them. Last year, on a whim, I picked up a cheap microphone at Radio Shack and started reading some verses into my phone's recorder. That's when I decided to pick a few of my favorites and try to put something together. I spent some time looking for some visuals to go along with them, and decided to use mostly pre-modern paintings that I felt captured the feel of the pieces. I found a $2 slideshow app (that's made to make short videos out of wedding pictures and so on) to edit it all together, but the goal with each of them was to only use unbroken takes. In other words, it might take me 50 or 60 or 100 attempts over several days to get it right all the way through, but I never edit inside of a read.  t's a lot of work and it's exhausting, but I wanted to use the experience to get better at it. That's how those dozen poems found their way online. Just a little project for myself, a way to pass the time and practice something I enjoy. The original intent was to do one per week for a year, but that was interrupted when the acting work picked up again. I still want to make some more, and hopefully will again soon.

How do you choose the poems?
I choose most of the poetry for the videos by chance. I'll flip through a collection by a particular poet that I like, and sometimes one will just reach out and grab me. Or sometimes I'll find myself making coffee or something and find lines from a poem I've previously read bouncing around in my noggin.  

Do you feel that there is an awareness of poets today?
I don't think there's a lot of awareness of pure poets today, but then again I don't know if there ever really has been. I mean, sure, in certain literary circles or in earlier centuries when the printed word was the most popular medium. But I think most people would rather have a root canal than go to hear a poetry reading. To my mind, there are a lot of reasons for it. Firstly, there's no money in it. It takes a lot of time and effort to make, and virtually no way that a poet can sustain him- or herself with it, so few people go into it. Second, the demand is light because it's often not well presented. On those few occasions when it's written well and presented well, you can see it absolutely light people up. But even a great poem, if badly read, can seem unintelligible to the listener. That's where it gets intellectually intimidating to many people. They will hear something they're told is a great poem, read by an untrained enthusiast, and they won't get what the fuss is about. They'll just think to themselves "Hm. I guess I don't like poetry."  Some people even look on it as a realm belonging to only the very smartest. They'll fear that if they don't understand it or don't genuinely appreciate it, they might not be all that smart. So they avoid seeing or hearing or thinking about it because they don't want to be made to feel dumb.

Do you look for poetry in the music you listen to? Those old Billie Holiday and Ella Fitzgerald songs are poetic to me because many of them tell stories of struggle and heartache in such a creative, poetic way.
I think there's real poetry in some music. Certainly, as you've said, in the songs of the Gershwins or Cole Porter (my favorites) and definitely Dylan's early stuff, but also in the lyrics of some of the better rappers. True rap music is driven by the words, rather than the tune. So I think you see a lot of young people, musical outsiders, sitting down with a pen and paper and really grappling with the creation of verse in that genre. I think that's pretty cool. Don't get me wrong, I don't think most forms of music lyrics rise to the level of even bad poetry (it's mostly greeting card-level stuff), but you definitely can find it here and there, buried amid the pop.

I’ll finish that thought with one of my favorite poems from the Il Postino soundtrack…Poetry read by Miranda Richardson. Also check out the promo I found on YouTube, which features actors reading the poems from the soundtrack. For more information on Stephen Blackehart, follow him on social media- Twitter and Instagram.


And it was at that age ... Poetry arrived
in search of me. I don't know, I don't know where
it came from, from winter or a river.
I don't know how or when,
no they were not voices, they were not
words, nor silence,
but from a street I was summoned,
from the branches of night,
abruptly from the others,
among violent fires
or returning alone,
there I was without a face
and it touched me.

I did not know what to say, my mouth
had no way
with names,
my eyes were blind,
and something started in my soul,
fever or forgotten wings,
and I made my own way,
that fire,
and I wrote the first faint line,
faint, without substance, pure
pure wisdom
of someone who knows nothing,
and suddenly I saw
the heavens
and open,
palpitating plantations,
shadow perforated,
with arrows, fire and flowers,
the winding night, the universe.

And I, infinitesimal being,
drunk with the great starry
likeness, image of
felt myself a pure part
of the abyss,
I wheeled with the stars,
my heart broke loose on the wind.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Martin Scorsese explores his Sicilian origins in his 1974 documentary- Italianamerican

With all the sad news in America this week, I want to focus on the power of family in this Sunday's edition of our series Cinema & Cibo. A cinematic treasure and family heirloom from 1974 captures the strength and courage of our grandparents and great-grandparents who came to this country with dreams of providing a better life for future generations. 

Martin Scorsese’s documentary Italianamerican features a candid interview with the director’s parents about their Sicilian origins, growing up in New York City's Little Italy and his mother’s Sunday sauce. Sitting around the kitchen table, Scorsese talks with his parents about about their struggles growing up and everything they did to get by financially while staying true to their cultural traditions. 

After you watch it, check out Jim Jarmusch's question to Scorsese about the making of the film.. and find out why he related to Elia Kazan’s On the Waterfront and East of Eden. Jarmusch asks about a shot in Scorsese's film which happens at 23:25. It really is a powerful moment. Listen to Scorsese's response and then go back to the documentary and check it out.