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17 FEBRUARY 2011

Martin Scorsese: ItalianAmerican

"After having made four well–received feature films, among them Mean Streets (1973), an uncompromising story of petty criminals in New York City's Little Italy, and Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore (1974), the tale of a single mother's journey to self–sufficiency, Martin Scorsese stepped back briefly from his commercial film career to make a small, deeply personal documentary. Shot on 16mm film in the Manhattan apartment where he grew up, ItalianAmerican is the record of a conversation between Scorsese and his parents, Charles and Catherine. In three–quarters of an hour, the three manage to cover a great deal of ground, most notably the parents' experiences growing up in the rough–and–tumble New York tenements during the early years of the twentieth century. Scorsese's presentation of his parents is highly particularized and subtly nuanced, yet he also manages to make their words speak for the larger immigrant experience. When the setting shifts from the living room to the dining room and everyone sits down to dinner, the mood becomes looser and more animated, with Scorsese and his mother moving into the kitchen for a quick lesson on how to make tomato sauce–or 'gravy,' as Catherine (and an entire generation of Italian Americans) would call it. Throughout, the affection that the three Scorseses have for each other is palpable, as is the respect with which the son presents his parents' story. At the end, Catherine's recipe for her tomato sauce scrolls by on–screen, making ItalianAmerican not only a historical record, but also a family legacy."

(The Museum of Modern Art)

1974. USA. 35mm print, colour, sound, 49 min. Original 16mm materials on indefinite loan from the artist. Preserved in 35mm with funding from the Celeste Bartos Film Preservation Fund.



16mm1974authorship • Catherine Scorsese • Charles Scorsese • direct cinemadocumentary filmfilmimmigrantimmigrant experienceinterviewItalian • Italian American • Italianamerican (1974) • ManhattanMartin ScorseseNew Yorkpersonalpersonal filmrealismsocial historysocial realismsocial realitytruth


Simon Perkins

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