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NeoRealismo - The Scorsese Perspective

Martin Scorsese on Neorealism

The following is an excerpt written by acclaimed filmmaker Martin Scorsese from the foreword of “NeoRealismo: The New Image in Italy 1932-1960.” Find the full book here. Visit arte Italia any Friday through Sunday, noon to 5 p.m, between September 27 – December 29, to see the powerful images that inspired Martin Scorsese to write this piece.

Where: Arte Italia, 442 Flint Street, Reno, NV 89501

Admission:  Free of charge

On View: September 27 - December 29, 2019


“Each of us has moments in life that we continually return to. For me, it is a childhood memory from the late 1940s, of sitting around the television in our apartment in Little Italy and watching Roberto Rossellini’s Paisà. Or, to be more precise, watching my grandparents watching the pictures. They had come to America from Sicily at the turn of the century, and these were the first moving images of their homeland that they have been since then. And, they were also seeing what had become of it after the devastation of world war.

There were so many occurrences and experiences and emotions and sparks of recognition that led me to become a filmmaker. That was one of them. And as I saw more and more films from Italy, neorealism became a touchstone. It still is.

In the late 1990s, I started a documentary on the history of Italian cinema, Il Mio Viaggio in Italia, or My Voyage to Italy, named after another of Rossellini’s pictures. And during that time, I thought a great deal about the role of Italian neorealism in the life of the country. On the one hand, you can recognize the seeds of neorealism in a few key pictures made long before the ones that came to define the movement: Open City (1944), Paisà (1946), Shoeshine (1946), La terra trema (1947), Bicycle Thieves (1947), and Umberto D. (1952). Those landmark films were like nothing else in the cinema, because they were a collective human response to the devastation and tragedy of the war, a response that came in the form of art. Neorealism was known for its lack of artifice—going out into the streets to shoot stories grounded in everyday life, from the situations to the locations to the use of non-actors. Of course, there was artifice in those pictures, and there was the extraordinary artistry of Rossellini and De Sica and Visconti. But it was all in the service of illuminating the here and now, and the everyday courage required to live with dignity and freedom and compassion. Truly, Italian neorealism helped the nation to reclaim its soul.

Neorealism is difficult to define. It is an impulse. It is a moment. It is an act of recovery and restoration. It is a source of inspiration, a fountain that never stops flowing.”

Source: Viganò, E., Scorsese, M., Amodeo, F., Brunetta, G. P., Falcetto, B., & Pinna, G. (2018). NeoRealismo: The new image in Italy 1932-19604. Milano: Admira Edizioni.

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