The Italian neorealist film movement, revolving around the portrayal of the average, lower-class stories, came to prominence after the fall of the fascist government. The stories of the common man and the hardships of the underclass resonated with a newfound sense of freedom, combined with the hardships of the wartime conditions that Italians faced during the war. The emphasis on realism, on the raw brutality of man, is why three of Martin Scorsese’s films, Casino, Goodfellas, and The Wolf of Wall Street have the word “fuck” used a total of combined 1,291 times, averaging around 2.54 times a minute. The almost forced realism within the films he made at one point made him want to capture the source of the Sicilian-American identity, which is what he did completely with the documentary Italianamerican.
Italianamerican is a simple documentary filmed almost in a home-movie format, focusing on the lives of his parents, Charles and Catherine Scorsese. The duration of the film, only clocking at around 49 minutes total, contains only slice-of-life musings of his parents, who recount their lives. The opening shot, a pan across the small apartment where the film takes place, a young Martin Scorsese on the floor, with his parents sitting on a plastic-wrapped sofa, builds across nonchalant storytelling and rapid-fire conversation, ending with a credit reel that contains a recipe for homemade meatballs. In all, the film is the most encompassing and passionate retelling of the Sicilian-American identity, packing the lives of entire generations into forty-nine measly minutes.
The minutiae of Italianamerican piece together an identity so powerfully that you may as well be taking a class on it. From the descriptions that Catherine gives about the women in her life, to the descriptions of Jewish-Americans by Charles, in addition to the overlapping conversations and laughter heard throughout the film, a case-study of an entire class is found. With a litany of slang and personal memories, the entire tenement lifestyle of an age of immigration is crammed into one small movie, in one tiny apartment.
Get ready for a family reunion with this week’s Collegiate Lenses, Italianamerican.
Italianamerican Drinking Game Rules
Take a drink…
- Every time an old photo is shown
- Whenever Jewish, Irish, or Chinese people are mentioned
- If the scene changes to being confined to the kitchen
Take this list as a suggestion, and drink responsibly. As always, enjoy the show.