ROME – Martin Scorsese paid tribute on Monday to the Italian masters who inspired him to become a filmmaker as he accepted a career achievement award from the Rome Film Festival.
The 75-year-old Scorsese received the prize from his friend Paolo Taviani, who described the filmmaker as one of a small number of directors “who, with their films, help us to understand who we are.”
Scorsese praised a number of Italian directors who made an impact on his career during his formative years, including the 1950 and ‘60s Italian Neorealism icons.
The filmmaker, whose Sicilian grandparents emigrated to New York in 1910, acknowledged that the stories he heard about Italy as a child enriched his ideas about cinema.
Scorsese cited Pier Paolo Pasolini’s 1961 film “Accatone,” which portrays life in the modern Roman slums – as one of the films that greatly impressed him, as it was the first time he saw characters resembling the people he grew up with.
“I grew up in a tough neighborhood in New York and the first time I saw people I grew up with on film was ‘On the Waterfront’ by Elia Kazanm” Scorsese said. “But that was on the other side, a studio film. These (Pasolini’s characters) were the people I connected with.”
He also offered praise for Francesco Rosi’s “Salvatore Giuliano,” set in southern Italy.
“Rosi shows you the facts, yet somehow the facts are not the truth,” he said. “The roots of the corruption go deeper and deeper, the tragedy of the South, thousands of years of suffering,” Scorsese said, crediting the film with helping him understand his grandparents’ mistrust of government and other institutions.
Last but not least, Scorsese praised Federico Fellini, adding that “La Strada,” was the first film by the Neorealist he ever saw.
Their relationship was so close that they planned to make a documentary about cinema and acting, for which Fellini had already prepared screenplays, but the film was never made due to the Italian’s death in 1993.