Bravo, Scorsese

Martin Scorsese: A Retrospective in Words


By Giuliano Di Tanna

Isabella Rossellini was flying high on a plane when an Italian journalist called her to break the news about Martin Scorsese’s first Academy Award as best director for The Departed. Rossellini, daughter of the late, great Italian director Roberto Rossellini, who was married to Scorsese from 1979 to 1983, commented, “I couldn’t watch the ceremony, but I’m so glad for him. He really deserved that honor. I think this Oscar is a prize for his career and not just for this specific movie.” Rossellini’s words pretty much summarize the way Italy reacted to Scorsese’s capture of his long-awaited first Oscar.

Scorsese was born in New York’s Little Italy from second-generation American parents. His grandparents landed in America in the early 1900 arriving from very poor country towns in Sicily. His upbringing was molded by Sicilian civil and religious traditions–roots which deeply affected his cinema. In Italy, Scorsese is considered almost like an Italian moviemaker, more than other Italian-American directors such as Coppola and De Palma. Critics and movie fans have been rooting for him over the past 20 years when he failed to score an Oscar.

So the 57th Academy Awards night at the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood was a night of relief and joy, a joy shared by Italian movie buffs and celebrities like Roberto Benigni, the best actor Academy Award winner in 1998 for Life Is Beautiful, who expressed his satisfaction: “Martin Scorsese is one of the world’s greatest directors.”

Benigni wasn’t the only Italian film luminary who rooted for Scorsese on Oscar Night. Ferzan Ozpetek, an Italian-Turkish writer who has been recently on his way to the top of Italy’s movie industry with films like Le fate ignoranti and the recently released Saturno contro, said: “I’m happy for (Scorsese) who’s been deserving an Oscar for such a long time.”

Ozpetek’s appreciation of Scorsese’s body of work is echoed by Goffredo Bettini’s own satisfaction. Bettini, the powerful president of the recently born Rome Film Festival where, in September, Scorsese was one of the major guests at the Italian premiere of The Departed, said, “The Departed is a wonderful movie. Congratulations to Martin Scorsese. I hope our mutual collaboration will continue in the future on some of his projects like the restoration of old films with his film foundation.” l

Giuliano Di Tanna is chief editor of the life section of the daily newspaper il Centro, published for the Abruzzo region of Italy.

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