Fans of Italian film might really enjoy this documentary by acclaimed American director Martin Scorsese. "My Voyage to Italy" is a fascinating look at about two dozen Italian films that were in some way significant influences on Scorsese's life and work.
The documentary is roughly four hours long and split into two DVDs. So far, I've only seen the first half, and only a handful of the films that Scorsese has discussed to this point, including "The Bicycle Thief" and "Stromboli." But it certainly provides a fascinating overview of many others.
Scorsese, know for such Hollywood movies as Goodfellas, Raging Bull, and the recent Shutter Island, discusses key themes in the Italian films he watched he growing up, and how they reflected the world at the time they were made.
That means the genre of Neo-Realism gets a good deal of attention (as does the scandal involving actress Ingrid Bergman and director Roberto Rossellini. The birth of a son, out of wedlock, was apparently an enormous scandal in North America in the 1950s.)
Here's how Wikipedia helpfully defines Italian neorealism (in Italian: Neorealismo) "...is a style of film characterized by stories set amongst the poor and working class, filmed on location, frequently using nonprofessional actors. Italian neorealist films mostly contend with the difficult economical and moral conditions of post-World War II Italy, reflecting the changes in the Italian psyche and the conditions of everyday life: poverty and desperation."
Already, Scorsese's survey of the films made right after the end of World War II, especially those that reflected the horrors of war, invasion and occupation, and finally the work of rebuilding a society, has really brought home to me a sense of how much Italy suffered in those years.
The films of Roberto Rossellini make up for half the films discussed in the entire documentary, reflecting his enormous influence on Italian cinema. Scorsese also looks at several films by directors Vittorio de Sica, Luchino Visconti, Federico Fellini, and Michelangelo Antonioni.