Wish List: 13 Movies We’d Like to See on DVD

Italianamerican

Over the past several years, Martin Scorsese’s frequent excursions into documentary filmmaking have proven just as compelling as his more conventional, narrative features, producing such fine works as Public Speaking, A Letter to Elia, No Direction Home: Bob Dylan, and The Blues. But Scorsese has juggled fiction and non-fiction throughout his career, clear back to his earliest efforts as an editor (including Woodstock). In the 1970s, he would often make a documentary as a thematic companion piece to his big narrative features; his American Boy was a profile of Taxi Driver bit player Steven Prince, while The Last Waltz utilized the big-budget musical techniques he’d played with on New York, New York. Scorsese made the 49-minute Italianamerican in 1974, on the heels of his breakthrough film Mean Streets; he was one of several filmmakers contracted by the National Communications Foundation to create programs on the immigrant experience. Scorsese didn’t make a densely researched sociological study — he just took his cameras to his mother and father’s Little Italy apartment on a Sunday and let them talk. The resultant film is charming, funny, and disarmingly casual, thanks primarily to the undeniable warmth and charisma of Scorsese’s mother Catherine, who frequently made cameo appearances in his films (she plays Joe Pesci’s chatty mother in Goodfellas). Plus, it ends with the recipe to Catherine’s pasta sauce — or “gravy,” as she calls it. Italianamerican was released (with American Boy) on VHS, but it has not yet seen an official DVD release — an oversight which should be corrected immediately, as this is one of the great filmmaker’s most overlooked and underrated efforts.