In the final phase of his career, after calling a news conference and announcing, “Cinema is dead,” Rossellini turned to historical television dramas about major subjects and figures (Louis XIV, Blaise Pascal, Descartes, the Medicis), made with a rational, almost scientific approach. As always, he yearned to show life’s minutiae unadorned, bare and pure.
VOYAGE TO ITALY was critically savaged when it was first released in the US in an English version called STRANGERS, running nearly 20-minutes shorter than the original. It was attacked as being “dull,” “plodding,” “slow,” “hackneyed,” “meandering,” “poorly photographed,” “poorly written,” and “incompetently directed.” At the same time, the French “new wave” critics called it a masterpiece: Jacques Rivette wrote that on its appearance, “all other films suddenly aged 10 years,” and Jean-Luc Godard rhapsodically described it as being among “the most beautiful of films.”
“Ingrid and Roberto felt like the whole world was against them,” Parks explains, “but Ingrid was sane enough to realize that they had to have a professional down there to take photos of them making the picture. She had seen a story of mine in LIFE, so she asked me to come to the island. Perhaps she thought I would do the story with more discretion.”