Angelo Rizzoli

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La Dolce Vita Review


Essential
Fellini's La Dolce Vita and Antonioni's L'Avventura were the dawn of the Italian New Wave in 1960, movies about the decadence, glamour and emptiness of middle class life. Placed side by side, they're a portrayal of Rome after the post-World War II economic boom, which led to a new distribution of leisure time for the privileged.

Antonioni's world is stark, cold, confounding, and filled with dead end corners. Fellini's world is more like a circus -- and while his characters are no less doomed than Antonioni's, coming face to face with a great emptiness underneath the glamour, they'll drown with pasted smiles on their faces, dancing the conga.

Continue reading: La Dolce Vita Review

La Dolce Vita Review


Essential
Fellini's La Dolce Vita and Antonioni's L'Avventura were the dawn of the Italian New Wave in 1960, movies about the decadence, glamour and emptiness of middle class life. Placed side by side, they're a portrayal of Rome after the post-World War II economic boom, which led to a new distribution of leisure time for the privileged.

Antonioni's world is stark, cold, confounding, and filled with dead end corners. Fellini's world is more like a circus -- and while his characters are no less doomed than Antonioni's, coming face to face with a great emptiness underneath the glamour, they'll drown with pasted smiles on their faces, dancing the conga.

Continue reading: La Dolce Vita Review

Umberto D. Review


Good
Hankering to feel like crap? You need to spend more time with the Italian cinema of the 1950s, and Vittorio De Sica's Umberto D. would be a great place to start.

Shot four years after his famous The Bicycle Thief, De Sica returns to his roots with a vengeance. No longer content to put a lower-class laborer into an even deeper hellhole, this time the melodramatic director gives us a dying old man, his dog, and a pregnant maid, none of whom are destined for futures we'd describe as happy. Old man Umberto (played by non-actor Carlo Battisti; none of the cast in the film are pros) is so poor is landlady rents out his room during the day to prostitutes to help with the bills. (It's just as well; he's looking for someone to take his puppy so he can off himself.)

Continue reading: Umberto D. Review

Juliet Of The Spirits Review


Bad
Come near and bear witness to Federico Fellini's biggest fiasco, Juliet of the Spirits. Essentially a 2 1/2 hour dream sequence, Fellini cast sometime-collaborator (and longtime wife) Giulietta Masina (Nights of Cabiria) as a put-upon housewife who summons up the energy to leave her philandering husband.

Along the way, she has nonstop visions and heavily symbolic dreams, which are interrupted only by non-sequitur trips to bizarre locales (such as a basket ride to a treehouse in a nearby forest). I'd love to explain further, but to be perfectly honest, none of this makes a lick of sense, leaving us to stare perplexed at Masina's enormous head (perpetually smirking) atop her waifish body while trying to put the nonstop circus/brass band soundtrack out of our heads.

Continue reading: Juliet Of The Spirits Review

The Flowers Of St. Francis Review


Very Good
Few filmgoers are aware of Roberto Rossellini's ode to St. Francis of Assisi, The Flowers of St. Francis. More of a treatise on the Catholic religion and its most famous friar than an actual film, there's probably a good reason few have seen it. But now Criterion has reissued the film on DVD, so the rest of the world can bask in its quirky joys.

The film is told in unconnected vignettes, all set in the hills outside Assisi, where St. Francis and his band of merry monks whiled away their simple days. It's hardly an estate they were living on: A couple of stone huts and a bonfire, that's about it. I spent the first half of the 82-minute film trying to figure out what they did when it rained and where exactly they slept.

Continue reading: The Flowers Of St. Francis Review

8 1/2 Review


Extraordinary
If any film embodies what most film school wannabes aspire to make it's Fellini's 8 1/2. That's not to say the film is without merit -- though some complain it is self-indulgent and ultimately without meaning -- it is in fact a seminal work of cinema. In other words, those film school geeks know a good thing when they see it.

Federico Fellini (who, more or less, had directed eight features and one short before this point, hence 8 1/2) found himself at something of a crossroads at this point in his career. He had come off of La Dolce Vita, widely considered his greatest work, in 1960. Fellini, searching for something that would be a worthy follow-up, he finally settled on 8 1/2, an idea which had been languishing with him for years. The story is priceless -- and has been widely copied ever since. Marcello Mastroianni plays a famous Italian movie director named Guido Anselmi, who... get this... is coming off a big hit and is searching for his next project. He finally finds one, but due to the outrageous antics of his old cast and crew, problems with his personal life (wife and mistress, natch), and an increasingly perplexing series of dreams and waking fantasies, getting the movie underway proves challenging indeed. As the project nonetheless gets underway with no script and Guido's cluelessness about what to do next, somehow the movie gets made. The irony, of course, is that there wasn't much of a script for 8 1/2 either (the actors were given their lines for the day each morning, often verbally) -- it's art imitates life imitates art imitates life. A film within a film within a film. Genius!

Continue reading: 8 1/2 Review

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