Federico Fellini

Federico Fellini

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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

Amarcord Review


Extraordinary
The problem with puberty, above all the sexual frustration and general malaise, is that you become an unavoidable know-it-all. It's an element of discovery: Whenever you discover something for the first time, you automatically think you have it over on everyone else, until you finally realize that everyone else figured it out before you or exactly when you did. Federico Fellini's Amarcord has a deep love for that feeling of discovery, of that brash cockiness, and realizes that nothing can really subdue this feeling. Not even World War II.

In a strange little town in Italy, a pack of boys, led by Titta (Bruno Zanin) live in the eccentric world of sex, family and war. Titta's ant-fascist parents are only the tip of the Iceberg. His uncle lodges himself in a tree and cries out to the heavens and anyone listening "I want a woman!" while his friends and him pee through tubes for pranks, take part in circle jerks, and fantasize about the local beauty, Gradisca. His father gets interrogated by Mussolini's soldiers to the point where he defecates himself, and the local shopkeeper, with a bust the size of most family sedans, gives him his first sexual encounter (presumably also the strangest he'll ever encounter). I'm leaving out the peacock, the speed racers, the nympho who lives by the sea, and the plucky narrator.

Continue reading: Amarcord Review

La Strada Review


Essential
La Strada begins and ends with two of Federico Fellini's most simple yet memorable images.

Gelsomina (Giulietta Masina, who was Fellini's wife) is walking along a bright and uninhabited beach. She's in the low corner of the frame, a diminutive figure with her back to us, facing an endless stretch of white sand going off to one side and the infinite vastness of sea and sky going the other. Tentatively, yet hopefully, she moves forward. In a few seconds we know this character.

Continue reading: La Strada 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

Nights Of Cabiria Review


OK
Fellini. For some reason we in film perform a sort of idolatry at the altar of all of the films he made. Ironically, this seems to be just what Fellini would have wanted of us. His films aren't great. They have good camerawork, are visually stunning, and have plenty of lofty notions behind them... but they're not great. Yet we come. And we worship. And we put up with those damn white subtitles on a black and white movie one-too-many times.

Fellini's Nights of Cabiria is one of the many movies that no one knows the man directed. Squeezed in between La Strada and La Dolce Vita, it's most remarkable feature is that it immediately proceeds the controversial and three-hour long opus that Fellini will always be remembered for. It is the story of a Hooker with the Heart of Gold, who wants nothing more out of life than romance, marriage, or a job with a health plan. Only one problem... people continually want to off her for the 40,000 to 400,000 lire that she has lying around.

Continue reading: Nights Of Cabiria Review

Intervista Review


Bad
It is movies like this that give Fellini -- and foreign films altogether -- a bad name. A compilation of nonsense and leftovers from dozens of years in the moviemaking biz, Intervista is self-described as a celebration of Fellini's love affair with the movies.

Au contraire. Intervista is little more than a celebration of Fellini's love affair with himself.

Continue reading: Intervista 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

Spirits Of The Dead Review


Very Good
A rare '60s oddity, Spirits of the Dead takes a weird premise and makes it even weirder. How weird? Try classic Edgar Allen Poe stories given a 1960s spin -- one that lambasts the whole free love/no morals movement the way that only the Frenchies could do. And stars some of the biggest stars of the era -- Fonda! Bardot! Delon! -- and is told in three short pieces, courtesy of three big-time directors -- Fellini! Malle! Vadim!

Roger Vadim takes his Barbarella star Jane Fonda through a very loose interpretation of "Metzengerstein," with Fonda as an aristocrat bored of the constant orgies and swift executions of her enemies. She ends up falling for her cousin, but when he rejects her, she burns down his stable, taking him along with it. Strangely, the cousin ends up possessing the spirit of a horse, which the countess ends up fascinated with anew. It's the weakest of the three shorts, but it's worth seeing if for no other reason than to see Barbarella trot out her French. (To be honest, that might be the only reason -- the story just doesn't make much of an impact.)

Continue reading: Spirits Of The Dead Review

Amarcord Review


Very Good
Fellini's Amarcord is a loving portrayal of small-town life in 1930s Rimini, Italy just as he remembered it, from the perspective of a delinquent teenager. The film is full of oddball characters, busty shopkeepers, creepy schoolteachers, pompous priests, crazy family members, a trashy hooker, and of course, Il Duce. Our young hero and his friends rake the muck, naive of an impending WWII and without a care in the world. As such, it's the more fanciful and lighthearted first half of the film (obviously a big inspiration for some of Woody Allen's work) that works the best. By the time Fellini has a dwarf nun chasing an uncle up a tree, a fog-shrounded city, and a weeding reception in the middle of nowhere, the charm has worn off considerably.

Fellini: I'm A Born Liar Review


Very Good
Damian Pettigrew's Fellini: I'm a Born Liar is a good documentary that features a terrific firsthand interview with the great Italian director Federico Fellini and a good number of other interviews with those who worked with him to create some of the best films of his career.

It is structured mainly to give us Fellini's philosophical take on making movies and the psychology of the creative process. Fellini provides a ton of great quotes, such as, "The instant I begin to work, a mysterious invader that I don't know takes over the whole show," and, "The greatest danger for an artists is total freedom." And, more to the point of his method perhaps, "Psychologically the artist is an offender. He has a childish need to offend. And to be able to offend you need a parent, a headmaster, a high priest, the police..."

Continue reading: Fellini: I'm A Born Liar Review

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