Federico Fellini :: Critics / Reviews

Thoughts on Amarcord

AmarcordPoster472.jpgI don't want to call this a formal review, but just some thoughts about Amarcord (which I saw last night for the first time!).

Firstly, almost any film that is this old or older has to "hold up" for me - meaning - it has to remain relevant and believable, and not come across as corny or dated (or have such outdated production values that you are constantly aware you are watching a movie). For the most part Amarcord, although containing some melodramatic flourishes and cartoon character personalities, does this - with just a bit of the opening sequences around the bonfire seeming "forced".

Once the film gets rolling, it can be hysterically funny, and the acting is quite good. Formally it really is a series of vignettes, with some working better than others. The school sequence and the shenanigans of the boys, their confessions and their "sins" are all very well brought to life, as are the much later scenes of the family visiting their crazy uncle and a meal in the countryside upset by his taking to a tree. Conversely I found the hotel sequence with the concubines and the town "liar" one of the misses, while the ending scenes in the field with the celebration of Gradisca's wedding are lyrical and poignant.

The stand out actor in this film is Armando Brancia as Titta's father. He over boils with anger, is duly frightened by the fascists, doesn't quite know how to react to the declining health of his wife (remarking at the hospital on how nice their garden is) and loathes his mooching brother-in-law viscerally, without ever saying a word. Powerful acting.

Rome, Fellini's surreal portrait of the eponymous city (screens this Sunday at the Museum of the Moving Image), is alive with his signature surreal sense of boredom but as a film, it feels more like an elaborate exhibition than a cinematic pageant. The most striking sequence is the scene in the subway tunnels with the vanishing frescoes. It speaks to an inability to gel together past and present seamlessly without losing something and that something has to be a definitive identity to the city. Audience becomes subject and the boundary between spectator and player becomes blurred to the point where qualifying the two becomes meaningless.

Read the rest here.

Profile Of The Director As A Pervert

Interesting article on Fellini as a pervert:

"It was strangely fitting that the digitally remastered re-release of La Dolce Vita earlier this year was promoted, not by the usual critical garlands and reappraisals, but with a kiss and tell article in The Guardian by Germaine Greer in which she revealed hitherto untold liaison with the great maestro. Fellini always said that his films weren't autobiographical; it was simply that he had invented his own life purely for the screen. And if his preference for the soundstages of Cinecitta might sometimes make his films seem a little stagey, it is only because each of his films is set, ultimately, in the theatre of his imagination. And what a very peculiar place that turns out to be..."

I think "pervert" is a little too simplistic and obvious of a word to encompass Fellini's tastes and techniques, but the article is interesting nevertheless.

Criterion Podcast on Amarcord

Criterion has a new podcast up:

"This is the podcast dedicated to The Criterion Collection. Rudie Obias, Ryan Gallagher & James McCormick discuss Criterion News & Rumors and Criterion New Releases, they also analyze, discuss & highlight CC #004, Federico Fellini's 1973 film, Amarcord, along with "Variations On a Theme"."

Fellini's 'Amarcord' a happy surreal memory | 4 stars

Memory is an odd thing, in movies as well as in life.

Ever carried a fond memory of a movie you saw years ago, only to rewatch it and realize that it's not very good? (Hopefully not in front of friends to whom you've talked it up.)

When I heard that Federico Fellini's "Amarcord" was coming to the Tivoli (starting today), I was immediately taken back to the early '70s, when the wife and I fell in love with this hilarious, raunchy, dreamlike evocation of life in an Italian town in the 1930s.

Read the full review here, and see "The essential Fellini (and why you should care)" from the same writer.

Roger Ebert on 8 1/2

Ebert is not on my top list of critics - I much preferred Siskel (R.I.P.) when they were together, and I think Siskel kept Ebert on his toes and more focused. That being said, I think we see eye to eye on 8 1/2:

"8 1/2" is the best film ever made about filmmaking. It is told from the director's point of view, and its hero, Guido (Marcello Mastroianni), is clearly intended to represent Fellini. It begins with a nightmare of asphyxiation, and a memorable image in which Guido floats off into the sky, only to be yanked back to earth by a rope pulled by his associates, who are hectoring him to organize his plans for his next movie. Much of the film takes place at a spa near Rome, and at the enormous set Guido has constructed nearby for his next film, a science fiction epic he has lost all interest in.

Knocking on Modernity's Door

Here is a review of Fellini's I Vitelloni by Megan Ratner on the Bright Lights Film Journal website:

Fellini wrote I Vitelloni with Ennio Flaiano, both of them having spent much of their youth palling around with their own "vitelloni." But this is no exercise in nostalgia; throughout the film there are hints of the society in transition: from the use of "OK," rarely heard in Italian at the time though ubiquitous today, to the wall of advertisements behind Fausto and Sandra during one of their arguments, to the driving school in the background when Fausto and Moraldo talk, the signs of nascent consumerism are everywhere. Mobility, especially in search of individual opportunity, is at the very center of American life, but Italian society has only slowly adopted this way of thinking. The move made by Moraldo, which was based on Fellini's own abandonment of Rimini for Rome in 1938, signals a break with his deepest connections: the family and the "vitelloni." Deceptively sketchy and simple, I Vitelloni was one of the first films to key into one of the most important ideas of contemporary cinema: the essential rootlessness of modern life.

8 1/2: Traffic Jam

Here is an interesting blog post from Critical Culture:

Although the opening of 8 1/2 is fantastic, possibly a dream had by the protagonist while stuck in his car, or a fantasy in which he manages to overcome the traffic jam, the two locations aren't mere oppositions, meant only for juxtaposed effect. Rather, they can be explained within the narrative. For, with the rise of the automobile came the rise of leisure travel and the flocking of men and women from the cities to the coast (of Italy, Spain, France, Yugoslavia)--exactly where Fellini's filmmaker hero ends up. Thus, we can assume, based on the protagonist's destination, that he, too, was on his way to the coast when the traffic boxed him in.