In my “La Dolce Vita” post I mentioned that my very first exposure to a Fellini film was with this movie, “Amarcord”, and that it did not go too well. So after really enjoying everything from Fellini that I’ve seen so far I decided to give this film another shot, and to very little surprise I loved the film. I still think it’s probably the most difficult Fellini film to get in to from the four that I’ve seen but that does not stain this film’s undeniable charms.
The simple reason for why I’d even suggest that this is a difficult film to get in to is because Fellini takes a while to present his characters to be more than caricatures, which in turn gives his film a lack of an intrinsic emotional pull. What we get instead is a collage of humorous snippets from the lives of the citizens of a small Italian coastal town, but as the film progresses these snippets start adding up to a vivid portrayal of the town itself. A portrayal that seems to perfectly capture the time and the place and the personalities. Its nostalgia encapsulated.
However while the film may lack that initial hook it didn’t struggle to entertain and captivate me with boatloads of humor and just an amazingly lively atmosphere. In its very design the film tries to portray pretty much every aspect of life in this town, so we get to see the highlights like the burning of the bonfire at winter’s end, the Mile Miglia race that goes through the town and even a visit by “Il Duce” himself. And then we also get to see more mundane daily routines like a glimpse of school life, or the average family household and even how the dandies of the town seduce tourist girls. But even these vignettes are presented with an irresistibly charming and humorous touch.
The film is simply bustling with life and even the more somber moments in the film oftentimes have an absurdist charm about them. And the guides through the film are the townsfolk themselves, who sometimes have a liking to speak directly to the camera, to tell us a dirty joke or give out some history of the town. But scenes like this never turn in to a lecture and are always interrupted by a humorous disturbance of the lecture. It’s almost like the director himself is schooling these characters in how not to be boring by hurling a snowball to their face. And to Fellini’s great credit, as fractured as “Amarcord” is, it is never boring.
And many of the films themes are consistent with Fellini’s other works. The love for women is obvious here again, but he never deifies them either. He loves them for what they are and this is nowhere more apparent than in the character of Gradisca (Magali Noel) who is as flawed a character as she is appealing to the eye. But also this celebration of life is what “La Dolce Vita” is all about and the sense of nostalgia that this film oozes crept up also in “8½“. However those themes are here presented in a mosaic of characters and events that does not tell their personal stories but their unified and unavoidably intertwined story. And that is what nostalgia is all about, remembering a place and a time, and most of all the people that shaped one’s life.
Magali Noel - Gradisca
Bruno Zanin - Titta Biondi
Armando Brancia - Aurelio Biondi
Pupella Maggio - Miranda Biondi
Josiane Tanzilli - Volpina
Luigi Rossi - Lawyer
Original language - Italian