A master of baroque, neo-realist cinema, Federico Fellini took movies to a new level, turning standard, narrative storytelling on its head and replacing it with poetry. Few, if any, directors since even try to copycat his style, deferring to his one-of-a-kind status as a genius of camera-wielding and a maker of innovative art. He was to the camera what Picasso was to the canvas and made us see Image as we had never seen it before.
La Dolce Vita (translated as “The Sweet Life” or “The Good Life”) stands as a perfect example of Fellini’s genius. One of the most acclaimed European films of the 1960s (indeed, it illustrates “The Swinging Sixties” perhaps better than any other film ever made of that era), it won the prestigious Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival and was nominated for 4 Academy Awards, winning for Best Costume Design. Entertainment Weekly named it the 6th greatest movie of all time and it shines now more than it did when it was made because our modern-day society with its attachment to shallow values, instant fame (Warhol’s 15 minutes of “Me”) and universal promiscuity mirrors Fellini’s world view and reveals the director, in addition to his many other gifts, to be a true prophet of the future. Continue reading →
The first image we see is a massive statue of Christ being hauled via helicopter over Roman landmarks, to be set atop St. Peter’s Cathedral. On the way there Marcello (Mastroianni) is distracted by a trio of girls sunbathing on the rooftop of a modern apartment building. He makes miming motions to them of writing down their phone numbers, but the noise and confusion get in the way of communications. That night Marcello is on the Via Veneto, scoping out the scandals among the fringe celebrities of Rome, collecting fodder for his gossip column (this is the movie that introduced the world to the word Paparazzo.)
In the opening scenes of what becomes a sprawling visual feast, Fellini shows us the scope and brio of La Dolce Vita. From the highest, holiest towers to the lowest, seediest night clubs, over the course of seven nights and seven dawns, Marcello will scour the heights and depths of Rome for the emotional center he’s missing, and he’ll always come up empty at dawn as a result of communications breakdown.