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The first two days of a marriage. Ivan, a punctilious clerk brings his virginal bride to Rome for a honeymoon, an audience with the Pope, and to present her to his uncle. They arrive early in the morning, and he has time for a nap. She sneaks off to find the offices of a romance magazine she reads religiously: she wants to meet "The White Sheik," the hero of a soap-opera photo strip. Star-struck, she ends up 20 miles from Rome, alone on a boat with the sheik. A distraught Ivan covers for her, claiming she's ill. That night, each wanders the streets, she tempted by suicide, he by prostitutes. The next day, at 11, is their papal audience. Can things still right themselves? Written by
The White Sheik is a characteristically distant film by Fellini, a giggle-inducing featherweight screwball comedy that opens very cynically on the first two days of a marriage, a socially meticulous layman having brought his virgin bride to Rome for their honeymoon, a meeting with the Pope, and to introduce her to his uncle. When he takes a nap, she, already regretful and bored, sneaks off to find the offices of a romance magazine she reads devotedly with the intent to meet the film's title character, a manly soap opera hero. Blindly smitten, she does not care when she finds herself far from Rome, alone on a boat with this hunk, hilariously over the top with Alberto Sordi in the role, leaving her distraught groom to scramble covering for her. Fellini and Michelangelo Antonioni's goofy set-up leads to a hilarious satirical turning point and subsequently Fellini's trademark lingering and wanderlust.
This is self-steering gear, one you can watch very easily and indifferent to the characters' pain, pleasure, grief or joy because Fellini wants only to have some farcical fun at arm's length. As always, even Nino Rota's lush, carnivalesque music is almost incidental, as if it were source music, complete with Fellini's quaint imagery. Really, it is quite a funny movie.
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