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Aging small-time con man Augusto, who swindles peasants, works with two younger men: Roberto, who wants to become the Italian Johnny Ray, and Bruno, nicknamed Picasso, who has a wife and daughter and wants to paint. Augusto avoids the personal entanglements, spending money at clubs seeking the good life. His attitude changes when he runs into his own daughter, whom he rarely sees, and realizes she's now a young woman and in need of his help to continue her studies. His usual partners are away, so he goes in with others to run a swindle, and they aren't forgiving when he claims he's given the money back to their mark. They leave him beaten, robbed, and alone. Written by
Brilliant and poignant. A must for all Fellini fans!
This is a richly poetic film, a stark portrait of three con-men who make their living by swindling the poor out of what little money they have. The film moves back and forth between the scams they pull in the countryside and their lives in the city between jobs. The group's leader is Augusto, played expressively by the great Broderick Crawford. The other two con men are Roberto (Fabrizi), a lady chaser and risk-taker, and Picasso (Basehart), a family man and painter. Picasso's wife Iris is played by the great Giulietta Masina. Crawford (who won an Oscar for "All the King's Men," a film I need to see) is really excellent as Augusto, who begins addressing the matter of his conscience when by chance he runs into the daughter he has abandoned.
The party and dance scenes in the film's first half are really fantastic and crazy, full of men and women dancing to Nino Rota's music, crazy situations and fights arising, lots of drinking, lots of people looking at the camera (including a photographer who bounces up from the bottom of the frame, takes a picture, and kneels back down out of sight that's typical Fellini there). For all of the fun that's present in this film, it takes some very moving and sad turns...and the amazing thing is how Fellini balances something funny and surreal to something truly heartbreaking (the film's final 15 minutes are stunningly touching).
Nino Rota's score is, as always, marvelous and really nails the feel and tone of the film. There are many themes, including a somber theme for Augusto's daughter, a really eccentric circus march theme, and lastly a terrific emotional theme that especially pulls into sharp effect in the film's closing moment. All of his themes are cleverly adapted in many variations bouncing between different styles of music- from mambo to wildly eccentric dance to rather Arabian to his typical circus-like music to just as often something very dramatic and emotional. This great score was released by CAM records just a couple years ago, it includes most of the music that's in the film, and is a great listen for Rota fans.
`Il Bidone' is the most ignored and overlooked film in Fellini's body of work, which is unfortunate. It's truly unforgettable how it depicts struggle, loneliness, and utmost guilt in the loveliest and most poignant ways imaginable.
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