A small-time thief steals a car and impulsively murders a motorcycle policeman. Wanted by the authorities, he reunites with a hip American journalism student and attempts to persuade her to run away with him to Italy.
Journalist and man-about-town Marcello struggles to find his place in the world, torn between the allure of Rome's elite social scene and the stifling domesticity offered by his girlfriend, all the while searching for a way to become a serious writer. Written by
LA DOLCE VITA presents a series of incidents in the life of Roman tabloid reporter Marcello Rubini (Marcello Mastroianni)--and although each incident is very different in content they create a portrait of an intelligent but superficial man who is gradually consumed by "the sweet life" of wealth, celebrity, and self-indulgence he reports on and which he has come to crave.
Although the film seems to be making a negative statement about self-indulgence that leads to self-loathing, Fellini also gives the viewer plenty of room to act as interpreter, and he cleverly plays one theme against its antithesis throughout the film. (The suffocation of monogamy vs. the meaninglessness of promiscuity and sincere religious belief vs. manipulative hypocrisy are but two of the most obvious juxtapositions.) But Fellini's most remarkable effect here is his ability to keep us interested in the largely unsympathetic characters LA DOLCE VITA presents: a few are naive to the point of stupidity; most are vapid; the majority (including the leads) are unspeakably shallow--and yet they still hold our interest over the course of this three hour film.
The cast is superior, with Marcello Mastroianni's personal charm particularly powerful. As usual with Fellini, there is a lot to look at on the screen: although he hasn't dropped into the wild surrealism for which he was sometimes known, there are quite a few surrealistic flourishes and visual ironies aplenty--the latter most often supplied by the hordes of photographers that scuttle after the leading characters much like cockroaches in search of crumbs. For many years available to the home market in pan-and-scan only, the film is now in a letterbox release that makes it all the more effective. Strongly recommended.
Gary F. Taylor, aka GFT, Amazon Reviewer
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