Four directors tell tales of Eros fit for a 1970s Decameron. Working-class lovers, Renzo and Luciana, marry but must hide it from her employer; plus, they need a room of their own. A ... See full summary »
Three directors each adapt a Poe short story to the screen: "Toby Dammit" features a disheveled drugged and drunk English movie star who nods acceptance in the Italian press and his ... See full summary »
Cinecitta, the huge movie studio outside Rome, is 50 years old and Fellini is interviewed by a Japanese TV crew about the films he has made there over the years as he begins production on ... See full summary »
Not many directors would choose the end of their career to head off in an entirely new direction, but that is very much what Fellini does here. This was his first film based on a novel (Ermanno Cavazzoni's "Il poema dei lunatici") and quite a radical departure in terms of style.
In a move which apparently alienated many of his traditional audience, the film-world is almost entirely the one experienced by the central characters, Ivo Salvini and to a lesser extent Gonnella. This subjectivity of approach was of course used in "8 1/2" but in a less extreme and clearly autobiographical way. Here, Fellini makes the brave decision to keep contextualisation and explanation to a minimum, leaving the unwary viewer flailing about in search of a foothold. As Ivo's state of mind drifts between lucidity and hallucination, we seldom know what is 'real' and what is imagined, even down to the words spoken by other characters.
"Felliniesque" themes such as the love/fear of women, religious superstition and motifs like madonna statues and mountains of pasta are revisited from this rather skewed perspective, but the film overall has a dislocated feel which is far away from the likes of Roma or Amacord.
Interestingly, Benigni is asked to act here, rather than doing his usual schtick, and does well as a Chaplinesque figure who occasionally reminds one of Guilietta Masina.
This is certainly not what you might call classic Fellini (he confessed to a crisis of confidence writing it) but there is much to enjoy and to wonder at in this last work. The man himself regarded it as the "orphan" of his films and hoped it would come to be better regarded.
Devotees of Terry Gilliam will note the original of the waltz scene lifted for the following year's "Fisher King".
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