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Fellini: I'm a Born Liar (2002)
"Fellini: Je suis un grand menteur" (original title)

R  |   |  Documentary, Biography  |  2 April 2003 (USA)
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Ratings: 7.2/10 from 686 users   Metascore: 67/100
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A look at Fellini's creative process. In extensive interviews, Fellini talks a bit about his background and then discusses how he works and how he creates. Several actors, a producer, a ... See full summary »



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Cast overview:
Himself / La Voce della Luna
Luigi 'Titta' Benzi ...
Himself / Ami d'enfance
Italo Calvino ...
Himself / Ecrivain
Himself / Chef décorateur
Rinaldo Geleng ...
Himself / Peintre
Tullio Pinelli ...
Himself / Scénariste
Giuseppe Rotunno ...
Himself / Directeur de la photographie
Himself / Toby Dammit
Himself / Casanova
Daniel Toscan du Plantier ...
Himself / Producteur
Himself (archive footage)


A look at Fellini's creative process. In extensive interviews, Fellini talks a bit about his background and then discusses how he works and how he creates. Several actors, a producer, a writer, and a production manager talk about working with Fellini. Archive footage of Fellini and others on the set plus clips from his films provide commentary and illustration for the points interviewees make. Fellini is fully in charge; actors call themselves puppets. He dismisses improvisation and calls for "availability." His sets and his films create images that look like reality but are not; we see the differences and the results. Written by <>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for some language and sexual content | See all certifications »



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Release Date:

2 April 2003 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Federico Fellini: I'm a Big Liar  »

Box Office

Opening Weekend:

$8,981 (USA) (4 April 2003)


$106,080 (USA) (30 May 2003)

Company Credits

Production Co:

, ,  »
Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Sound Mix:


| (archive footage)
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Did You Know?


Federico Fellini: I love to work with actors.
See more »


References La Strada (1954) See more »

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User Reviews

Fellini 101
9 May 2003 | by (A Place is Just A Place) – See all my reviews

Fellini: One of the few who could coerce the inherently compromised medium of film into intimate personal expression and "art." How did he do it? Comprised of Fellini's own explication and the testimony of a few actors, his cinematographer, producer, and scenarists, this documentary offers only indirect evidence of how, which, after all, is the best one could hope for, for how can one translate that which exists only in its own terms?

There are no major surprises. There is much reflective talk (too much talk, mostly by Fellini himself) of the artist as empty vessel, unwitting medium for the Muse; as sham and imposter, as dictator and manipulator; of art as self-revelation and -fulfillment, the expression of dream, of the irrational or unconscious, the existential mystery of Now. This only obfuscates, adds theory to the essentially unreflective inexplicable act of creation. But, too, there are clips of Fellini actually directing, thus of the process itself, and these are the most illuminating, for combined with the excessive explanations, they demonstrate how it happened. We witness him badger and seduce his actors, control their every move, direct their eyes; and hear how while filming he even stroked the legs of one beautiful actress to make her purr with liquid sex.

How did he do it? First, there was intention, as embodied in the script, worked out in detail. Yes, Federico, knew exactly what he wanted from the start; there was an overall meticulously premeditated plan to guide him, perhaps pulled out of thin air or gossamer intuition, but given concrete form. In opposition to this was the noisy reality of filming, of actors, grips, sets, deadlines, and budgets, an arbitrary chaos which was his final canvas, which for him became the opportunity of serendipity. Finally, it was his personality, that unfathomable thing called Identity, who he was, which was the key, the catalyst which sparked life into the lumpen dead clay beneath his hands. He cites Picasso as an inspiration, and like him, he somehow preserved unspoiled the frail inner vision, navigated through all the draining social distractions of filmmaking, by impishness and sheer force of will to control, to impose his dream on perversely resistant raw material. Perhaps it was foolishness and egocentricity that permitted him to overcome doubt and inhibition--this is a very self-satisfied man; but more than anything it was joy. Look to children; art is grown-up play.

The film focuses on Fellini's later abstract, rather than earlier narrative, films, to my disappointment. Too much in evidence are "Casanova," "City of Women," and "Amarcord";too little, "La Strada," "Nights of Cabiria," "I Vitelloni," "The White Sheik," or "Variety Lights." (The works which bridged the two, halfway between surreality and reality,"8 1/2," "La Dolce Vita," and "Juliette of the Spirits" are, of course, included; they are his most famous.) Thus, the film focuses too much on film for film's sake, on artiness, to the exclusion of film as empathic story telling, its most potent form and, in my opinion, Fellini's greater achievement.

The actors interviewed--Donald Sutherland, Terrance Stamp, and Roberto Begnigi--are minor players in the history Fellini's movies. Conspicuously absent is Mastroianni, whose greatest gift, perhaps, was to understand that he had to play Fellini himself. What the others have to say adds only marginally to the film.

Settings used in the films are revisited and intercut with how they appeared in the films. More than all the theoretical chatter, these graphically illustrate Fellini's ability to transform humdrum reality into magical landscapes of the mind.

Fellini's filmography describes an arc that degenerates from concrete conventional narrative to abstract spectacle. Bridging the two is a fertile idiosyncratic transition of surreality. The overall evolution is inward. In my opinion, Fellini ultimately lost his way, got lost in himself, becoming irrelevant and impotent, a perfect reflection of our times. It's his work from the 1950's to the early '60's that matters. A clip from "La Dolce Vita" (1960) proves the point: All alone and unobserved, Mastroianni unselfconsciously skips down an empty hotel hall, whistling, a hat rakishly tilted on his head. He then enters an elevator full of somber clergy. In a mere 10 seconds or so, without a word of dialogue, cut out of shadow and light as if out air, centuries of religious oppression and hypocrisy collide with, shame Adam.

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