|Index||10 reviews in total|
What can I say? After the explosion of "8 1/2", which knocked me for a loop, I became a devout Fellinian, even though I was dissapointed in other offerings by him ("City Of Women", and "Julett Of The Spirits"). I will return to them after this film. Along with Welles and Bergman, he completes the "Holy Trinity" of filmakers in my life span.. The day before viewing this film, I was depressed by watching an hour of the wretched "Lost In Translation" which has received bravos from the major critics, that almost made me question my sanity. I was brought back to reality by many imdb user reviews who agreed with me and were incredulous at the praise of the "pros". Fellini sits in a chair and talks quietly of his life's work. He is everything the guys in the professional holy business like priests, bishops, rabbis et al, try to be, and never are... truly loving, kind, gentle, and if he is a phoney, this is one of the greatest cons of all time. One of the funniest parts of the movie is where he had to shoot a scene on the beach showing the ocean. He looked at the sea and said, "I never liked the way oceans look", so 200 sq. yards of vinyl became the ocean, and we never knew the differance The wonderful Fellini narration is aided by Donald Sutherland, Terrance Stamp, cameramen, writers, technicians, and of course clips from the films. If you consider yourself a film buff (and a human being) NOT TO BE MISSED!
Superb documentary fantasia and as visually stunning as Fellini's best
films but without the excess. I'm paraphrasing David Denby's review in
The New Yorker. It's "a thrilling masterclass in aesthetics conducted
by the Maestro himself with intelligent footnotes provided by Damian
Pettigrew." That's what A O Scott writes in The New York Times. A
"daunting, intellectually subtle internal monologue of a movie that
focuses on Fellini's unique temperament." That's Harper Barnes writing
in The St Louis Post Dispatch. Film Comment says the film has "haunting
imagery and attention to physical presence." I'm a fan of this
wonderfully original and mind-stirring film on and with the late great
Federico Fellini - and the positive reviews are international. The film
has been acclaimed in France, Italy ("beyond the lesson in cinema, the
film is perhaps the best film ever made on Fellini's character") and
Spain, USA, Canada, Brazil, Australia, Russia, and Japan.
Acknowledged Fellini specialists Peter Bondanella and Tullio Kezich have both praised the film. It has been selected in over 35 major international festivals. It was nominated for The European Documentary Award - Europe's equivalent of the Oscars and won the prestigious Banff Grand Prize for Best Arts Documentary. It is, finally, a piece of precious cinematic history that aficionados will treasure for years to come.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Just saw the film this weekend. Went to a special screening where Donald Sutherland spoke and answered some questions afterwards. I was very impressed. One thing I learned is that being part of a Fellini movie was so different from any other movie making experience you would ever have. Fellini was the mastermind and held supremacy over the set and at many times left those around him in total confusion as to their duties - especially the actors. He often expected the impossible and achieved it. This documentary was done according to this pattern. Even though it's a posthumous creation, Fellini is still running the show with many excerpts from the 10 hours of interviews that were recorded before his death in 1993. It was done with respect and admiration. Fellini's philosophies and beliefs take center stage with a handful of actors and film contributors reaffirming much of what he says - they also add insightful anecdotes. While most everybody on the set was scared to death and unhappy, they walked away worshipping and in love with the man! He was a charismatic figure who radiated intelligence and passion. Scenes from different Fellini films, as well as beautiful present-day footage of the many shoot locations, serve as meditative segues throughout. Please come out on DVD. Half of me wants to go out and learn Italian just so I can maybe download and understand the 10 hrs of interviews.
Rare to see docu-portraits as subtle and beautifully written as this with no commentary, no pedagogy, no made for TV cliches and no interviewer-critic constantly cutting in. This is a unique, challenging portrait of Fellini using generous film clips from 8 1/2 as its narrative column with a masterclass in aesthetics conducted by the master himself. Definitely not Fellini 101. No Masina and no Mastroianni (we've got Tatò's 3-hr film on the latter) and yet their absences are remarkably present throughout, like felliniesque ghosts trapped in a gorgeous suite of film clips. This is truly creative filmmaking built on a bedrock of nostalgia, melancholy, lies, modernist thinking and the Maestro's pathetic search for the Ideal Woman. Very briefly, the "story" is told in images that take us to Fellini's childhhood farm in Gambettola and up to the snow-covered mountain spring of La Strada which then flows through Chianciano and the volcanic thermal waters used for healing (the spa Fellini re-invented in 8 1/2) and on down the Tiber to flow out into the sea. At one point, a superb clip from 8 1/2 shows Guido/Mastroianni/Fellini asking Claudia/Ideal Woman if she could give up everything and start all over again in the knowledge that love was worth a lifetime's fidelity. She doesn't really answer the question and he requests that she "drive on pass the spring - I can hear it now." The image of the spring -Fellini's metaphor for health both artistic and mental - works beautifully in this film. Would that I had more time to develop the subtle meanings developed throughout. Definitely made for mature audiences ready to sit still and listen and look. An extraordinarily controlled piece of film. For me, this is cinematic artistry well worth the price of admission. Thank you, Damiano.
Damian Pettygrew's "Je suis un grand menteur" is an extraordinary
documentary, in that it captures the great Italian director, Federico
Fellini, speaking to us about his ideas, technique, craftsmanship, and
his relationship with the movies in which he was involved. Federico
Fellini speaks candidly about his way of making movies and about
Only a few of his collaborators were called upon to talk about the maestro. Fellini was a figure larger than life; his pictures were the way for him to express his ideas to his audience. It's curious only three actors were selected for the documentary: Donald Sutherland, Terence Stamp and Roberto Benigni. Omitted from it were collaborators like Claudia Cardinale, Anouk Aimee, Anita Ekberg and other living actors that are still living who could have added their views to the documentary.
Having seen "The Magic of Fellini", directed by Carmen Piccini, Damian Pettygrew's film doesn't add anything that had not been known before as Fellini remains a figure that had all the ideas in his mind, but it seems he was a man whose way of working depended a lot on the improvisation he brought to the set on any given moment.
Mr. Pettygrew finds parallels between Fellini and Guido, his character of "8-1/2", who was at best, an enigma because everything he had stored in his head and how, at times, it was so hard for him to communicate the ideas to the people he was working with, at the time.
"Je suis un grand menteur" is a must see for all Fellini fans.
The tyrant at work, masterfully. The poet, the idiosyncratic storyteller. The selfish humanitarian. Yes all of that and more or more or less. Orson Welles said once that Fellini was a monumental artist with very little to say. I think that this portrait of the man confirms it. I loved the anecdotes by Donald Sutherland and in particular by Terence Stamp. I can imagine the shock for English not to mention American actors who need motivations for every tiny little move, having to do with a puppeteer that demands total obedience. That's why, I imagine, Fellini never made an American film. No, Cinecitta was his world, the only world he could really manipulate in his own, dream like, kind of magic. Personally I love his movies before he was Fellini, before "8 1/2". I revisit "La Dolce Vita" and "The Nights Of Cabiria" very often and they are always reinvigorating and extraordinary. Long live Fellini, wherever he is.
I watched this feature doc with fascination. I read somewhere (LA
Times, I think) that all the interviews (save those with Mastroianni
and Masina)including the priceless one with Fellini were culled from
director Pettigrew's private archives. This explains why I didn't feel
I was watching archive footage leftovers like so many other Fellini
docs. What I saw were in-depth archival interviews shot with a very
specific purpose: To craft a balanced testament of the man. It's what
makes this portrait of the Maestro the best I've seen.
There's a genuine personal vision behind the film, a comprehensive knowledge of Fellini that's weighed objectively, warts and all: The deviousness, the vulgarity, the narcissism, the childish tantrums (Fellini's not above screaming at an actress, especially if she's a bit player, or insulting Mastroianni, his so-called alter-ego), the capacious charm (I love the few moments when Fellini speaks English), the guilt-ridden seducer, the jet set director who skewers his own pretentiousness, the astute theoretician of artistic processes, the maniacal maker of a legendary self, the genius puppet-master, the silly perfectionist of plastic oceans, the wise old man who's seen and done and shown it all on film.
The great strength of this doc lies in the fact that what's presented is expertly judged. For me, the finest aspects of Fellini's mind displayed here are the insights into women and creativity, and the interpretations of life, art, and death. If you understand Italian, it will knock you for a loop. If you don't, you'll be moved nonetheless. To be frank, only a boor would miss the meaning of the Maestro's simple eloquence.
I understand this was Fellini's last filmed discussion. It shows: You can feel him haunted by death in the doc's disturbingly tight close-ups. It's an edgy, almost Shakespearean touch that thrilled me, made it a privilege to witness. Would that we had the last of Kubrick captured on film in this way.
I've often wondered if Fellini had a big screen in place of a heart. After watching this doc, I'm convinced there's absolutely no difference.
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
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.
This film makes a lot more sense to someone who's seen many of Fellini's films, such as myself, than to someone who hasn't, such the person with whom I saw it. The film is Fellini the director on himself, the director. The comments by some of the people who worked on the films with him are very good, but too limited to do more than punctuate Fellini's self examination. What he has to say is very interesting, and makes me want to re-view some of the films I haven't watched in many years, especially "8 1/2". But this documentary is too long, too desultory, and simply too boring in its use of a single shot throughout the interview with Fellini to engage the more casual viewer.
Instead of watching this, just watch 8 1/2. The same themes and ideas
are expressed, but 8 1/2 is beautiful and expressive. This movie, while
referencing and showing clips to other movies, generally takes most of
its inspiration from 8 1/2 and, honestly, I feel if I hadn't had
watched 8 1/2 previously I wouldn't have been able to care about this
Another thing is that this documentary lingers in heavy close-up on Fellini's face a lot, which isn't composed well and is kind of annoying. About the only really good original imagery in the film is long takes of the Italian countryside, but even those aren't technically necessary... especially since Fellini and some of the others in the movie discuss how sometimes sets are more preferable anyway.
All I got out of this movie was the feeling that I could have much better spent my time watching one of the films presented in this essay. So I think I'll go do that now instead of lingering any longer on it.
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