"La Dolce Vita" is the turning point of Fellini's career and a new breath for Cinema's artistic inspiration. The tone is more eccentric, energetic, stylish, flamboyant, and more deliberately flawed because Fellini understood the necessity to stop being a film-maker and establish himself as a true author. No wonder the film met an international success, winning the Golden Palm and being such an event by itself. When American cinema was declining, Italy was fixing the new rules.
What lacks in the film is less a structure than a plot but its absence is partly due to the meaninglessness nourishing the lives of its protagonists. The main character Marcello, played by the namesake Mastroianni, is a journalist who follows movie stars and covers tabloid news and therefore is the "privileged" witness of a world falling into decadence, of hookers and strip-teasers, of starlets full of illusions and disillusioned intellectuals, of libidinous newcomers and alcoholic has-beens, a gay and sinister world incarnating a society that lost all its boundaries for best and worst, and it's often from the morally worst that comes the aesthetically best.
But the episodes are not disjointed at all, the film obeys to a simple yet insightful pattern: a nighttime event followed by its questioning at dawn. One night, Marcello makes love with the beautiful and wealthy Maddalena (Anouk Aimée) in a prostitute's house, at dawn, he finds his fiancé Emma (Yvonne Furneaux) unconscious after an overdose and declares his love while she's still semiconscious in the hospital. He goes to a Cha-Cha-Cha Club with his father and introduces her to Fanny (Magali Noel), a beautiful French dancer, but after the party, the father is victim of a stroke. Another episode involves a false miracle that ends in tragedy when the crowd running after the kids who saw the Virgin Mary, tramples a crippled child. All the episodes are made of ups and downs, and as the film progresses, we've got less time to enjoy the frenzy of the moments than to feel the bittersweet taste of the aftermath, yet the lessons of the past are never respected in the present.
Indeed, we all recover from hangovers and although we swear never to touch alcohol, we end up drinking again, a man cheating on his woman would feel guilty but sooner or later, the impulses would come back. Marcello can't help it either. The greatest demonstration is how he immediately falls in love with the beautiful Sylvia. Anita Ekberg is marvelously sensual as the beautiful actress, her voluptuous body, her milky skin, her child-like voice and constant excitement brightening in her eyes, she literally embodies "La Dolce Vita", a sort of never- ending, dream-like fantasy, a Divine Comedy throning above our sad realities. Marcello is hypnotized by the unreachable beauty of this world, and the mythic "Marcello, come here" sensuously delivered by Sylvia in the Trevi Fontaine sounds like an invitation to join this Dolce Vita. Yet even this magical night ends up with an anticlimactic slap in Sylvia's face by her jealous lover.
There's something essential in Mastroianni's performance, he rarely looks happy, his face is passive and in his eyes, there's a constant boredom inhabiting his heart. And the word 'passive' takes all its meaning, in all the many episodes that constitute the films, made at the epic length of three hours, he's involved but he's not the central character. He just lives the situations while the essential is elsewhere, the Jesus statue, Sylvia's arrival, Steiner's suicide, the party with his father. He's like a man caught in a crazy adventure but incapable to take something out of it, incapable to find a true meaning to his life. And maybe the only enjoyment Marcello can afford is the freedom to abandon himself to lust and pleasure, like intoxicated by his own weakness.
And I guess, that's why the material of the film was quite subversive, it was asking disturbing questions. Take the photographers who're always here no matter what happens, they're like flies buzzing around a dead corpse, the film is notorious to have inspired the word 'paparazzi' from the character Paparazzo's, Marcello's friend. They all look totally amoral and pathetic, with no absolute sense of decency yet how many of us aren't fascinated by this world of gossip and eager to know about our favorite stars? "La Dolce Vita" questions our capability to abandon the chances of knowing the true love, to be a good person, a normal person, just to live life at its fullest and so many Fellinian nights, pinnacling with the climactic orgy, when Marcello rides on a totally drunk woman, slapping her in the bottom. Shocking? Today's world has become worst. Think of girls posing in Facebook sites, making like stars of themselves, think of spring breaks, lust is everywhere, and what most of us won't admit is that they conveniently despise the amorality when it's unreachable but maybe if they had a chance to touch it even once, they would change their minds. Or would they really want to give them a try?
Fellini creates a panorama of all the new temptations that made the Roman nights, the degeneration of morality within a conservative society. "La Dolce Vita" is an ironic title since it's more about the death of morality, when a Christ statue is waved at by bikini-clad women or a dead fish is invaded by curious eyes, you know there's something rotten in this society. It's funny that Fellini, who was supported by the conservative wing and even the Vatican for his neo-realistic films, praised for their themes: the quest for redemption, people's inner goodness, was attacked for "La Dolce Vita" because it was depicting sin.
Actually, the film embraces the meaningfulness of the world it depicts, and if the main character doesn't seem ready to redemption, that's simply because he sold his soul to the devil.
5 out of 7 found this helpful.
Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.