La Dolce Vita (1960)
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marcello cannot communicate with others because he cannot see them as the people they really are - he just sees them as projections of his own needs, aspirations, desires and goals. when he finds out what they're really like, he either turns away or falls apart. this is an outstanding movie - 10 out of 10 and beautifully photographed. if you don't get it now, try again in 10 years - it will wait for you to catch up.
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
Marcello Mastroianni is perfect as the shallow tabloid reporter who joyfully follows around Rome a blonde movie star from Sweden (Anita Ekberg) as she prowls around the city's bars and bistros. He is also having an affair with a woman (Anouk Aimee) while his girl friend (Yvonne Furnaux) seems to be going nuts.
But as Marcello moves through the city following the movie star, the miracle of the virgin, a few parties, etc. we see that his life is very empty because the things he reports on are meaningless drivel. We see that fame and fortune and the trappings of success are meaningless.
Marcello starts to realize that the movie star is a vapid airhead, the miracles are a sham, and his friend's (who seemed quite happily married) ghastly murder and suicide show the futility of life itself.
The Fellini themes are common to many of his films, but what makes La Dolce Vita so memorable are the cynical tone, the Nina Rota music, and the string of terrific visual images.
The opening scene is of a helicopter hauling a gilded plaster statue through the air across Rome. The flying saint is a bizarre image but serves to set up the movies which is all about images and events that are never what they seem to be.
Notable are the scenes of statuesque Ekberg in that terrific strapless black dress with the voluminous skirts as she swishes around dancing and eventually wading through a city fountain. The party scenes are also notable. The first because of the intolerable intellectuals who sits around and talk and talk but never do anything. The last party has the indelible image of Mastroianni "riding" a drunken blonde woman as though she were a horse. The final image of the giant dead fish is quite unsettling as it symbolizes their bloated lives.
Fellini is brilliant in filling scenes with odd people as extras, usually hideously dressed or wearing ugly glasses. The "gallery" of people who inhabit the city is one of grotesques, vapid fashion slaves, the rich, hangers on, etc.
A long film, but highly recommended and very memorable.
Deviating from standard three-Act structure, Fellini's story consists of roughly eight episodes, all starting at night and ending at dawn, more or less. Each has its own crisis. And the only thing that unites these episodes into a coherent whole is the story's protagonist, Marcello (Marcello Mastroianni). In his job as a journalist and overall observer of human nature, Marcello encounters people in high society who seem outwardly happy and self-fulfilled. On closer examination, however, these people are empty, hollow, alienated, emotionally adrift and vacant.
A good example is the starlet Sylvia (Anita Ekberg), a glamorous figure, but she's all image and no substance. "La dolce vita" is the first film that uses the concept of "paparazzi", which implies the importance of "image", separate from substance.
Throughout the various episodes Marcello sees these "images" of happiness, of contentment, but the images are deceptive, elusive, unreliable. In one episode, two "miracle" children "see" the Madonna. "The Madonna is over there", shouts one child. The crowd chases after her. But the other child who "sees" the Madonna runs in the opposite direction. Happiness, self-fulfillment, religious visions ... they're all a will-o'-the-wisp. And so, the film conveys a sense of pessimism and cynicism.
The film thus has deep thematic value. It caused a scandal when it was released, and was banned by the Catholic Church, apparently for appearing to be anti-religious.
Yet for all its deep meaning, "La dolce vita" can be a trial to sit through. Somewhere in the second half I began to lose interest. I don't have a problem with Fellini's deviation from standard plot structure. I do have a problem with a director who doesn't know when to quit. This film goes on for almost three hours. A good edit, to delete all the fat, would have tightened up the story and rendered it more potent. As is, it's too strung out, too stretched, too meandering.
If the viewer can persevere, there's enormous cinematic art in this film. And helped along by Nino Rota's music, the film is wonderfully evocative, at times stylishly melancholy.
This film about the hedonistic, amoral life of Rome's "beautiful people" is really a series of startling episodes held together by a character played by Marcello Mastroianni, a gossip columnist who is himself caught up in the aimless, scandalous "sweet life."
Filled, like all Fellini films, with stunning, bizarre images and faces and marked by the director's wild comic imagination, the film was widely condemned as "vulgar, witless, and intellectually bankrupt" and lavishly praised as "a cultural and social document, as well as an exciting entertainment."
"La Dolce Vita" moves from one shocking sequence to another It is a sprawling epic satire on what Fellini considered the spiritual malaise of modern society It followed a journalist employed by a scandal magazine around a Rome obsessed with orgiastic parties, voluptuous film stars and the commercial marketing of religion While its images are flamboyanta statue of Christ flying above Rome suspended from a helicopter, Anita Ekberg dancing in the Trevi fountain, a kitten on her headthe film's despairing tone often rings meaningless, even though Mastroanni's compulsive womanizer, never glamorized, fails to achieve redemption
In a moment he is directing his papparazzi and, in the next, he is running away from them. He flows between all kinds of social circles and the only impression he gives is that it doesnt matter what kind of craziness you are getting into everything is a big cliché. From the mainstream world of a gorgeous actress who feels able to express opinions about everything (and we buy it), passing throught the religious world of the faith, and also an intellectual circle that gives a fake impression of freedom, everything turns out to be an escape. That blonde girl appears as a stroke of pureness and sincereness, something we should really look for, but we just dont. In the case of Marcello's life, writing is the solutions he always substitute for vain experiences. Something he likes and that he needs a young girl to tell him that. That litlle cute girl is a person Marcello would like to be, someone who faces the soberty of a monday morning with hopeness and happiness.
Federico Fellini's La Dolce Vita is a very aesthetically beautiful film. The widescreen compositions are often outstanding. The crisp black and white photography is lit to perfection and a joy to behold. One of the factors that makes Italian cinema in general so appealing for me is the gorgeous natural light of that country, allied with the stylish decor and architecture; and in this film these elements are well in abundance. If nothing else, La Dolce Vita is a treat to the eyes. Style over substance is a term that could certainly also be applied to the denizens of LDV's Rome. We are introduced to an array of beautiful but shallow character's; from Marcello Mastroianni's gossip journalist, via Anita Ekberg's international film star or Nico's fashion model, everyone is beautiful on the surface but somewhat dead underneath. And perhaps this is a problem with the film in general; a three hour expose of shallow people is an exhausting experience.
The film is not plot-driven. It's episodic, divided into seven days in the life of a Roman gossip columnist. It's not always obvious what the point of certain events actually is. I found myself spending quite a lot of energy actually trying to actively understand the meaning of Marcello's experiences, and not always successfully I concede. But suffice to say that a very general reading of the film's message would be that it is about the superficiality of celebrity and the emptiness of much of modern urban life. And while a lot of it is still very relevant today – in particular the public's obsession with celebrity – it's not always clear what Fellini is trying to say. It's quite an obtuse film, with a fair amount of symbolic imagery and loaded dialogue. It's certainly serious cinema. Although I often found myself enjoying it most when it was less intellectual and more sensual, such as the wonderful iconic scene where Anita Ekberg takes a dip in the Fontana di Trevi. This justifiably famous sequence is the most purely cinematic moment in La Dolce Vita and, in my opinion, the film could have benefited from more scenes of such striking power punctuated through its three hour running time.
Overall, although I do admire this film, I find it too tiring and drawn out to love. It's very well acted and photographed, it's just a little unengaging and occasionally tedious. That said, it's one to seek out if you are at all interested in 60's New Wave cinema.
So, if you are the type that does not like to watch films that are art, do not watch this. Watch Coyote Ugly. It will entertain you. Other films to avoid: Last Year at Marienbad, The Seventh Seal, The 400 Blows, etc. Go see something with a gun on the cover instead.
For those who like a challenge rather than simple escapism, this is a film that engages you.
Different films for different people. People seem very threatened when they don't like a film that is widely regarded as a classic. The reason is simple, it's not your kind of film. But don't assume its a film for no one. Makes sense right?
I fear, though, that some youths may be turned off by it because so many things stand for something else that I'm tempted to bundle them up into "themes." I can see it now. A couple of kids in phat pants wearing nostril rings, their ankles garnished with tattoos of barbed wire, hitting the beer or the hi-energy drinks on the couch, munching Doritos, scowling and cursing at the film from the very start. "Hey -- this thing's in BLACK AND WHITE. They're talking Portugese. And it's got SUBTITLES!" Maybe that's unkind though. Maybe they can shake off the MTV chains and manage to sit through this and discover something they didn't know about someone's life other than their own.
Marcello Maistroianni is the central figure, a journalist with an unfocused vision, who wanders from one episode to the next, wondering what to do with his life. He meets a LOT of interesting characters along the way, each representing something else. His desperate girl friend, Emma, offers him the life of a petty bourgeois. She'll feed him, give him a home and children, and she'll grow plump with age and develop the shadow of a mustache. Marcello isn't sure what he wants but he knows he doesn't want THAT.
His "intellectual" friend, Steiner, represents someone or something that Marcello would love to become. Steiner is sensitive, artistic, talented, a writer, poet, and a musician who plays Bach in a cathedral that is acoustically active because there are no people in it. Nobody is in it -- get it, kids? Anita Ekberg is the hypermastic Sylvia, an American movie star, her head as empty as her bodice is full. She doesn't understand a word of Italian as Marcello woos her, and he can't speak English. As they're about to kiss, knee deep in water, the Fontana Trevi shuts off, night dissolves into dawn, and a pizza delivery kid has stopped his bicycle to stare at them as they swish self-consciously out of the fountain.
Religion? The cathedral may be forgotten but religion in its rawest form is not. A young brother and sister team claim to have seen the Virgin Mary in a desolate vacant lot. The paparazzi have set up bright lights, generators, and cameras all over the place. Hundreds of the lame and halt appear at the site of the miracle, hoping for a cure. The paparazzi pay the kids' mother, father, and grandfather to pose on the balcony of a soulless apartment house, pointing supposedly at the spot where the vision occurred. The fact that the photographers have them pointing in different directions makes no difference. The paparazzi suddenly run off and leave the three alone on the balcony, and Fellini lingers for a few seconds on the absurd and tragic image of three posturing human statues there, mother pointing one way, father another, grandfather praying on his knees -- all of them fakes. It rains, the hot Klieg lights begin to explode, and a riot follows in which the supplicants tear apart the tree at which the Virgin appeared, stuffing leaves into their jackets, wrestling one another for souveniers or charms.
The final scene in which Marcello watches a monstrously ugly fish hauled out of the sea and then tries to communicate with a twelve-year-old blond angel, and fails, is heartbreaking.
The film isn't about boredom. It's not even about emptiness. It's about what's missing, the thing that creates the emptiness and leads to boredom. Fellini isn't up front about it, and neither was Orson Welles when he dealt with a similar issue in "Citizen Kane." Fellini was more explicit in some of his other films -- "I Vitelloni" and "Amarcord" ("I Remember"). Traditional values, and the youthful innocence that made them possible, are being lost. Values have been cheapened. Not that those values were perfect or indeed anything but illusory, but how can we get along without our myths? We follow kids around who see the Virgin Mary and who like some politicians because they resemble "rock stars." We're losing our ability to appreciate Bach and the patience to sit through a black-and-white movie made in another country. Our assessments of other peoples has been degraded into "good" and "evil" without modulation. Our Western culture seems to have passed from naive to decadent without ever having gone through florescence. If this is what Fellini was getting at, it's no wonder the film is as sad as it is.
After viewing La Dolce Vita for the second time, I found, like so many before me, not only that the last scene of the film was one of the greatest ever, but that it reinforced that Marcello was fated from the beginning to suffer a tragic downward spiral into a banal existence. Marcello is the perfect modern tragic hero in this era of television and tabloid saturation. After all, if a resurrected Jesus can do no more than arouse self-infatuated waves and flashbulb greetings as he descends upon Rome and a crowd of frenzied onlookers devours a tree under which two innocent children claimed to have seen Christ/Mary, surely artistic purity cannot survive.
We all know that when Marcello meets the young girl in the cafe that she cannot possibly possess enough innocence and inspiration to fuel Marcello's endeavor at writing a novel and help him stave off the perils of decadent Rome and a career as a host to the leeches who inhabit it. Just like the dying manta ray desperate to stay alive on the beach in the last scene, only to be subjected to inane comments from Marcello's vapid "friends" like "why is it staring at us," Marcello, too, is dying inside, and we know that any attempt on his part to communicate his suffering to those same people would be met with the same disdain and obliviousness.
Notwithstanding the great sense of triumph and joy I would have enjoyed had Marcello left his party of idiots on the beach and joined his savior who was the keeper of his artistic soul, in order for the movie to be great, it must end with Marcello's figurative death and resound the ultimate despair of innocence lost.
Marcello Rubini is the outsider looking in. He is a character torn between the the safety of the center and the lure of freedom found in eccentricity.
The Rome in which he moves is created by centrifugal movement. The center of this space is shifting, mobile, never remaining in one place for long. It is located wherever what happens to be in vogue at any given moment happens to be, as Marcello moves through it throughout the episodic and discontinuous plot of the movie. Whether it's the arrival of an American movie star (Sylvia) to Rome, the apparition of the virgin Mary, or the latest adventures of the rich and famous in the bars on Via Veneto, Marcello is there, accompanied by his trusty photographer, Paparazzo. Marcello spends a great amount of his time in his car, moving from one assignment to the next. He circles Rome as a perpetual wanderer, a modern Oddysseus. This circulating movement is opposed to the place that is supposed to be his immobile place of refuge, his flat, a place he hardly ever enters during the film, except on a few occasions such as to save his fiancée from suicide in one of the film's early scenes. His life, as a journalist, as perpetually unfaithful lover, and as the film's anti-hero, consists of a dialectic between these two modes of habitation. "Journalism pays well if you're good", Marcello tells his father in one scene in the film. "I have and a car, and a flat - una macchina, e uno appartamento." Indeed, and the tension between these two modes of habitation is what structures his days and the film.
Sometimes, however, the categories can shift, or be transformed into one another, like in the early scene when Marcello and Maddalena meet the whore and agree to drive her home. The whore is so impressed with the luxuriousness of Maddalena's car that she exclaims that "it's not a car, it's an apartment!" Indeed, and Maddalena, like Marcello, is perhaps only really at home when she is in motion. This occurs shortly after a conversation where Marcello and Maddalena debate the advantages of rest versus movement. "-I need an island", Maddalena proposes. "Buy one", Marcello responds. "I've thought of it. But would I stay on it?"
The center, by contrast, is epitomized by Marcello's friend Steiner. Indeed, the essential scene where Marcello and his fiancée visit Steiner's apartment is located temporally at the dead center of the movie. It is the eye of the storm, the still point where the ceaseless motion of the rest of the movie comes to a halt. However, later on it really becomes a truly "dead center", a place of death, as Steiner kills his children and then himself.
The (lost) center for Italian men is the place of the wife and the mother. La Dolce Vita also amounts to one long caricature of these men, sometimes going into open ridicule. Let's recall Marcello's tender declaration to Sylvia: "You are everything. You are the first woman on the first day of the creation. You are mother, sister, lover, friend, angel, devil, earth, home." This speech, though wonderful, is also superbly comical, not least because Silvia doesn't understand a word of Italian. Marcello is ultimately only talking to himself, and if someone was really listening, one doubts that he would find the nerve to speak. His speech is echoed and turned even sillier by another character in the movie. One of the guests at Steiner's party is an old, ridiculous professor. An oriental-looking girl has been brought to the party to entertain, and with her sitting at his feet, the professor passionately declares: "The only true woman is the oriental woman. Where was Eve? In the garden of Eden. That was in the east. There, love is truly at once mysterious, maternal, lover, daughter, oriental women crouches at your feet like an infatuated tigress." For Marcello, this woman, in the form of Silvia, comes from the west, for the professor, she comes from the east the direction of the compass doesn't matter, she doesn't really come from anywhere but their own dreams.
Marcello's view of this is ambiguous, but for the viewer the effect seems clear. The deep irony of the movie places the idea of the center where it belongs: it's the old idea of the essence, that can only belong in the junkyard of European metaphysics. In light of this realization, it's impossible for this movie to have a happy ending, it must turn on itself and take itself apart. The remaining part of the scene at Steiner's house becomes tainted with melancholy. Not much later, of course, the dream of the quiet center receives its death blow, with Steiner's murder of his children and his following suicide. The rest of the movie, with its culmination in the famous "orgy scene", is a story if disillusionment and destruction.
The movie is filled with gestures of broken illusions. When Marcello retreats to the ocean to find peace to write, he encounters a beautiful young girl who works as a waitress, and for a moment he pictures her to be "as beautiful as an angel from an Umbrian church". The illusion doesn't last. Before long, she is revealed to be just a normal little girl who wants to dance to the latest tunes on the jukebox, human, even possible to love, but no angel. And yet and yet at the very end, it is once again morning. The exhausted party guests go out to the beach, and the last thing we see is the face of Marcello's "Umbrian Angel", as she tries to get in touch with Marcello, her words drowned out by the sound of the waves. We do, finally, not know what Marcello thinks in this moment. Perhaps there is still some hope, if not in delusion, then in truth.
Briefly, the film follows seven aimless days and nights in the life of Marcello Rubini, a world weary Roman "reporter" who writes for gossip magazines. Yes, it does document the slow self-destruction of an unfulfilled writer, it is really a dire warning that the banality and sheer boredom of the late 20th Century were (are) likely to bore us ALL to death ... and Fellini hit the mark with perfect precision, the world's best bullseye, if you will ...
The acting is first rate, Mastroianni is so masterful, that when he uses one or two of his cliches - they stick out like sore thumbs in a towering performance. (We forgive him for those tiny imperfections!) Likewise, all the players - from leads to bit roles are brilliant.
A film then, not in this world, or really even of it, but an oblique reflection of the coming decade (the movie was shot in 1959) the details of which, Fellini already seemed to know! Staggeringly hip and modern - well, a Masterpiece!
The thing I really enjoy about La Dolce Vita is Marcello's struggle to let go. This happens on such a variety of levels: 1. He wants to be part of the insane society he reports on, but in their presence he seems boring and unwilling to be completely whimsical, getting wrapped up in serious declarations to frivolous movie stars.
2. Though he wants to be part of their world and be frivolous about everything, he cannot let go of his conscience, his needy girlfriend, his family, his desire for connections and stable relationships.
3. He cannot let go of his initial goal to be a writer despite his clear desire not to be.
4. When trying to write, among other situations, he needs to control everything rather than letting himself experience life.
5. When he finally achieves his idea of success, being rich and having wild parties, he is disappointed when it's not "fun" enough and tries to control the situation rather than letting himself be amused and carried along.
My view of Marcello as an indecisive control freak was not the only thing... For most of the movie Marcello does have a conscience and a heart, unlike the people whose society he craves. But by the end, Marcello has made his choice, and lost his heart and all sense of proportion. Initially one hopes Marcello will follow his admiration of Steiner... but when things go badly there, Marcello interprets that as a warning to be frivolous or else. What a sad way for him to misinterpret. Though no one wants to see him end up with Emma in a staid life as a scandal-sheet reporter, his success need not have been accompanied by a loss of heart.
Despite this depressing progression, this movie is lovely. It maintains its lightness and surprises all the way through; its personality, like Marcello's, is torn between frivolity and conscience. All the characters are beautiful and delightful. (I would marry Anouk Aimee in a second!) And despite my heavy-handed interpretation, Fellini is subtle and poignant in his criticism of Marcello, especially poignant and even generous when his father comes to visit. I recommend this movie very, very highly - an easy 10/10.
I am currently working my way through the IMDb Top 250, and I began with "La Dolce Vita." I understand that the movie is culturally significant. I'm not some boor who only enjoys movies with exploding robots or massive amounts of T&A, nor am I a simpleton who requires straight-forward plots with happy endings. But the fact of the matter is that I found this, Fellini's purported masterpiece, to be utterly dull and non-compelling.
I won't say that the film is without merit, because there were some scenes that kept me dialed in. The desire that Marcello feels for Sylvia is one of those, and the scene where Maddalena asks Marcello to marry her is another. But these are scenes that are mired in between other muddled sequences that seem to drag on forever.
And yes, at 3 hours, this film is mercilessly long. I don't mind long films, and have happily sat through much longer. But this film indulges in the mundane. Shots, sequences, and dialogue that contribute absolutely nothing to the story are lingering and plodding. At times, I found myself having drifted off into a daydream, only to come back and find out that I had missed nothing in the intervening time. This story could be told competently, and in half the running time, if the film had any sense of pace.
Part of my apathy goes toward the general unlikability of Marcello. Especially in this day and age, who cares about those who indulge in the glitz and glamour of the film world? Do we really relate to the Marilyn Monroe expy that is Sylvia? I can't look at Marcello, who vacillates between wanting to be a writer and suddenly declaring himself to be an advertising exec and feel any kinship with him. I fear that in 2015, there are precious few people who understand or even want to know what the 1% do, especially when the educated have a hard time finding the most menial jobs. Fascination with the rich and wealthy may have found a wider audience in 1960, but does not play nearly as well to a 21st century audience.
In all honesty, this movie appears to be one of those films that people love to pretentiously declare their love for, if only to win the admiration of other people who also secretly dislike it, but wish to be admired as "film buffs" themselves. Personally, this particular film buff has no desire to ever see this movie again.
For a couple of weeks after seeing "La Dolce Vita" at the Bay Theatre in Seal Beach, I tried to avoid seeing movies. Because I deeply enjoy film, however, I was unable to successfully sit out two weeks of viewing, so I saw "Broken Blossoms" and "Trainspotting". Due to the inexpressionable impression "La Dolce Vita" left in my memory, I was disappointed by both films (before you start screaming, "Trainspotting" is also in my top twenty of all time). Watching "La Dolce Vita" was like eating the greatest meal of my life: nothing tasted quite as good afterward.
This film engaged me at all possible levels. It was intellectually stimulating, with endless symbols and philosophical content. Marcello descends into a fantasy world every night, only to ascend to the harsh light of reality in the morning, over and over again. Women, religion, family, work, nothing offers real satisfaction, but only a temporary escape from the dull routine of life. Whether it is Steiner or his fiancé, Marcello ultimately finds that nothing is what it appears and that, when dawn breaks, he is back where he began, searching vainly for meaning until he is left with a life of debauchery devoid of hope, an unidentifiable monster of nature, unable to even comprehend hope or innocence.
It was also technically stunning. Many of the shots are among the most gorgeous ever committed to celluloid. Of course, the scene in the fountain with the beautiful movie star stands out, but so do many others: the ascent in the tower to overlook Rome, the aristocratic party in the old mansion. The acting is flawless, from Marcello down to the smallest bit part.
It was also entertaining. In spite of the heaviness of the philosophical material, Fellini successfully injected a surprising amount of humor. I found myself, and the audience around me, laughing out loud on a number of occasions. Anyone who isn't completely charmed by the night-time dance scene with the movie star is more jaded that Marcello at the end of the film. I found myself with a giant, irrepressible grin on my face at the conclusion of that scene, and realized that I, like Marcello, had been seduced by the beauty and joy of the moment.
This movie is perfect. People have criticized it for meandering about for three hours, but this is precisely the point. We are following Marcello, who is meandering through life, looking for something that he cannot find. At the end, he is left with a life as inexplicable and unattractive as the strange sea monster on the beach, and we are left with startling memories of an unforgettable film.
One can't overcome the feeling while watching "La Dolce Vita" that Federico Fellini thinks he's being terribly intellectual and profound, but there's precious little going on in this film's head. It's telling that on a second viewing, when I thought I would discover nuance and detail I missed the first time around, I was instead bored and found myself counting down the minutes until the film was over.
Fellini seems to be criticizing a decadent, empty modern society in which ideas have died. Fair enough. But if he's going to make that point -- and drag it out for over three hours, no less -- perhaps he would have been wise to choose someone other than the rich, privileged class to make the point with. The grand conclusion he comes to in his film is that money, wealth and status aren't enough to give a life meaning or purpose, and don't offer anything to offset the void of boredom that they create. This isn't news. Has there ever been a time in history when the privileged classes haven't been bored? I thought the strongest sequence in the film was that depicting the media frenzy that erupts when two children see the Madonna in an empty field. It reminded me of a news story that occurred just a few months ago here in Chicago when a similar frenzy erupted over a water stain in the shape of the Virgin Mary that formed on the wall of an Interstate overpass. Fellini beautifully caught the utter absurdity of people trying to convince themselves that what they want to believe is true, and the sadness that this need is necessary in the first place.
In the film's final sequence, Marcello Mastroianni's character tells the people he's partying with that they're the most boring people alive. I second that. Too bad that a movie about boring, vacuous people makes for a boring, vacuous movie.
Federico Fellini is a tremendously talented director, but in my opinion more successful in his first film-making phase of realistic, simple films with heart ( shining La Strada" and La Notti Di Cabiria" ) than in his second from Da Dolce Vita" ( 1960 ), in which he went on producing weird, surreal and heavily pretentious satires and farces. The only excellent film from his second phase is Amarcord", which ironically reminds us of his first phase of realistic films. La Dolce Vita" is a quality drama that criticizes an empty society that feeds on shallow, sensation oriented stories from the press and media ( the word Paparazzi", used for the first time here, later on even became a part of the dictionary ). In that aspect, it doesn't attack the journalists as much as the society that fuels them. But although Vita" won the Golden Palm in Cannes and was nominated for an Oscar for best director, set design and script, it feels rather shallow and empty itself.
Many sequences are great - for example, the opening shot in which a helicopter is shown carrying a statue of Jesus Christ, or the one where a man is protecting" his face from the photographers by placing a newspaper in front of himself as are some details but Fellini decided to put too much of his ideas in the story, causing it to go out of control. After 165 minutes of screen time the movie loses it's energy and becomes a little bit of a bore. I guess the ending scene with that rotten fish sums it up for me: subversive and profound, but too pretentious for it's own good.
I must particularly disagree with the comments in praise of the film's ending; I really cannot imagine how it could strike a viewer as one of the greatest final scenes of all time. Dismal and bloated; much of a piece with the last half of the movie.
I am not averse to "arty" movies, nor to movies that are mostly mood rather than particularly plot-driven, but this movie tried my patience. For me, this is a purported classic that disappointed.
The opening is promising - the premise is interesting and the striking images and soundtrack impress a character. But then, nothing, the film's stillborn, this frustrating episodic structure means that the initial impetus has dissipated well before the 3 hours are up.
There are lots of things I like about each of the episodes individually - more than just decadence I think there's a tangible menace in the party scenes. The behaviour of the adults is creepily childish (underlined beautifully by the emphatic, infantile sounds of Italian). People are talking all the time, clamouring to be heard, but no one bothers to listen. There's a lot of laughter in those scenes but none of it is shared, there's no compassion, it is the characters' response to the absurd situation they're in - it's a laughter that's hysterical, deranged. I don't think Fellini is being at all subtle about Marcello being in hell - the only way he could make it more obvious would be for the walls to turn to flames. I don't agree with what some reviews said about the viewer too being seduced by the Sweet Life - I was alienated, if not repelled by it from the outset.
My criticisms of the film are twofold. Firstly, if this is the point - that pure materialism is corrosive and cancerous and draws everyone into a hellish solitude - then I don't think the film as a whole communicates it too well. The episodes are not well enough linked - Marcello's hardly marked out as a enough of a "good guy" at the start to be corrupted, and it's only in the last couple of scenes - where we reach true psychosis - that there's a clear downward trajectory. For the rest of the film the plot's too ponderous and I think Fellini tries to throw in far too many side elements in each of the episodes. So in spite of the great direction, the style, the unmistakable soundtrack, the film is without a centre - there's neither a defining moment nor a clear purpose. It's like, if this film were a newspaper article there'd be no headline.
My second criticism is that apart from not making its point terribly well, the point of the film isn't a revelation, it's just not that interesting. So pure materialism is corrosive and rich people can have horrible lives. Well who hasn't realised that yet? Classics are supposed to resonate through the ages - offer an insight that may cease to be new but never ceases to be profound. But the scope of this film is so limited. It seems to me just a belated, panicky, typically Latin response to capitalism - stimulated no doubt by the contact the director had had with the scene he's describing where American style capitalism at its most debauched was imported wholesale into Italy. The film describes this - it doesn't look beyond it at all. Oh, rich film stars committing suicide - yesterday's news. Other people back in the 1960s were foreseeing the voyeurism, the state we've got to now where celebrities are created for the very purpose of being destroyed for public amusement.
And at times this is no more than Catholic moralism. Look at who populates Fellini's realm of the damned - divorcées and homosexuals - the regressive and hysterical moralistic streak in this film detracts greatly from it when viewed today.
A classic should be prescient and profound. This film doesn't really offer any sort of commentary - it's just a portrait of an obviously decadent portion of Italian society in the 1950s, and it's very much of its time.