Vita Federico Fellini (Italy, 1960) (The Sweet Life)
Vita opens with a telling image, pure in its symbolism yet entirely
mechanical in fact: a helicopter is seen flying over Rome carrying a gigantic
statue of Christ to St. Peter's Cathedral. "Oh, look," remarks a woman
sunbathing below, "there's Jesus. Where's he going?"
Fellini creates a rich, intricate tapestry of "Rome, the Babylon of my
dreams" in La Dolce Vita. Juxtaposition and composition are finely
tuned to exude an air of randomness. The episodic narrative follows a
jaded journalist, Marcello (Mastroianni), on an odyssey in search of himself
amid the decadent, dehumanized beauties of Rome's glitterati. "Whither
Jesus?" is a question, perhaps addressed, perhaps dismissed in several
witty set pieces, from Anita Ekberg's visit to St. Peter's wearing a tight-fitting
curé's habit, to Marcello and his poker-faced compatriots finding a dead
fish, with its enormous open eye, on the beach.
In Italy, Catholics were forbidden to see La Dolce Vita, but in
the world on which Fellini, former journalist, files his report, there
are more scenes of quick and real pathos than there are orgies.
Written by Fellini, Ennio Flaiano, Tullio Pinelli, Brunello Rondi. Photographed
by Otello Martelli. With Marcello Mastroianni, Yvonne Furneaux, Anouk
Aimée, Anita Ekberg. (178 mins, In Italian with English Softitles, B&W,
35mm, Permission Kit Parker).
From the Jan-Feb
1995 PFA FilmNotes