La Dolce Vita Federico Fellini (Italy, 1960) (The Sweet Life)

La Dolce 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