Fellini’s once scandalous film, now seems pretty tame, but it remains perhaps the best film reflecting a certain place at a certain time. It opens with a statue of Christ being flown over the city and past some Roman aqueducts (seeing these and the Trevvi fountain were highlights of my trip to Rome a couple of years ago) and follows the life of journalist Marcello (Marcello Mastroianni) as he follows the life’s of the rich and famous with photographer Paparazzo (the term “Paparazzi” comes directly from this) and can’t decide to commit to his life with his fiancé Emma (played by Yvonne Furneaux fresh from playing Princess Ananka in Hammer’s The Mummy the previous year), who tries to take her own life and his on/off lover Maddalena (Anouk Aimee).
The film can be divided into seven sections, all have some kind of religion at the centre of them, the most famous involving an American film star Sylvia (played by Swede Anita Ekberg) who has a dip in full evening gown in the Trevvi fountain, the scene was filmed in the winter and Marcello had to have a wet suit and a full bottle of Vodka before he would attempt it, Anita just did it in her dress!
When I first encountered World Cinema the names that were branded about the most were Ingmar Bergman and Federico Fellini, due in part to Woody Allen (who paid homage to this in his “Celebrity”) and I think this is Fellini’s most approachable film, before he got too self indulgent. Barry Norman chose “La Strada” and “Nights Of Cabiria” for his book and Derek Malcolm chose “Otto E Mezzo (8 ½) “ for his, but this was the first Fellini film I ever saw (and one of the first foreign films) and it remains the best for many reasons, even though Marcello isn’t really a likable character we continue to follow him and be entertained by his adventures.
Nino Rota who went on to score, most famously, The Godfather came to the international market with this score and it was the winner of the Palme d’Or at Cannes.
1960 was a vintage year for Italian cinema with this, Michelangelo Antonioni’s L’Avventura and Luchino Visconti’s Rocco & His Brothers and although after 50 years the edge has been taken off it, for me, it still shines.
Italy Premiere 03/02/1960, France (Cannes) 11/05/1960, UK 1961, USA 19/04/1961
DF viewing 15/08/1992 Channel Four