Federico Fellini  



Fellini had two very distinct periods in his celebrated film-making career: The first was the Italian neo-realist drama period which reached its peak with La Strada. The second started with 8 1/2 when Fellini realized he wasn't sure what he wanted to direct next and made a self-indulgent, self-referential, auto-biographical movie about a director who didn't know what to film next. He started exploring the subconscious, having been inspired by Jung, and let free his film-making discipline on narratives, realistic production designs, and other constraints. From then on he explored fantasies, nostalgia, subjective memories, and whimsical associations, depicting delirious, free-form, over-the-top and often grotesque fantasy sequences and thus, the term Felliniesque was born. The flaw with all of this, of course, was the over-the-top self-indulgence. But Fellini was such a master at crafting a film and capturing dream-like delirious poetry that the results were still fascinating. This page is only concerned with the more extreme side of this latter period.

Recommended

City of Women  
Fellini's self-indulgence and self-proclaimed 'masturbatory' filming technique really pays off here as he surreally explores and makes fun of every single male fear and fantasy about women. A man finds himself in one strange adventure after another, lustfully following a woman into a feminist convention and later finding himself attacked by a sexually aggressive, mountainous woman, stalked by man-haters, drugged teenage lesbians and nazi-like female police, nagged by his wife, sexually teased, reminded of past lusts, his manhood judged by a sexually ambiguous group of people, and finally led to discover the 'ideal woman' ...which doesn't last long. A hilarious carnival.

Of Some Interest

Casanova  
Often reminiscent of a Ken Russell biopic, Fellini's take on Casanova's life is grotesquely fantastical and over-the-top. Casanova is acted by Donald Sutherland who wears a prosthetic nose and chin, sets are purposely fake and over-the-top, the ocean in one famous scene being depicted by black plastic bags, and the whole movie is a series of grotesque sexual adventures and costumes. These adventures include a kinky nun that likes to be watched, a giant 8 foot woman bathing with dwarves, an insatiable hunchback, an insane old woman, a sexual competition in front of an audience, and the best one: a live female doll. Casanova is depicted as a pathetic, sensitive, insatiable, libertine man who is incapable of real love, a bizarre mechanical statue coming to life every time he has sex, and important highlights of his life are scattered throughout the movie.

8 1/2  
Fellini's much talked about but slightly overrated masterpiece. Guido is a film director who orders big sets built while trying to come up with the next big idea for a film, hounded by producers, writers, fans, co-workers, wives, ex-lovers, and friends. He gets lost in in his memories and fears, reality blending with dreams and fantasies as he explores his past life in occasional surreal fantasies. The movie flows with magic, craftmanship and beautiful cinematography like no other but it also drones and drowns in self-indulgence.

Juliet of the Spirits  
Giulietta Masina's mind is approached by the Felliniesque treatment, or as Ebert says, by what Fellini wishes or imagines his wife would enjoy and experience. Juliet is a timid housewife haunted by spirits, daydreams, fantasies, memories as well as her extravagant friends, one of which keeps remodeling her house, building a sliding board to a swimming pool from her bedroom and inviting two men to her treehouse. When she suspects her husband of infidelity her inner world goes haywire with memories of being made a martyr in a school play, various spirits with instructions, a hermaphrodite spiritualist that gives her some strange sexual advice, while being courted by a poetic, romantic Spaniard. Dreams, grotesque visions, guilt and ghosts all weave into her reality until it reaches an emotional catharsis.

Satyricon  
Fellini's directorial and artistic genius portrays an extremely decadent Rome where most of the people are freaks, carnally obsessed bisexuals or flaunting some other grotesquerie. As usual with Fellini, there isn't much of a plot and the film wanders from vignettes to adventures to dream sequences where oracles are child-like albinos with breasts, cities play jokes on foreigners by dumping them in an arena with a minotaur and then asking them to perform sexually on an ugly and impatient sex-goddess, wives are stricken with feverish lust, have to be tied up and men paid to satisfy them, rich men will their fortunes away on condition that their servants eat their flesh, male students fight over the sexual favors of a effeminate boy, and so on...

Voice of the Moon, The  
Fellini's self-indulgence, surrealism, and delirious nostalgia all reach a peak of sorts in this later creation that is partially a more extreme Amarcord, as well as a freeform variation of City of Women. A man wanders in a dream-like world of Jungian symbols, nostalgia, archetypes and memories where wells, holes in the ceiling and closets are doors to another memory, and an unattainable Aldina or symbolic moon constantly haunts him. He wanders through surreal situations involving various people in his past, including a strange, conceited paranoid man who feels hunted by fake people. The dreamlike scenes flow masterfully from groups of voyeur men, to large women, magical notes that move furniture, city-infrastructure workers, a beauty pageant, a discotheque train-yard, and a magical scene where some people manage to capture the moon. Unfortunately there is no attempt at illuminating or tying together these people and symbols, as if Fellini made the movie only for himself in a nostalgic fugue.




2000- by Zev Toledano Table of Contents