Sunday, January 2, 2011

Federico Fellini: La Dolce Vita (1960)

Midway (or a little more) through my life's journey, I saw La Dolce Vita. A good time to see it: in one's prime (if you can call this prime).


This film is too deep, too different from any I know much about, and too well known, for me to have anything useful to add about it. But, wow.

I'll just mention a couple of things that stopped me in my tracks.

One is that deathless opening. We see a helicopter carrying, suspended, a big statue of Jesus: flying past aqueducts, old Rome, then construction sites, new Rome, the statue's arms outstretched in benediction. Then the helicopter flies over some bathing beauties, and stops. Marcello, our protagonist, is on board, and his eye has been caught. Hovering there, dangling the Jesus over the girls, he tries to get a phone number. No dice. He smiles and flies on.

What a wonderful summation of the whole movie: immense, grand spiritual yearnings that nonetheless refuse to separate themselves from the pleasures of the flesh, with the result that neither category of desire is ever fully consummated. But no matter: on we fly, majestically.

The other scene is what Professor Wikipedia calls the "intermezzo." If the girl in this scene is an angel, then this must be heaven - it functions that way, as a brief moment away from the moil of mortality, all tomorrow's parties*, a breathing-space where our protagonist can work on his art. And Fellini's camera makes it look like heaven - this beachside cafe, reed blinds for walls and ceiling, light and shadow in a luminous dappling. But what about our protagonist? Could it be any clearer that he doesn't belong here? He, and his coat on the chair, are the only spots of darkness in the scene.

*Rock nerd me was happy to notice Nico in a bit part. Appropriate casting, to be sure.

1 comment:

Alfred Welles said...

Interesting point about the shades in the cafe scene. I think I missed that.

I watched La Dolce Vita just the other day and had a go at writing about it on my blog.