Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Revisit: La Dolce Vita

An Astor Pictures Corporation release 1960

Directed by Federico Fellini

Writing credits:
Federico Fellini (story & screenplay)
Ennio Flaiano (story & screenplay)
Tullio Pinelli (story & screenplay)
Brunello Rondi (screenplay)

Marcello (Marcello Mastroianni) is a young playboy journalist who spends his days between celebrities and rich people, seeking ephemeral joy in parties and sex.

With its three hour run time and a story that goes nowhere, La Dolce Vita is a film about excess in more ways than one. A master of image, Fellini uses the grandiose architecture of Italy to mirror the empty lives of the bourgeoises that inhabit such elegant spaces. By placing characters within context of such beautiful, but vast, cold stone buildings, he offers spectators a disenchanting glimpse into the ultimately unfufilling lives of Italia's most rich and famous.

Though not as playful as Godard, Fellini employs some interesting sound tricks as well. Characters in groups are presented without background noise, while personal conversations between two people are often suffocated by diagetic sound. A great example of this can be found in the scene when the American actress first arrives; the struggle of the paparazzi as they try to snap her picture is clear, but when she walks away with Marcello, their conversation is deafened by the hum of plane engines. Clearly this fits with the films overall theme - characters can function in a group setting but are blocked from personal communication, just as they can not seem to elevate their material fortunes into spiritual fulfillment.

Ultimately, La Dolce Vita is a film about escape. However, if your eyes aren't glued to the screen, the film might escape you as well. Despite its visual beauty (and the fact that Italian is one of the most lyrical languages around), the films three hour run time is a bit harsh. Not quite the biting satire of Bunuel's Discreet Charms, Fellini's film celebrates excess while simultaneously denouncing it. The films message isn't mixed, but perhaps too blunt; upper class Italians are decadant. Recommended for cinema fans.

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