Thursday, November 12, 2009

The Men Behind Nine - Federico Fellini [1/5]

Born into a middle-class family, a promising artist from a tender age, by 1938 Fellini was already working in Rome for several satirical magazines.

His directorial debut was as co-director along with Alberto Lattuada of"Variety ligths " (1951). In "The white sheik" (1952) which followed, he abandoned the neorealist tradition, depicting characters suspended between the fantastic and the ironic. The following year, "The young and the passionate" (1953) earned him the Silver Lion award at Venice as well as much public and critical acclaim: the film, partly autobiographical, sees Fellini return to the provincial town of his youth amid a mixture of nostalgia and repulsion. The years to come brought one success after another: the limpid poetry of "La strada" (1954)
won him a well-deserved Oscar, as did another work, the intense"Nights of Cabiria"" (1957). While "The swindlers" (1955) was never destined to be one of his greatest efforts, "La dolce vita" (1960) was to define an age: it starred Marcello Mastroianni, who became the filmmaker-demiurge’s favourite actor. Preceded by the thought-provoking segment "Le tentazioni del dottor Antonio" (1962), the superb "Federico Fellini 8 1/2 " (1963) won him his third Oscar and is widely considered his best film. For Fellini the return to his native town of Rimini in "Amarcord" (1973) has palingenetic effects, and here again the director is at his best; another work whose mastery induces a sense of reverence is Fellini’s "Fellini's Casanova" (1976), a dark, hypochondriacal work of extraordinary surrender. The menacing tale of " Orchestra rehearsal" (1979), the unnecessary journey into the subconscious of "City of women" (1980),the pretentious allusions of "And the ship sails on " (1983)
all point to an inspiration block: Fellini sought refuge from this crisis in the placid anti-consumerist diatribe of "Ginger and Fred" (1985) and in the amusing, melancholic notes of "Fellini's intervista" (1987). Lastly there is the testamentary "The voice of the moon " (1990), with its razor-sharp reflections on the ugliness of the present day seen through the eyes of two social outcasts: a flawless little tale that closes with a subdued invitation to silence. That we might understand better.

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