Go with a smile!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Fellini - Vitelloni and Juliet

Recently there was the Fellini film festival that took place in the National museum. I had already watched "Nights of Cabiria", "La Strada" and "8½", so I decided to get tickets for another 3 films.

Il Vitelloni
It occurred to me as I left the theatre: “half of Fellini is Nino Rota”. (Rota writes the musical scores.)

There was an opening lecture on the film given by an Italian filmmaker, who was apparently a chum of Fellini’s for the last few years before Fellini died. This was one of Fellini’s earlier films, and he made this one with his brother Riccardo playing one of the characters. Later on in life, Riccardo and Federico would display an especially intense form of sibling rivalry, which would cause much distress to the Fellini household. So it was quite poignant. Later on, the brothers made up, especially with Riccardo dying of illness later in life. It seems that it’s just so much easier to forgive a dying person, the same way that it’s easier for me now to forgive –ben now that he’s roadkill.

Well it seems that Riccardo was playing the least consequential of all the main characters. One wonders if he cast his brother just in order to get him a movie credit. You can’t miss Riccardo, though. He’s the splitting image of his brother Federico.

The real emotional core of this film, however, is the womanising problems with the leader of the gang, Fausto. Fausto knocked up Morales’ sister, Sandra, and he has to marry her. But he’s still a womaniser, and keeps on getting into trouble until things come to a head at the end of the movie.

Some of the familiar Fellini motifs are there: the wonderful Nino Rota scores. The way a deserted landscape, usually accompanied by some cheesy whipping wind sound, usually signifies some existential crisis afoot in some of the characters. And the womanising – just like 8½, a protagonist lets down a family he loves so much and who loves him so much. Just like 8½, somebody comes up and tells him that in spite of everything, he doesn’t know how to love, and when shit happens, you get that deserted landscape scene again.

Even though many of Fellini’s films are in black and white (I think all of them, up till 8 ½ were, but I’m not very sure of this) they had more colour in them than most technicolour films. This guy doesn’t need colour – he’s Fellini. There will always be quaint Italian towns, insides of cafes, public ladies, carnivals, processions and drunkenness. Big stout men with earthly sense of humour (think about Harry Redknapp from my workplace). Fat prostitutes dancing to the mambo.

This film is more sober than the more colourful films that he’s famous for later in life. I think it’s a very good film, but it’s still only half strength Fellini, ie this is not one of his masterpieces. Still, no regrets about having caught this one.

Juliet of the Spirits
“Juliet of the Spirits” was the first film after Fellini’s incredible run of masterpieces between “La Strada” and “8 ½” (which also included “Nights of Cabiria” and “La Dolce Vita”). Many people considered this film to be the beginning of his downfall, from cinematic genius to self-indulgent former cinematic genius.

But I decided to watch this: just as I earlier said that a half strength Fellini was still pretty incredible, I bet that a Fellini being knocked off his perch is still a pretty awesome film maker. “Juliet of the Spirits” may be self-indulgent, it may have its moments of incoherence but in terms of its sheer visual splendour and daring, it still trumps much of what passes off as cinema today.

I was only watching it because I had already watched many of his other great films. There’s no point watching a movie twice if you can watch a new movie, and “Juliet of the Spirits” is not half bad. Although – sometimes you got to wonder about Fellini. He treats his wife badly and then he makes an autobiographical film about his wife being treated badly. Then he elevates his wife into a hero for being treated badly.

Am deciding not to talk very much about this, when I have “La Dolce Vita” coming up in part 2.



Post a Comment