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Thursday, May 22, 2008


Federico Fellini’s breakthrough into post-narrative art films looks smashing, though far less radical than it must have on its release. (For Baby Boomers, it's a bit like noticing how sweet & innocent those "dangerous" Brit rock groups of the '60s now look.) But at 3 hours, even Roman decadence palls under Fellini’s longueurs. (And he'd only get worse in the years ahead.) Fellini hauls us thru a few too many episodes all proving that man may not want to be an island, but has little choice. Much remains entertaining, even wise, especially in the first half, but Fellini lost the war between ego & id when he opted to use Marcello Mastroianni rather than Alberto Sordi as his cinematic persona. (To see what might have been, check out Fellini's wonderful use of Sordi in THE WHITE SHIEK/'52 and especially the divine I VITELLONI/'53.) Mastroianni is undoubtedly the greater screen actor/presence, but was he right for Federico? It’s a cliché to mourn the premature passing of Fellini’s more traditional/conventional early manner, but perhaps what went wrong with Federico was not dictated by the path taken, but in the fellow he chose to walk it with.

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