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Friday, April 3, 2009


VARIETY LIGHTS/’50, THE WHITE SHEIK/’51, I VITELLONI/’53, LA STRADA/’54, IL BIDONE/’55, NIGHTS OF CABIRIA/’57, LA DOLCE VITA/’60: Fedrico Fellini had already turned out a decade of masterworks when 1963 found him molting from Fellini to Fellini-esque with 8 ½.  After that, the loss was considerable. But for our purposes, let's look again at the list above. IL BIDONE?, have you even heard of it? What’s it doing among such riches? Is it any good? Why is it forgotten? Broderick Crawford stars with Richard Basehart & Franco Fabrizi as a trio of con men who prey on the least of society, gullible rubes & the unsophisticated rural poor, with far-fetched scams of buried treasure and quick return investments. Giulietta Masina is marvelous as Basehart’s disapproving wife, she makes his faults almost likable, but the other swindlers we meet are truly despicable. The film is unexpectedly naturalistic & damning on these bottom-feeders, with hardly a speck of Fellini fancy or poesy to beguile. It died on release, but it’s anything but negligible. It’s more Jules Dassin than Fedrico, although a stupendously nasty New Year’s Eve party sequence is filled with enough heartless brilliance to presage LA DOLCE VITA’s depiction of ‘Il Boom,’ the big Italian economic post-War resurgence. With extra pluses for the great lens work from Otello Martelli & a typically memorable Nino Rota score, IL BIDONE earns it’s spot on the Fellini C.V.

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