Archive for Federico Fellini

Moonstruck

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , , on February 29, 2020 by dcairns

Annually, as the Late Films Blogathon approaches, I contemplate watching Fellini’s final feature, VOICE OF THE MOON, along with Kurosawa’s MADADAYO, and annually I fail to do so. I think I’ve been anxious lest I dislike the valedictory films of two favourite auteurs. I have actually started watching both movies and then ducked out, not quite feeling up to the challenge.

So when David Wingrove got in touch to say he was seeing the FF film as part of the Fellini 100 season at Edinburgh Filmhouse (and elsewhere — check listings for details), I seized the chance to commit myself, if you’ll pardon the expression. At the prices Filmhouse is compelled to charge, I wasn’t likely to walk out on it, so, come hell or high water, both of which admittedly seem likelier by the hour, I was going to see this film. Get it watched. When I watch a film, it stays watched. I hope.

It unfolds like a dream. I was convinced at first that it was just going to be a series of interwoven dream narratives, that Fellini would one-up Kurosawa by not TELLING us that it’s dreams…

Roberto Benigni, pleasingly muted by his standards, plays Ivo Salvini, both a Fellini surrogate (droopy scarf, flashbacks to childhood) and a care-in-the-community village lunatic, wandering around a small town for a night, a day and a night. Paolo Villaggio plays an equally deranged former politician, and seems another stand-in for the director with his broad face and coat slung over his shoulders.

Everybody our wandering lunatic meets seems to be a fellow madman. That must be what it’s like: nobody makes sense, everybody is pursuing incomprehensible obsessions. Not coincidentally, that’s also what it’s like when you are a child. “Damned are those who understand,” says the moon.

There’s a workman who dreams of dragging the moon down to Earth with a special crane and an unlucky-in-love character (another former inmate?) who wants to dance on it. Ivo just talks to it, which leads to him climbing into wells, to the danger of his life. He’s a relatively mild case, by the standards of this town.

In the tiny Filmhouse 3 there was a woman behind me laughing very heartily at jokes that might otherwise have passed me by. Her full-throated appreciation really lifted the movie. Maybe she’s mad too? Maybe we all are. Sample laugh-getter:

A local man has started his own village TV station.

“It’s called CIP. C is for Constanza, my wife, I is for Irena my eldest daughter, P is for Patrizia my dear sister.”

“And what about you, ma’am, are you proud of your husband?”

“NO! The idiot could have bought a zoo with that money!”

Maybe you had to be there, or dream that you were. But the maestro had not lost his knack of producing really good jokes out of surprising settings.

Some credit the source novel, by Ermanno Cavazzoni, who also collaborated on the script with FF and regular scribe Tullio Pinelli, with pushing Fellini out of his comfort zone so the movie isn’t a rehash of old imagery, as arguably GINGER AND FRED and INTERVISTA are (and Fellini was accused of simply warming over the same old stuff as far back as JULIETTE OF THE SPIRITS, an accusation I don’t agree with). On the other hand, to me a lot of the pleasure was that it WAS archetypal Fellini. The more it felt like Fellini, the better I liked it. Can’t understand anyone NOT liking it.

Fellini’s difficulty is that, after NIGHTS OF CABIRIA I guess I’d date it to, Fellini moved away from “regular” structured stories with “conventional” emotional catharses — having gotten really, really good at them. LA DOLCE VITA takes the title of CABIRIA literally — it’s a series of nights, it could be called NIGHTS OF MARCELLO. EIGHT AND A HALF has a story and a form but they’re not quite revealed while you’re watching. And then it gets more and more abstract. Without a structure you can set your watch by (a big reason three-act things are so common is simply that they’re so common, so you can tell after feeling you’ve been in your seat half an hour [not counting ads and trailers] that the first act just happened), without a clearly stated narrative goal, Fellini has to keep us engaged IN THE MOMENT, without using pressing questions about What will happen next? Will our hero succeed? Whodunnit? So if his invention flags for an instant, if what we’re watching right now isn’t wondrous strange, we can disengage and it’s going to take a big fish washed up or a Papal fashion show to get us back in.

VOICE OF THE MOON didn’t quite hold me throughout, even with a vague hero’s quest narrative shuffled into the mix, but I stayed focussed because the good bits were so good I didn’t want to miss any, even with my insomnia meds making me drowsy…

With Tonino Della Colli shooting and Dante Ferretti designing, VOTM has sequences that recapture the feel of classic Fellini, though sadly without Nino Rota. As last films go, better than POCKETFUL OF MIRACLES. I’m glad I returned to the well with the Maestro.

“You do not understand?” says the Moon. “Even better! Woe to him who understands!”

Take that to the bank

Posted in FILM with tags , on December 6, 2015 by dcairns

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In 1993, Fellini directed a series of ads for the Bank of Rome. In each, a man experiences a puzzling and upsetting dream, which he reports to his analyst (Fernando Rey — who better? That experience with Bunuel must surely have rubbed off). The analyst interprets the dream as having to do with a fear of financial insecurity, and suspiciously enough recommends the Bank of Rome. Is he getting kickbacks from the bank?

This one is discussed by Fellini’s sound engineers in the excellent documentary THE MAGIC OF FELLINI. They track-laid a whole complex set of effects for the oncoming train. The maestro looked, listened, and said “No!” He had them strip it all back and overlay just a cold, whistling wind, rather to their astonishment. They shouldn’t have been surprised — FF relied upon the chilling effect of wind FX throughout his career, particularly when creating a dreamlike atmosphere.

Prosthetic lion! I do hope it’s a Carlo Rambaldi creation. Who else are you going to get to manufacture a lion that weeps glycerin tears, if you’re in Italy? Well, maybe whoever made the vaguely animatronic rhino for AND THE SHIP SAILS ON, I suppose.

The nice thing here is the echoing of transport distress from EIGHT AND A HALF, TOBY DAMMIT and ROMA.

These were Fellini’s last works — he died within a few months of shooting the third one. File them with Frankenheimer’s short film for BMW and Sam Peckinpah’s Bodyform commercial.

Oscar

Posted in FILM, Mythology with tags , , , on February 25, 2013 by dcairns

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Oscar (Francois Perier) in NIGHTS OF CABIRIA.

“A vaguely funereal fashion parade, a ceremony in many ways like a carnival, but at the same time a moving and pathetic spectacle, organized with the fullest awareness of what it was and is. Notwithstanding the clamour it excites, it is a private ceremony; it’s cinema encountering itself in an attempt to resuscitate the dead, to exorcise wrinkles, old age, illness and death. It has the same fascination as caricature; it is a caricature of the Day of Judgement, the Resurrection of the Flesh. Those like me who accept the mythology of the cinema cannot refuse a prize like the Oscar. To dispute the award seems to me ridiculous and childish. The cinema is about circus, carnival, funfair, a game for acrobats.”

~ Fellini on Fellini, edited by Costanzo Constantini.

Nights Of Cabiria [DVD] [1957]
Fellini On Fellini