Fabulous Fellini at your library
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Of all the great European film directors, my favorite is Federico Fellini. The Summit County Libraries have quite nearly a complete collection of his movies on DVD. Fellini has been often imitated – by Woody Allen, by the makers of “Sweet Charity,” by the makers of “All That Jazz,” and by the makers of “Nine” – but never surpassed.
His greatest films (“La Strada,” “8 1/2,” “Amarcord”) appear on almost every list of the greatest foreign films of the 20th century. In part, the success of Fellini’s movies has to do with excellent collaborators who worked with him on almost every film. Nino Rota (perhaps best known for his scores for “The Godfather” and “The Godfather II”) composed the music for nearly all of Fellini’s films. Rota was a master at creating a bittersweet, ironic mood.
A number of superb actors collaborated with Fellini on several films, constituting, in effect, a repertory company. Among the greats were Marcello Mastroianni (“La Dolce Vita,” “8 1/2,” “City of Women,” “Ginger and Fred”), Anouk Aimee (“La Dolce Vita,” “8 1/2,”). Others, such as Richard Basehart (“La Strada”), Broderick Crawford (“Il Bidone”), Anthony Quinn (“La Strada”), and Anita Ekberg (“La Dolce Vita,”) appeared in only one or two films, though memorably.
Working with international performers, Fellini necessarily dubbed their voices into Italian. Thus Anthony Quinn and Richard Basehart, for example, spoke their lines on camera in English. Then an expert dubbing into Italian was done, with voices closely resembling that of the actors. Minor actors often had no actual lines. Fellini would tell them, “Say anything you like, it doesn’t matter.” The dubbing gives Fellini’s movies a dreamlike quality at times. Superb as the dubbing is, there is still an ever so slight disjuncture between some actors’ lips and the sound we hear. The extra material on the DVD of “La Strada” allows the viewer to hear Anthony Quinn and Richard Basehart speaking their lines in English.
The greatest of all his collaborators was Fellini’s wife, Giuleta Masina. She starred in a number of his best films: “The White Sheik,” “Nights of Cabiria,” “Juliet of the Spirits,” and “La Strada.” Actresses from Mia Farrow to Shirley MacLaine have often modeled themselves on her.
To appreciate the glorious skills of Giuleta Masina, watch “Nights of Cabiria” and “La Strada.” Then the autobiographical films “I Vitelloni” (“The Young Calves”) and “Amarcord” might be next. Follow with “La Dolce Vita” and “Il Bidone” (in which Broderick Crawford gives an even better performance than his Academy Award appearance as Willy Stark in “All the King’s Men”). “8 1/2” (my favorite of all Fellini’s films) requires close attention, drifting as it does among real-time, dreams, memories and fantasies without emphatic announcements as to which is which.
Fellini is always a delight. Enjoy.
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