La Dolce Vita (1960)

La Dolce Vita
Directed by Federico Fellini
Written by Federico Fellini, Ennio Flaiano, Tullio Pinelli, and Brunello Rondi
1960/Italy/France
Riama Film/Cinecitta/Pathe Consortium Cinema/Gray-Film
Repeat viewing/Netflix rental
One of 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die

Transvestite: By 1965 there’ll be total depravity. How squalid everything will be.

Life is bittersweet in this episodic tale about a man who cannot seem to find anything to hold onto in a world adrift.

Marcello Rubino (Marcello Mastroianni) is a tabloid journalist who works hand and glove with a pack of photographers (who would become known as paparazzi as a result of this film).  He spends much of his time collecting tidbits of gossip on Rome’s Via Veneto.  Marcello is also constantly up for a good time and collects a number of women from the same location.

The film follows a week in Marcello’s life as each wild night leads to a disillusioning dawn. Included in the episodes are his troubles with his clinging live-in-girlfriend, his encounter with a Swedish sex symbol (Anita Ekberg), a tentative relationship with an heiress (Anouk Aimee), an erzatz miracle, an intellectual salon, and an orgy.  All leave Marcello more depressed and less open to an authentic life than previously.

I don’t know what this says about me but I seem to have the same sense of humor as Fellini.  From the brilliant opening in which the Christ statue is borne by helicopter to the Vatican to the wistful ending, I am awestruck by the images and smiling throughout.  It’s the first of Fellini’s freak shows but I happen to find all the freaks amusing and rather endearing.  The film is more than just freaks, however.  Marcello, brilliantly portrayed by Mastroianni, is Everyman and we identify with his longing for something better and his desperation.  When you think of the scale of the production, it was quite an achievement.  The Nino Rota score is iconic.  Highly recommended.

La Dolce Vita won the Academy Award for Best Costume Design, Black-and-White.  It was nominated in the categories of Best Director; Best Writing, Story and Screenplay – Written Directly for the Screen; and Best Art Direction-Set Decoration, Black-and-White.

4 thoughts on “La Dolce Vita (1960)

  1. I’m glad you enjoyed it, Bea. I think that the movie is never as good as the sum of its parts. I haven’t seen it in a while but isn’t the statue of Christ leaving the Vatican – the reason for all of the Roman depravity that follows? I may be wrong about that, so do forgive. The lovely Nadia Gray’s strip tease is iconic (to the strains of “Patricia,”), but, at nearly three hours, it is a bit indulgent, and I think the end (no spoilers) is just a lot of bosh and pretense. I love the 1950s Fellini, and it’s here, I believe, where he goes off the rails for most of the 1960s, with very few exceptions. I would love to read your review of “The Nights of Cabiria,” which I believe is Fellini’s masterpiece – Giulietta Masina is magnificent in every way. So, if you could direct me, I’d be very grateful. I do enjoy your blog very much, and I hope you’ll go beyond 1960. Cheers!

    • I love 50’s Fellini as well and stick with him through 8 1/2 which I consider to be his masterpiece. Then he goes down hill for me fast, with the exception of Amarcord. My review of Nights of Cabiria is here. I think I’ve reviewed almost every Fellini film through 1960 on this sight.

      I believe the statue of Christ was actually flying to the Vatican. The first shot of it shows it over the Roman coliseum mating erzatz religion with either the ancient or the pagan, take your pick.

      I will probably finish up 1960 and start 1961 within the week. Thanks for reading and commenting!

  2. Mmmnjaaaehhh…
    I think Fellini is a sadist who likes to torment his characters. This is fun, but somehow the smile dies. He usually succeed better at making me angry than happy. The hoax in the fields is fun. The philosopher who kills his children not so.

    • Hmmm, the philosopher is definitely not fun but did not prevent me from enjoying the movie. My husband left after the first two hours. It just wore him out.

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