Finally… A movie. Yes, I’ve been up to my popped collar in personal deadlines, house guests, colds, playdates and whatnot, for what seems like foreveh. But Netflix waits for no man… They charge you regardless, homie. So, I should at least get this dusty one back to them, it’s costing me!
Seven vignettes. Not necessarily in chronological order. Groundbreaking structure. Films like this remind me that nothing is new anymore. In fashion or in film. That’s kinda depressing, isn’t it? This film is 52 years old, and it’s more “modern” than anything being release this summer. What can I say about “La Dolce Vita,” that hasn’t been said? I can’t, so I’ll just show you the goodies.
Fellini’s masterpiece opens with a helicopter flying through the air carrying a statue of Jesus. No subtle symbolism. Religion in the modern age = celebrity worship.
Marcello meets American actress, Sylvia Rank, Anita Ekberg, and deems her to be everything. She is lust, love, home, hearth, all rolled into one. And coincidentally, she also possesses the most intimidating cleavage in all of cinema.
Roman ruins. Decadence. Modern life empty of meaning. The next vignette, he meets up with his friend Steiner who represents cold intellectualism devoid of religious faith. Fellini, raised Catholic, may have felt torn between being an intellectual, and being a devout believer in Christ and everlasting life.
The vignette with the Madonna sighting turns religion into a hoax morphing into a cash grab. The truly devout end up looking like fools.
Marcello escapes his suffocating girlfriend, Emma, hiding out at a seaside town, trying to write his novel. He meets Paola, a young waitress and is taken with her beauty and innocence.
The next vignette Marcello’s father visits him in Rome. They are not close but Marcello wishes he knew his father better. Family is disconnected from his life, and he despises his girlfriend. He is truly alone. His father tries to hook up with one of the dancers, but can’t, um, perform. Marcello sends him home. Is this his fate? To be old and still chasing after showgirls.
The next vignette Marcello tags along with Nico, playing herself, to a grand aristocrat’s estate outside of Rome.
The party at an old Italian aristocratic family shows the old societal class structures crumbling like the ruins of the Roman Empire.
The next vignette Marcello finds out Steiner shot and killed his children and then himself. This seems to send him off the deep end. If someone who Marcello revered, and looked up to, and seemingly possessed everything he himself wanted: a beautiful family, a loving wife, a beautiful house and children, intellectual respect, couldn’t find happiness in life, how could he?
The next vignette shows Marcello indulging in debauchery of rock star proportions. He’s ready to sell his soul to the highest bidder. He’s with a group of revelers to celebrate a middle-aged woman getting an annulment. His pitiful desperation to keep the party going while everyone else knows it’s time to go, symbolizes his own refusal to grow up, stuck in eternal adolescence.
If anything, this film is a study in contrasts. Modern Rome vs. ancient Rome. Powerful vs. weak. Respected writer vs. reviled tabloid journalist. Madonna vs. whore. Decadence vs. innocence. Clingy Emma (girlfriend) vs. Aloof Sylvia (dream girl).
It’s complex, glamorous (even if self-reflective), and intellectual. Very rare to find that these days.