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.
Ah, the sweet life, indeed.
Love the retro bathing suits.
Marcello Mastroianni, as Marcello, a tabloid reporter checks out a bevy of beauties sunbathing on a rooftop. He tries talking to them, but can’t hear what they’re saying.
As you well know, this is the film that gave us the term, paparazzi. I love Anouk Amiee’s detached, sophisticated socialite, Maddelena.
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.
You can see where those Marciano brothers get their ad inspiration.
I just like this shot.
Don’t you just love Marcello? Can’t help but flirt a little with the stewardesses. How cute are their uniforms?
She climbs a church bell tower with the press laboring to keep up. Her dress has Catholic undertones with the black long sleeves and high collar along with the white fabric positioned at the neck.
Even though she is an object of lust, Sylvia remains childlike and innocent. She represents big, robust American optimism and domination of the post-war era.
The most memorable image from the film is Anita Ekberg in this black strapless gown. If you didn’t see the film you’d think it was a straight column from the waist down, but it’s not. It’s multi-layered and multicolored chiffon.
The setting, with the fire, grotto, costumed partygoers, all remind you of the pagan decadence of ancient Rome.
Even her dance partner’s facial hair makes him look like Pan, the Satyr.
Sylvia wanders off. This dress flows beautifully.
And here it is.
The moment you all have been waiting for.
She beckons Marcello to join her.
Marcello and Anita in the Trevi fountain. She is a goddess, like Aphrodite emerging from the sea, and he is a mere mortal. The water stops flowing, like a spell that’s been broken. She is not a goddess, merely an actress, and stuck in her own dysfunctional relationship.
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.
I just like all their glasses.
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.
This has nothing to do with fashion, but I love the how the window coverings let light pass through to form a pattern on the floors and walls. Great idea for a restaurant or a boutique.
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.
Cabaret dancers in flapper gear. Love the black and white dresses.
The next vignette Marcello tags along with Nico, playing herself, to a grand aristocrat’s estate outside of Rome.
OMG. I totally forgot Nico was in this! How fab are these two together??? I always thought of “La Dolce Vita” as older than it actually is. But this reminded me it’s right before Swinging London and Hippies in America. Nico really pulls your focus ,and puts you exactly in that end-of-Don Draper era.
The party at an old Italian aristocratic family shows the old societal class structures crumbling like the ruins of the Roman Empire.
Incredibly wealthy and incredibly bored, nothing’s really changed.
They walk back to the castle after a night of casual sex and ghost-hunting.
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.
After the owner of the house kicks them out, the gang spots a beach in the distance. Something about this group of people in the forest seems almost magical.
It’s framed in such a lovely way, and tracks along…
… As they run to the beach.
We follow behind them, as if we’re part of the party. You can see how these party people start morphing into his later films as exaggerations, caricatures, carnival-like folk. What they call Felliniesque, in his later films.
They witness the fishermen pull up the carcass of a prehistoric sea creature. It’s eyes open like it’s seen eons come and go, underscoring how little time we humans have on this planet.
The last shots mirror the opening shots. Marcello talking to a girl in the distance, unable to hear her respond. This time it’s the angelic Paola, the waitress from the seaside cafe. Is it his innocence and youth he can’t connect with? Or maybe he’s finally growing up, letting go of his youth.
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.