February 27, 2010


Francis Coppola said that when he was coming up in film in the 1960s there were three giants: Akira Kurosawa, Ingmar Bergman, and Federico Fellini. I first saw a Fellini film when I was twelve and I was quite baffled by it (Juliet of the Spirits). But my imagination was also ignited by the images I saw. From that moment on, I knew there was an outer border where some creators dare to dwell. Fellini began as a cartoonist (another reason for me to relate to him), and he made an important transition from the Neo-Realist films of post-war Italy to wildly imaginative works that allowed fantasy and dream imagery to collide with narrative. The movie that rests between these two periods is the classic, La Dolce Vita (1960). Famous for its scene between Anita Ekberg and Mastroianni in the Trevi fountain, La Dolce Vita brought the emotional level of his earlier characters into a hip, young setting. Images of Vespas, open-top sports cars, and Mastroianni in his dark suit, thin black tie and sunglasses established what we envision as early-mid 1960s Italian cool. It is a Spy Vibe that has been copied and parodied countless times (anyone see Saturday Night Live's La Dolce Gilda?). The open sexuality and loose morality of the film caused quite a scandal- a scene that was humorously played out in another Mastroianni film a couple of years later, Divorce Italian Style.

A new Fellini book is due from Rizzoli in March. Federico Fellini: The Films. Published on the eve of the fiftieth anniversary of the debut of La Dolce Vita, this is the most authoritative survey ever of Federico Fellini’s complete oeuvre. This definitive and important contribution on Federico Fellini chronicles the body of work of one of the most influential and revered directors of all time, and one of Italy’s most important modern cultural icons. It features the great director’s own drawings, sketches, storyboards, notes, and commentary along with behind-the-scenes photographs—both on set and off—and covers each film from the entire span of his career. Largely never before published, the material collected in this lavishly illustrated volume is drawn primarily from the archives of the Fellini Foundation and from the Fellini family’s private collection. Incidentally, Rizzoli has a similar book devoted to Kurosawa coming out in early March as well!

Like Teshigahara and Takemitsu, Fellini enjoyed a special collaboration throughout his career with one composer- Nino Rota. Below is the quintessential piece from his soundtrack to La Dolce Vita, a sound that would help define and inspire the resurgence of lounge soundtrack music in the 1990s and a song covered by the band, Combustible Edison.

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