La Dolce Vita (1960)

“You are the first woman on the first day of creation. You are mother, sister, lover, friend, angel, devil, earth, home.”

‘La Dolce Vita’, directed by Federico Fellini in 1960, is a long and rich film focusing on seven nights and mornings in the life of playboy journalist and wannabe novelist Marcello Rubini as he tours the fleshpots of Rome. The movie is episodic, each of the seven segments telling a vignette in Rubini’s picaresque adventures, often revolving around the collision between religion and secularism; between the sacred and the profane. The charisma of both the director, and the central character, make ‘La Dolce Vita’ particularly inviting to deep analysis. The seven episodes have been held up as references to the sacraments, the virtues and the sins, as well as the hills surrounding the city. It’s true that the film is laced with religious symbolism, particularly baptism, but is also bolstered with existential philosophy: a key scene in which a character commits suicide is clearly informed by Camus’ ‘The Myth of Sisyphus’. As well as being a visual and stylistic genius, Fellini is the master of structure and ‘La Dolce Vita’, as with the movies of his i’ve seen recently, is perfectly balanced. Highlights are too numerous to mention but include the opening shots of a helicopter bearing a statue of Christ, the secular, erotic baptism of Rubini in the Trevi Fountain, the suicide of Steiner (a weighty counter-balance to the fountain scene) and the panicky, chaotic intrusion of the press photographers as they Vespa in and out of moments of sensitivity. Really though, the whole movie is a highlight and to extract moments would be to diminish the whole. Where has Fellini been all my life?

Would I recommend it? It’s a rich and exciting movie: epic, nostalgic and stylish. Watch in a double bill with ‘8 ½’.

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