Quotations: The cinema is very much like the circus; and in fact, if it didn't exist. I might well have become a circus director. The circus, too, is an exact mixture of technique, precision and improvisation. While the rehearsed spectacle is on, you are still taking risks: that is, simultaneously, you live. I love this way of creating and living at the same time, without the limits set to a writer or a painter, through being plunged into action.
He took up writing for the movies, as well as radio. With the liberation he began to gain credits: Avanti ce Posto (42, Mario Bonnard); Apparizione (43, Jean de Limur); and Tutta la Citta Canta (45, Riccardo Freda). His real sponsor was Roberto Rossellini: Fellini worked on the scripts of Open City (45), Paisan (46), and the “Il Miracolo” episode of LAmore (48), in which he also played the part of the vagrant who seduces Anna Magnani. He also worked on the scripts of Delitto di Giovanni Episcopo (47. Alberto Lattuada); Senza Pieta (48, Latinada); In Nome della Legge (49, Pietro Germi); ll Malino del Po (49, Lattuada); and Francesco, dallare di Dio (50, Rossellini).
Fellinis first independent direction. The White Sheik, was a comic but baleful work, scourging the world of hack writing that had bred Fellini himself. Pierre Leprohon has compared its saving revelation of Masina (as a prostitute) at the end of the film with the way the prostitute character changes Chaplin's Monsieur Verdoux. In retrospect, therefore, The White Sheik seems a clear promise of autobiography. But Fellini moved on to the most conventional and least interesting phase of his life. I Vitelloni is good social observation, a rather old- fashioned storv about the layabout character close to Fellini’s heart. La Strada is a desperately portentous film, laboriouslv drawing a trite humanist message out of a picture of a circus brute that encouraged Anthony Quinn to think there was splendor in overacting. Il Bidone was another Maupassant-like conte in which Broderick Crawford and Richard Basehart masqueraded as priests to enhance their career as confidence tricksters. Cabina is a woefully sincere storv about a tart with a heart that seems oblivious of its own coarse-ness or the risibility of the pluck with which Masina bites back her tears. This quartet needs to be put firmly in its place. They are slick, mechanical stories, feeding on superficial feelings and uncritical of sentimentality or grand effects. As to style or creative intelligence, they do not begin to intrude upon the achievement of La Signora Senza Camelie, Le Amiche, much less the films Rossellini was making at the same time.
In its day. La Dolce Vita was hailed as a brilliant satire on the new self-conscious permissiveness of European high society. Only a facile spectator could be more anguished by its sluggish dismay at corruption than by the metaphysical alienation of LAuventnra. And it is a glib intelligence that can find any gravity in the soulful beach ending with the central observer—Marcello Mastroianni— solacing his lazy spirit with the enigmatic tolerance of a smiling child. But the film was a scandalous success and made Fellini into the self-sufficient star name that he playfully grappled with ever after.
Besieged by interviewers and critical attention, the provincial boy grew worldly wise. His actual intellectual shallowness was passed off as the dilemma of a warmhearted man in a disintegrating world. With great skill, Fellini persuaded many viewers that his dwelling on freaks, underworld degenerates, and the chattering infantile crowd was both satirical and charitable. In 8/2 he invented a director who was the representation of himself and called the man’s empty talent the mark of philosophy. It is at about this time that he introduced the metaphor of the circus as a way of papering over the artistic cracks.
The deliberate confusion of documentary and fantasy is wearisome in Fellini, largely because he has never proved himself in the way all directors must—through style and the use of film as a language. In fact, Fellini's style is very sparse and undeveloped. He has seldom done more than arrange elaborate grotesque tableaux for the camera or listen to idle chatter from his characters. The precise point of view that is essential to the movies is too demanding for his theatre-in-the-round generalizations. Fascinated by ugliness and grotesques, he expresses himself on film without grace.
Although the confessional element in Fellini's work was only unmistakable from 8/2 onward, we can now see that no other Italian so absorbed himself in the act of being an international film director. No other director—apart from Orson Welles—so insisted on the personal derivation of all his work, nor managed to make even fragments of film or biographical incidents seem like parts of a total oeuvre. Fellini often takes the pose of the innocent fascinated but bewildered by the picaresque variety of life.
There is a special aptness in that Welles—a provincial who persistently gathered accomplishment and urbanity to himself—should be the source of this comment on Fellini: “His films are a small-town boy’s dream of the big city. His sophistication works because it’s the creation of someone who doesn’t have it. But he shows dangerous signs of being a superlative artist with little to say.”
From the Adriatic coast—packed in summer, desolate in winter, and the source of so many crucial beach scenes—Fellini developed several talents: as a cartoonist, a gagman for comedians, and a radio writer. There is a famous photograph ol him newly arrived in Rome in 1940, a vitellone already, sharp-faced but soft-skinned, in a pose of indolent self-preoccupation, yet slyly alert to the camera. It is a very intelligent, responsive face that waits for some attitude to inhabit. Sitting at a Café, he looks on the point of devouring a big opportunity; it is the face of one of Stendhal’s young men ready to take Holy Orders, a military commission, or a friends wife il it will allow him a pretext for escaping inertia.
- In 1943, he married the actress Giulietta Masina.
a father: Urbano Fellini - Baker
1937 - 1939
1939 - 1942