The film begins as a homage to Hitchcock’s North by Northwest with a train entering a tunnel. (No need for deep Freudian analysis to figure out the visual symbolism here) Snaporaz awakens and finds himself seated directly across from a beautiful woman (Bernice Stegers) while a small gathering of pre-pubescent girls enthusiastically gaze at the pair from outside their berth. The woman subtly flirts and Snaporaz becomes like putty, desperately following her to the train’s restroom, but she declares that she must depart even though the train has stopped in the middle of a meadow with no civilization in sight. The smitten Snaporaz continues to track the woman through the woods until arriving at a hotel that is hosting a surrealistic feminist convention.
Snaporaz ogles the variety of women that surround him, and they represent virtually all viewpoints of feminist issues—from the angry men haters to whores to supportive motherly types. Initially Snaporaz feels like he’s arrived at some type of paradise or that he’s in the middle of a dream. The most famous sequence from the film incorporates a typical male fantasy—a large number of men of different ages lie face up beneath undulating sheets in a stylized masturbation ritual as Mae West is projected on a screen. —Oldschoolreviews.com
Federico Fellini was born in 1920 to a provincial middle-class family in Rimini, a small town on the coast of the Adriatic Sea. The lack of available options to young men in provincial towns is an important theme in some of his films, most notably I Vitelloni and Amarcord. In fact, Orson Welles once described Fellini as “a small-town boy who’s never really come to Rome. He’s still dreaming about it. And we should all be grateful for those dreams.” He initially arrived in Rome as a law student but his career as a satirical cartoonist and gag writer was already well established by then. His childhood fascination with the circus and the Grand Guignol also governed his cinephilia in these early years. His favourite films were American comedies by Chaplin, Keaton, Harry Langdon and the Marx Brothers. It was only after he came into contact with the circle of Ettore Scola, Cesare Zavattini, Aldo Fabrizi and Roberto Rossellini, that he would seriously consider the cinema as a medium of expression… read more
I can't defend its diffuse nature except to say that its seemingly random movements through a filmed libido dream (a "sex drive projected on screen") really came together for me. Erotic, ridiculous, and grotesque, it felt like a film that above all trusted its own sense of itself, especially when it came to the narrative shape its takes. Unlike other films that use the "it's all a dream" excuse to justify
narrative fat, inept pacing, and an overall lack of compelling material, I found this one (even in its quiet, meandering spots) always compelling. From the frenetic, light-spliced encounter in the train bathroom, he had me ... somehow I'm still relatively new to Fellini's work, but if all his late-period stuff is like this, I'll be staying there for a while.
Serendipity: watching City of Women last night and then coming across this alleged line of Bergman's today, uttered in 1971 and quoted by Elliott Gould: "Bergman added that the first time he saw Mae West in a movie he “went home and jerked off.”" Of course, this could be a wishful recollection filtered through Gould's own viewing of Fellini's final great phantasmagoria. So. Snaporaz = Guido = the male id, writ wry.