The second film in master Italian director Federico Fellini’s “trilogy of loneliness” – with La Strada and Nights of Cabiria – Il Bidone (aka The Swindle) is a powerful, humorous and heartbreaking portrait of an aging man’s redemption from a life of crime and deception. Augusto (Academy Award winner Broderick Crawford, in a role originally intended for an ailing Humphrey Bogart) is a con artist, one of a trio of swindlers preying on poor peasants in the Italian countryside. However, when Augusto is unable to offer devotion and support to the daughter he loves he is struck by the meaningless of his trade. Following themes explored in the first film of the trilogy, La Strada, and later in La Dolce Vita, Fellini portrays a man torn between decadence and personal conscience, but whose innate humanity drives him to seek salvation. —umbrellaent.com.au
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
Intriguingly, Fellini wanted to cast Bogart in the lead role in this tale of swindlers but instead he settled on burly character actor Crawford. He does a great job too as Augusto who along with his accomplices fleeces peasant farmers out of their money. An unexpected encounter with an estranged daughter leads him to question his lifestyle and sets up the emotional final scene on a stony hillside. Highly recommended.