Self Self Self. Self-promoting, self-conscious, self-satisfied! He was an excellent sharp intelligent screenwriter for others, he set out directing with promise, he set off down a road with some sentimental dangers ahead (and hints of cruelty), and then… he had one really great film in him, it was astounding, a corker, and it happened to be about himself. Then Fellini went to his head. The name in the title, retreading the dreams, the big breasts, the circus, the stunning visuals to be lapped up by the adoring public, the great maestro ringmaster cracking his whip. “Roll up, roll up: for your delectation and delight”. Dali, Warhol, Fellini, the geniuses of self-promotion. In his top 10 for Sight and Sound (1992), there was Chaplin of course (and why not?), and of course there was Fellini.
er, (the self assured) David Thomson did it in his Biographical Dictionary of Film, now my head is well above the parapet, a shiny target at the fairground, a coconut for your best shots, all you Fellini lovers can now knock some sense into my numb skull….
Gotta tell you, Kenji. I have no idea what you’re trying to say.
I’m really saying (in a silly way) the success of 8 1/2 may have gone to Fellini’s head and made his work too self-conscious and self-promoting, and to a certain extent following a formula that had worked. From then on i get the impression he felt a need to fill the role now expected of him as genius and maestro. And i’m expecting some flak, hoping to be convinced of qualities others see in some of his films that have disappointed me. As with Bresson i think the failing of perception must be mine.
David Thomson has been very critical of Fellini, and i tend to agree with some of his observations. But i do think 8 1/2 is magnificent, and La Dolce Vita impressed me too, and he’s still far above that awful shallow egotist Dali so i’m doing him an injustice clumping them together. Still, the fame and success of Dali, Warhol and Fellini owes something to promotion- like current Britartists Damien Hurst and Tracey Emin.
I think that Dali and Fellini are both great. I love Dali’s work, but I couldn’t tell you which paintings came early and which came later, so I don’t know if he ‘fell off’ later in life, but I can agree that Fellini did become too self-absorbed and for the most part had a lot of ‘misses’ after 8 1/2. Most of his films prior to 8 1/2 were either masterpieces or near-masterpieces, while his only great films after 8 1/2 would be Roma and Amarcord.
All of that being said, his list of masterworks, which include Il Bidone, Nights of Cabiria, 8 1/2, Roma, and the greatest La Dolce Vita, in conjunction with other classics like Amarcord, La Strada, and I Vitelloni set him on a very high pedestal regardless of the quality of his later work.
Self-promotion is one mode of making art—and there is no reason why on the face of it we should expect such art to be inferior. (See one Jean-Luc Godard) If it’s personal modesty we’re looking for in filmmakers, boy, we’ll be looking forever. Seriously, Kenji, I think that Fellini proffered his set of myths the way so many other filmmakers who coincidentally didn’t have such a personal presence in their movies proffered peculiar sets of myths.
I think that Fellini was a gregarious talent, warm and full of laughs. And I’m made to wonder whether to some he seems excessive or a lightweight because he’s not a dour dramatist (or dour comedian) or the Northern European variety. (I can’t help but compare him with Lina Wertmuller in this regard: in her masterpieces she was just as gregarious, and political only in that gregarious and social way.)
And here’s the thing that puzzles me most, Kenji: what exactly is wrong with big tits and circuses??
I used to like Dali when i was young but now i can’t stand him! I think he got in the rut of playing up to what was expected of him, and he was certainly a shameless egotist. I think it may have been Sister Wendy, the art historian, caravan-dwelling British nun (!)- utterly scathing of Dali- who turned my doubts about him into something bordering on disgust.
Anyway, i agree Roma and Amarcord are comfortably Fellini’s best after 8 1/2. I wish i could feel more warmly about his famous 50s films like La Strada and Nights of Cabiria- it’s probably mainly a question of temperament. Oh, it was Intervista Fellini picked for Sight and Sound
Well, I’m not sure I agree. I like a lot of Fellini’s post-8 1/2 output. SATYRICON, JULIET OF THE SPIRITS, TOBY DAMMIT, ROMA, CLOWNS, AMARCORD, I even like his CASANOVA, which seems to me to be a wildly underrated movie.
His last few films like AND THE SHIP SAILS ON and INTERVISTA left me very cold indeed, but every great artist has a couple of stinkers in his filmography. I’d say that Fellini’s filmography is more populated with masterworks than a lot of other filmmakers I could name, Martin Scorsese for example.
DOH, double post.
Ah ha, witkacy, you’ve caught me out: i’m not really one for either big tits or circuses, but i think- to excuse the pun- Fellini may have milked them (more than enough for my liking). Of course he came from a circus background and it’s interesting Mastroianni wields the whip, circus master-like in 8 1/.2. I’m all for warmth, agree flamboyance shouldn’t be assumed as lightweight compared with dour gloomy work. Well, this thread is really about subjectivity in our reactions too.
>Well, this thread is really about subjectivity in our reactions too.
As far as Fellini’s influence goes, it’s clearest & most valuable in Woody Allen’s work, most explicitly of course in Stardust Memories, but also in Broadway Danny Rose, Radio Days Sweet and Lowdown (the latter is an imitation or plagiarism of La Strada), and so on. One could easily make the argument that it was Fellini above all who taught Woody Allen how to make comic films of the sort not related to his more Chekhov/Ibsen/Strindberg-influenced work.
I have to admit, the only Fellini film I’ve seen that I liked was 8 1/2. I’m a sucker for meta, though, and love Adaptation. despite its flaws for the very same reasons.
One time I was in a local video store that was going out of business, and struck up this conversation with this guy who said, “So: Fellini or Bergman?” I sez, “Uhhh… Bergman.” He sez, “Yeah, me too.” A strange question, but surprisingly one that’s really fun to posit to random people.
My roommate owns one of David Thomson’s books, and the only thing we get from it is laughs.
Anyway, I’m saving ultimate jury for Fellini for when I see La Strada, because as far as I’ve heard, even people who hate Felllini love La Strada.
Oh i liked David Thomson’s original Biographical Dictionary of Film, but each “updated” edition proved disappointingly unupdated and neglecting lots of quite important directors from round the world. He was blotting his copybook But in his Have you Seen? book of 1000 feature films (not just his favourites but important ones he doesn’t like too) he mainly redeems himself, as long as you accept the limitations he’s a Hollywood and European (esp French) classics man. His writing style is fun, and tempting to copy. I find i have very similar taste: he rates Renoir tops with Mizoguchi close behind. The writer i most admire is David Bordwell, who really knows his stuff, and is a superb analyst of the how, not just the what and why, of films; he’s an Ozu and Mizoguchi man. Now this begs the question are we more inclined to like writers we agree with, or is it that we’re more influenced by the ones we admire- or are some here more independent and impervious to others’ views?
ps i didn’t like La Strada. Maybe coincidence but the Fellini films i prefer didn’t have Masina!
Witkacy, I started a thread a few weeks back about how in interview after interview Woody Allen mentions the works of Ingmar Bergman when it’s actually Fellini he pays much more homage to. Yeah the end of Sweet And Lowdown is a direct rip off of La Strada.
of all artists, i identify with andy warhol the most. and if it’s in someone’s personality to self promote, i’m all for it. the average person is pretty boring, and the slightest hint of creativity or originality will get my attention.
I really cannot understand what you are talking about.
However, I remind you that – because of the philosophical impications of his work – Fellini cannot be studied on books written from non-Italian critics (it would be impossible for these guys, whatever their age or their knowledge of the subject, to understand in depth this unique genius of XX Century).
If someone is interested in studying Fellini, I suggest to read essays, articles and biographies by Tullio Kezich, who is the greatest Italian critic and has been one of the best friends of Federico Fellini.
I also suggest “FARE UN FILM” (Italian for “MAKING A MOVIE”) and “IL LIBRO DEI SOGNI” (Italian for “THE BOOK OF THE DREAMS”), by Federico Fellini himself.
Another great read for those who love Fellini is the correspondance between Federico Fellini and his lifetime friend Georges Simenon, recently published in Italy by “ADELPHI”.