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La Dolce Vita

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Molly McIntyre

on 15 November 2016

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Transcript of La Dolce Vita


Federico Fellini was one of if not the greatest Italian director of all time. Interestingly enough, he was not always the immensely famous film director we remember today. At 12, he ran away from home to join the circus, later supporting himself through stage acting, journalism, and scriptwriting. Only later was he successful in the film industry, enjoying tremendous praise and accolades over almost everything he created, from the start of his career with Open City (1945) to his later films like La Dolce Vita (1959), 8 1/2 (1963) and Amarcord (1970).

By the end of his career, he had racked up 23 Academy Award nominations, was an international superstar, and had made major strides in Italian neo-realism. He is now considered a modernist auteur and known for his expressionist and surrealist fantasy-like elements in his movies.
Plot Summary
La Dolce Vita has a complex and dimensional plot line, inclusive of multiple episodes tied loosely together by the main character, Marcello Rubini. The movie opens with a very iconic scene of a helicopter flying over the abandoned and ancient Roman aqueducts into the more cosmopolitan Rome of Fellini's time. As an audience, we then learn of the main character, Marcello, a gossip-journalist who's life and career solely chase after the rich, the glamorous, and the famous. The story then follows Marcello in a string of chance meetings, work events, and through his personal life choices. At first, we learn he is a womanizer who takes advantage of most women that walk in front of him, often betraying his emotionally unstable girlfriend, Emma. At some point or another, Marcello meets his father for drinks at an old Cabaret club his father went to as a young man living in Rome. Fellini then moves on to show scenes from Marcello's work life as a gossip-journalist as he covers the arrival of the American actress, Sylvia Rank. And in the last third of the film, Fellini chooses to unravel Marcello's character even more, creating a fantasy world in which the journalist indulges in too much drinking, constant partying, and continuous sexual encounters with women other than Emma. In the climax of the plot, Marcello's close friend, Steiner, commits suicide along with murdering his two children and again Marcello feels nothing.
Historical Importance
Reflection of the new Rome:
- Fellini acknowledged that the city he intended to depict had since evolved into a more cosmopolitan city
Strictly observational analysis of 1959 Rome:
- Dealt with changing society and personal struggle evident in 1950 Rome
- Helped perpetuate Italy’s understanding of salvation after the war: showing, as a whole, Italy’s struggle to realize/conceptualize salvation
- The bored retreat into sensuality for comfort, ultimately submitting to perpetual dissatisfaction
- Demonstrates the progressive spiritual and moral deterioration resulting from Italian modernization
- Suggests that though salvation is not plausible in new Rome, it remains possible
- Shows Fellini giving up on Christianity, but not entirely embracing nihilism


Cultural and Societal Significance
- Shows a denial of creative consciousness and then death of responsive consciousness: spectacle has replaced more spiritual forms of renewal: the film displays a world that relies on movie stars, media, and gossip journalism to rescue it from boredom
- Nymphomania; major commentary on the excess of sensuality in 1950 Italy
- Marcello’s meandering, non creative life comments on the bored, complacent nature of higher class life
- Marcello’s character: everything is outside of him; his external stimulations and sensations and observations are more important than his internal thoughts, mind, and passions
- Mirrors the shift away from religion towards material and sensual impulses
- He is divided between professional duty (covering the “Second Coming” as a journalist) and personal inclination (chasing women): This divide between spirit and body reflects a world polarized and one where spirit is associated with work
Characters do not accept their lives in the present: There is hint at the past being better than the present and future

Film's Reception
La Dolce Vita
was well received around the globe. As one of the most critically acclaimed films of all time, the movie received The Golden Palm Award at the Cannes film festival in 1960 as well as an Oscar for best costume. As a globally renowned film, it was considered one of the most widely acclaimed movies of 1960s by the NY Times. It brought in 19.5 million US dollars to the box office and 2.2 billion lira to Italian box offices. Although widely applauded, the movie still received some negative feedback in parts of Europe. Thought to be a parody of the second coming of Jesus, the opening scene and the film as a whole were condemned by the Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano in 1960 and subject to widespread censorship.

The reception was divided. Some people hated the film and some loved it at the Milan premiere. Either way there was a lot of excitement surrounding the film. When the movie premiered in London, people were shocked by the cavalier treatment of sexual matters by characters of the film (especially because homosexuality was still illegal in Britain).
La Dolce Vita
won the Palme d'Or in 1960 and was also condemned by the Vatican and was censored. The ban in Spain was not lifted until after the death of Franco in 1975.

In addition to it's box office success in the US, the film was enormously popular amongst the average moviegoer for two main reasons. The first being the cultural and sexual revolutions of the time: the film was released the same time the Kinsey Reports circulated, JFK was elected, and the pill was put on the market. The American public had a renewed sense of promiscuity and the accepted freedom of that behavior. That being said, the average moviegoer rushed to see the film in theaters, anxious to see their inner desires and fantasies played out on the big screen. The second major reason was due to the surge in the American economy's uplifting successes and prosperity during the film’s release. There was a renewal and overwhelming obsession with consumer goods, material possessions, markets, and brand names especially those that reflected the latest trends and fashions of Italian culture. .



Comparison to Later Cinema
Blow Up
by Michelangelo Antonioni was also a social satire, but with the influence of the late 60s iconic pop-culture imagery and a similar tone of unease and alienation throughout the film.

“Like La Dolce Vita, Blow-Up means whatever the viewer wants it to mean, as David Hemmings' shutterbug gazes at enigmatic snapshots which may or may not hold the key to a murder mystery.”

Additionally, there are also reviews comparing the fashion photographer of
Blow Up
to be the natural heir to Marcello due to their equally jaded attitudes on their surroundings.

The 2013, the Italian film
The Great Beauty
features a former writer who wanders through the parties of Roman high society trying to decide what to do with his life.
Up for Debate
1. What do you all think was the significance of Steiner's character/situation in the film?

2. How would we compare this film to The Great Beauty?

3. How would you interpret this last scene? Has Marcello grown as a character or does he fail to do so?

4. Did anyone notice any unique storytelling techniques or aesthetics?

La Dolce Vita
Federico Fellini
As a reaction against cultural climate:
- Constant presence of photographers reflects the omnipresence of photographers in contemporary
- Rome due to presence of American actors/actresses and overall American infatuation with Italian culture
- Exemplifies a sense of banality and absence of meaning within the celebrity world
- Discussion of the social changes that resulted from the Economic Miracle
- Urbanization led to population shift from impoverished south to industrialized north
- Migration catalyzed reassessment of cultural values: values of consumerism became widely accepted
- Reflected the new social mobility that almost instantly negated religious sentiment
Reaction Against the Cultural Climate
- Immediately post-World War II, Italy suffered from devastating depression
- But the end of 1950s Italy experienced what is now referred to as an “Economic Miracle”, which began in 1957 due to new-found allies and resources:
-Italy became a member of the NATO alliance and the European Economic Community (later the European Union)
- The modernization/reinvigoration of the steel industry led to economic revival

Historical Context
The artistic importance behind La Dolce Vita is not so much about the grandiosity of the clothing, lifestyle, and actual art of the scenes but more so in the deeper humanist meaning behind the characters, settings, and way in which they act. The movie itself is a satire that can be seen through its use of metaphors and oddities of the characters.

“ Its target is a godless society that has become a kind of hell.... Cafe society figures are the new gods of this celebrity culture, and to expand the metaphor beyond Rome the film features actors from France, America, Sweden and England as well as Italy.”

The film opens with a metaphor itself, two helicopters flying over ancient ruins of Rome showing The contrast of helicopters with the backdrop of ancient ruins and fields. One helicopter flies over a large statue of Christ with his hand outstretched that creates a presence of religious tension that has a more serious tone in comparison to the sunbathing women who stand up to wave at passing helicopters.

There are metaphors in the characters actions that further develop themes of a neo-realist humanity. For example, there is one occasion with Maddalena and Marcello when they drive home a prostitute who commented on Maddalenas car. At the prostitutes home the two end up having casual sex. The irony that house in which they have sex in is a house of a prostitute is intentional. Like a prostitute, Maddalena has sex without love or emotion. Her character is a catalyst for one kind of depression the film is making a commentary on.
Artistic Significance
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