La Dolce Vita (1960) – Federico Fellini


The strong recommendations from my viewing of Rules of the Game for the Great Movies – 100 Years of Film book continue with this beautifully made film.

Marcello (Marcello Mastroianni) is a journalist who runs all over Rome from evening to dawn collecting tabloid stories alongside his sometimes photographer Paparazzo (Walter Santesso). He’s a bit of a tool, cheating on his obsessive girlfriend, Emma (Yvonne Furneaux), seemingly with almost any woman he can catch.

The film pontificates on religion, joy, love, family, desire, and the concept of differences between image and reality. At three hours long it can be a bit of slog to get through, but it looks gorgeous, even shot in black and white.

The tale begins to ramble, and despite getting second billing, the stunning Anita Ekberg only appears in the film for a short time, but leaves an indelible impression to be sure.

Fellini’s film follows Marcello about, as he deals with love affairs, loneliness, and possibly a look at his future self, when his father comes to town, and the viewer realizes the two aren’t so very different.


The idea of image versus realty is truly brought into sharp relief when we are introduced to Marcello’s friend Steiner (Alain Cuny). When we first meet him at a party, he seems happy, has a gorgeous home, a lovely wife, and two darling children… and yet, a little later in the film, an unbelievable tragedy occurs that causes Marcello to realize that someone’s reality is far different from our image of it.

Mastroianni is perfectly cast, able to wander that line between charming leading man, and troubled soul, especially in the final night of the film, when he seems to lose control.

It’s sad, however, when he seems to be given a choice at the very close of the film, and instead of doing what you feel would be best, he follows the seemingly endless party, and instead of joy there, it feels like an endless loneliness, filled with no real substance.

Each night is its own story, filled with beautifully filmed moments and great performances, there are clubs, fashion, and the endless click of flashbulbs, as Marcello navigates a world he seems destined to remain in, despite the fact that it holds no reality, or even affection for him.

This was my first Fellini film and I may think about expanding out and checking other films he’s done, any recommendations for me?

Also, a curious cultural note, this film is where the word paparazzi came from…




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