A small-time thief steals a car and impulsively murders a motorcycle policeman. Wanted by the authorities, he reunites with a hip American journalism student and attempts to persuade her to run away with him to Italy.
Journalist and man-about-town Marcello struggles to find his place in the world, torn between the allure of Rome's elite social scene and the stifling domesticity offered by his girlfriend, all the while searching for a way to become a serious writer. Written by
Long, episodic film by Federico Fellini about the conceits and facades of life: fame, intellect, sex, friendship, despair, innocence, etc.
Marcello Mastroianni is perfect as the shallow tabloid reporter who joyfully follows around Rome a blonde movie star from Sweden (Anita Ekberg) as she prowls around the city's bars and bistros. He is also having an affair with a woman (Anouk Aimee) while his girl friend (Yvonne Furnaux) seems to be going nuts.
But as Marcello moves through the city following the movie star, the miracle of the virgin, a few parties, etc. we see that his life is very empty because the things he reports on are meaningless drivel. We see that fame and fortune and the trappings of success are meaningless.
Marcello starts to realize that the movie star is a vapid airhead, the miracles are a sham, and his friend's (who seemed quite happily married) ghastly murder and suicide show the futility of life itself.
The Fellini themes are common to many of his films, but what makes La Dolce Vita so memorable are the cynical tone, the Nina Rota music, and the string of terrific visual images.
The opening scene is of a helicopter hauling a gilded plaster statue through the air across Rome. The flying saint is a bizarre image but serves to set up the movies which is all about images and events that are never what they seem to be.
Notable are the scenes of statuesque Ekberg in that terrific strapless black dress with the voluminous skirts as she swishes around dancing and eventually wading through a city fountain. The party scenes are also notable. The first because of the intolerable intellectuals who sits around and talk and talk but never do anything. The last party has the indelible image of Mastroianni "riding" a drunken blonde woman as though she were a horse. The final image of the giant dead fish is quite unsettling as it symbolizes their bloated lives.
Fellini is brilliant in filling scenes with odd people as extras, usually hideously dressed or wearing ugly glasses. The "gallery" of people who inhabit the city is one of grotesques, vapid fashion slaves, the rich, hangers on, etc.
A long film, but highly recommended and very memorable.
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