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
life imitates art? art imitates life? a bit of both?
I just saw a new print of this wonderful film after not having seen it for maybe 20 years and it is still spellbinding. Fellini sums up an era and an attitude here, and succeeds in doing something that ought to be impossible: he makes a full and meaningful film about empty and meaningless lives. Mastroianni seems to have been to Fellini what DeNiro has been to Scorsese--a perfect embodiment of a personal vision. What a wonderful actor he was--brilliant in his youth and in his age. Many other performers are hardly less fine here, and the cinematography and composition are stunning throughout. There are so many indelible images from this film, images that have become iconic over the decades: Ekberg in the Fontana di Trevi, the statue of Christ flying over Rome, the astonishing, candlelit procession at the castle, to name a few. It seems plot less and yet it isn't plot less at all; Marcello's ultimately fruitless search for meaning, a search that he abandons in the end, as he stares across a slight and yet unbridgable abyss on the beach at a lovely young girl who seems to possess the knowledge and understanding that is denied to him. I'm astonished at the number of people who don't get this movie, who seem to think that Fellini expects us to admire the bizarre characters who people the film, or who think that a movie about worthless individuals must be a worthless movie, or who don't seem to understand that movies that are full of what become clichés usually do so because they capture an important vision. Fellini made several exceptional films: 81/2, La Strada, Amarcord, and The Nights of Cabiria come to mind, but La Dolce Vita may be, when all is said and done, his masterwork.
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