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C. Aubrey Smith
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
This movie is about a Roman journalist at the crossroads of his life but unable to move forward in any meaningful direction. He is a man trapped in his life of superficiality.
Federico Fellini's La Dolce Vita is a very aesthetically beautiful film. The widescreen compositions are often outstanding. The crisp black and white photography is lit to perfection and a joy to behold. One of the factors that makes Italian cinema in general so appealing for me is the gorgeous natural light of that country, allied with the stylish decor and architecture; and in this film these elements are well in abundance. If nothing else, La Dolce Vita is a treat to the eyes. Style over substance is a term that could certainly also be applied to the denizens of LDV's Rome. We are introduced to an array of beautiful but shallow character's; from Marcello Mastroianni's gossip journalist, via Anita Ekberg's international film star or Nico's fashion model, everyone is beautiful on the surface but somewhat dead underneath. And perhaps this is a problem with the film in general; a three hour expose of shallow people is an exhausting experience.
The film is not plot-driven. It's episodic, divided into seven days in the life of a Roman gossip columnist. It's not always obvious what the point of certain events actually is. I found myself spending quite a lot of energy actually trying to actively understand the meaning of Marcello's experiences, and not always successfully I concede. But suffice to say that a very general reading of the film's message would be that it is about the superficiality of celebrity and the emptiness of much of modern urban life. And while a lot of it is still very relevant today in particular the public's obsession with celebrity it's not always clear what Fellini is trying to say. It's quite an obtuse film, with a fair amount of symbolic imagery and loaded dialogue. It's certainly serious cinema. Although I often found myself enjoying it most when it was less intellectual and more sensual, such as the wonderful iconic scene where Anita Ekberg takes a dip in the Fontana di Trevi. This justifiably famous sequence is the most purely cinematic moment in La Dolce Vita and, in my opinion, the film could have benefited from more scenes of such striking power punctuated through its three hour running time.
Overall, although I do admire this film, I find it too tiring and drawn out to love. It's very well acted and photographed, it's just a little unengaging and occasionally tedious. That said, it's one to seek out if you are at all interested in 60's New Wave cinema.
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