{Of all lies, art is the least untrue - Flaubert}

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Fellini Fellini !!

I saw Fellini's Juliet of the Spirits this weekend. This movie restored my faith in him and also made me think of some of the post 8 1/2 movies (Amarcord and Satyricon) by Fellini that I have seen and had a hard time digesting, especially Satyricon. Amarcord was fine but I thought it was not up to the reputation and expectation that I associate with Fellini after watching his earlier masterpieces like Nights of Cabiria and La Strada. In Juliet of the Spirits, Fellini seemed to be in full form and fuller control of his unique Felliniesque ability and above all, this film is bigger than the sum of its parts, where you get a satiating after-taste when the end credits roll out.

In Satyricon, the biggest trouble I encountered is to weave together all the disjoint set pieces which in themselves have meaning and some depth too but for the whole movie they seemed just another soulless and empty episode only, and as I have begin to believe from films like Nights of Cabiria and La Dolce Vita, all the earlier episodes and journeys under taken by the main protagonist should lead to a sort of discovery by the character and by the viewer, but that "baring out" doesn't happen in Satyricon and it does happen to a small extent in Amarcord.

By the way the endings of both the movies are marvelous. In Satyricon, the movie ends with its main characters engraved in a wall painting (fresco) like the epics in the book pages, that was satisfying in a way that it made those characters as model of that decadent era. In Amarcord (which is the funniest film by Fellini, I ever saw) the film ends with a usual Fellini piece where in the backdrop of a boisterous marriage party, our teenage hero, who has lost his mother, gazes the sea and the sky, a silent leap from teenage to adulthood takes place while the magnificent Nino Rota music plays on, and as the best of Fellini's endings it manages to be heart-breaking and life affirming as the same time. I must say I have still to see a bad ending by Fellini, he manages grace in his canvasses with free flowing life music.

But Satyricon, with those elegant set pieces, huge number of strange characters, disjoint episodes, self indulgent fantasies, Greek metaphors, the films gets lost, probably to the same degree as the decadent society it portrays. All the felliniesque carnage of beauty and ugliness juxtaposed together, captures the film, instead of liberating it. As a viewer, I have dirty habit of asking why this scene is there and is it required, and I lose interest in watching just the adventures of the main characters. The films like Satyricon spends too much time in those adventures. The adventure part of Amarcord is better played and the freedom of such adventure is counter balanced by the tension of growing fascism in a small town of Italy.

After watching Juliet of the Spirits, I was trying to re-think about about those two films. The first thing that comes to my mind is use of color and screen by Fellini. Its like a painter using his canvass and brush dipped in a iridescent palette. Every screen capture from his colored films can be a painting in itself whether it is the welcome scene of fascists in Amarcord by the local voluptuous beauty and school children or the wedding at sea or labyrinth scene in Satyricon. Sometimes such episodes are put out of nowhere, but nonetheless magnificent depicted. In Satyricon there are several such unrelated montages. Such set pieces are obviously larger than life and at times grotesque, like the party scene in Satyricon where the phony art lovers engages themselves in a big feast with exotic food and erotic dancers and every one with such costumes that are as grandiose as the masterly lighted and inventive set pieces. The result is quiet weird which can be delightful for some and may be even disgusting for the others but whole film emerges as a big bawdy whorehouse without any inhibition, but all of colorful imagination.

Amarcord plays on a much safer area where Fellini ventures into his nostalgic account of his hometown Rimini, his alter-ego, our young protagonist grows up in the onset of fascism but in the hands of Fellini, the growing up along side with Fascism become a journey and an experience rather than a history lesson. In one of the finest and most emotional scene of the film, the visit by father and son to the hospital where the ailing mother (sure about her condition) talks with her son for the last time, Fellini manages a blissful sadness, the first ever experienced by our young hero and his discovery that as the life goes by there are many more twilights to come. Fellini is the master of imagery, I remember this scene from Amarcord. A peacock roaming and dancing in the snow, the puffs of snow falling, the view of the sea, sea liner and a vast sky, and a blind man crying out " What's it like, what's it like ?". Marvelous! When I saw the movie for the first time, I missed some of its finer points, Amarcord is like life, frank (may be too frank at times), perplexing, funny, at times enigmatic, at times frightening and all the time going on, like life.


Alpha0 said...

Kewl man..!
I can see IMDB cloning...
What do you say about 'V for vendetta'??

ventilatorblues said...

Nicely written, Anurag. I have not seen too many Fellini films, but I have seen Satyricon (and found it just as you describe) and Juliet Of The Spirits, which I liked very much.

anurag said...


Ya, I can see too :)

I didn't see 'V for Vendetta' and don't plan to see too. I have read lot of bad bad reviews.


Thanks. Juliet of the Spirits is really good.