I Vitelloni

The Criterion website describes Federico Fellini's I Vitelloni as "semiautobiographical" which is a valid description of any Fellini film. The man couldn't make a movie that wasn't ultimately about himself. I suppose upon its release in 1953, with only two other films under his belt (Variety Lights and The White Sheik), it is perhaps the most autobiographical Fellini has been thus far, but both earlier films clearly have elements of Fellini's life woven in. As far as I Vitelloni goes, it's pretty clear who Fellini thinks his author-insert is, but it's also pretty clear which who it actually is.

La Strada

It's clear that by the time he made 8 1/2 Federico Fellini was self aware enough to not only claim that all his films were autobiographical (as he always had) but to recognize more meaning in that and start to use them as a way of poorly apologizing to his wife Giulietta Masina. Part of this week's conversation focuses on whether or not he'd reached that point when he made La Strada in 1954.

Of course, there's also the fact that when I started to take Fellini at his word that his films are autobiographical is when I really started to have a problem with him.

At least Masina is great.

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Juliet of the Spirits

If you've listened to any of our early episodes concerning her roles, you're no doubt aware that Pat and I love Giulietta Masina, long time wife and part time love interest of Federico Fellini. After the success of the great 8 1/2, Fellini decided to do some more navel gazing in 1965 with Juliet of the Spirits, but this time the author avatar character would be gender-flipped and played by Masina. 

It seems that Masina did not enjoy playing the female version of her husband, as rumor has it that the fights on set between star and director got so intense that friends were sure they'd divorce. They didn't, though that is certainly due to circumstances outside of the film, which flopped. And probably for good reason.

8 1/2

Federico Fellini's 1963 navel-gazing comedy-drama 8 1/2 -- named for how many films he'd reckoned he'd made at the time -- may prove that Fellini is self-aware but it also prove that knowing and acknowledging your problems doesn't automatically absolve you of them. Still, Fellini's acknowledgement that he -- or at least his stand-in character Guido -- is really not very good at life is pretty entertaining.

And the Ship Sails On

Pat and I are alone again this week. I must say that as much as I enjoy having guests talking about this particularly Fellini-y film with just Pat was a joy.

And the Ship Sails On has been called a critique of European culture leading up to World War I -- and so much of it is -- despite the fact that it was made 70 years too late to help avoid the war. Equally it's a tribute to the facade of film, an ode to artificiality. It's one of Fellini's last films, and hardly his best, but it's still Fellini and everything wonderful and ridiculous that that implies.

Nights of Cabiria

Giulietta Masina has often been called the "female Chaplin" and Nights of Cabiria is a prime example why. Federico Fellini's 1957 Oscar-winning drama showcases her bright and playful spirit far more than any movie about a prostitute who is almost murdered twice probably should.

Stephen Goldmeier joins us once again for this week's discussion, the last of a month-long series with him. Show your gratitude by checking out his website, Enchantment Under the Sea, home of a couple of entertaining podcasts he's part of as well.