For the third feature in VICE's screening series with Martin Scorsese’s Film Foundation at Nitehawk Cinema, we present Frederico Fellini’s La Dolce Vita: the Italian maestro’s grandiose satire of Roman nightlife in the 60s.
Today, it’s tough to articulate the seismic impact the film had inside and outside the film industry. It catapulted Fellini to a stage reserved for few directors of world cinema and introduced terms like paparazzi and Fellini-esque into the lexicon. Oh, and the film itself isn’t too shabby either. It's a sprawling catalogue of Fellini’s past and future ideas, all centered around a playful damnation of the overprivileged and morally bankrupt. VICE’s Eddy Moretti will introduce the film and set the stage for Fellini’s magnum opus.
To get you prepped, we asked a few friends to weigh in with their own thoughts and feelings about the film.
— Introduction by Greg Eggebeen
“I like lots of things, but there are three things I like most: love, love… and love.”—Sylvia (Anita Ekberg)
Fellini’s film La Dolce Vita captures Marcello Mastroianni playing Marcello, a journalist and playboy struggling to find his place in a postwar Rome. Handsome, elegant, and always with the right people, his life looks enviable. But as we follow Marcello through a series of events, some real and some reenacted, we realize he is deeply disconnected. Fellini’s film is full of despicable characters, and I fall for all of them.
The thrill-seeking Maddalena is one of my favorite characters in the film. She is rich and bored with life. She drives Marcello to a prostitute's apartment to have sex. She’s attractive, well-dressed, and wears dark sunglasses day and night. As she lays on the prostitute’s bed, she looks over to Marcello, and then lifts her dark sunglasses to reveal the one event missing from the film, her black eye. That black eye was given quite an entrance by Fellini, revealed so precisely that Maddalena becomes almost incidental in its wake.
As that black eye is to Maddalena, it's the infamously replayed image of Sylvia baptizing Marcelo in the Trevi Fountain with a drip of water from her finger that summarizes the voluptuous Hollywood star played by Anita Ekberg. Sylvia’s inflated proportions are on the verge of exploding at any moment, but her biggest asset may be how little she actually says. Instead, she howls with the dogs and purrs with a lost kitten. Ekberg plays a role similar to that statue of Christ dangling from a helicopter over Rome: she is here to be photographed.
It is Emma, Marcello’s neglected mistress who plays outcast to the yin and yang of Sylvia and Maddalena. Her failed suicide and nagging pleas for commitment are lost on the ever evasive Marcello. As Marcello follows two children who have purportedly sighted the Madonna, Emma hopelessly prays to the Virgin Mary to be given sole possession of Marcello’s heart. Marcello’s fear of staying anywhere for too long for fear of missing something else is where the absence of his heart lies.
For over 28 years, I wrote a breathless gossip column called La Dolce Musto, hoping to nab some of the cachet of Fellini’s La Dolce Vita with my title alone. It’s a swirling, haunting movie about a jaded tabloid reporter who’s held prisoner by the giddy society folk who surround him every night, putting on a show that’s alternately dazzling and disheartening. I could certainly relate to the mixed feelings, but mostly I live for the film’s breathtaking images, from the Christ statue being helicoptered through the ruins to Anita Ekberg bewitchingly wading through the Trevi Fountain’s waters. They all serve Fellini’s vision of a pointedly hollow Roman holiday of the soul.
In the 80s, years after having first seen the classic film, I got to meet Anita Ekberg, Fellini, and Fellini’s casting director. Anita was intolerably rude. Fellini seemed remote. And Fellini’s casting director was an ass. When I jokingly remarked to him that I wanted to be in a Fellini film, he turned to his cohort and said that I was too ugly. I guess he didn’t count on me knowing Italian... So they were all frauds! Who cares? All the better for them to hold a magical mirror up to society’s frailties. Besides, my column’s name was intended even more as a nod to Gilda Radner’s brilliant 1978 parody “La Dolce Gilda” on Saturday Night Live.
The king of the Italian-sunglass films. Absolutely beautifully shot, lit, written, and edited—a high watermark for Fellini, for cinema, and for a decade. It will be copied and referred to forever.
Print courtesy of Paramount Pictures and the Film Foundation Conservation Collection at the Academy Film Archive.
Restored by Cineteca di Bologna at L’Immagine Ritrovata Laboratory in association with The Film Foundation, Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia‐Cineteca Nazionale, Pathé, Fondation Jérôme Seydoux‐Pathé, Mediaset‐Medusa, Paramount Pictures and Cinecittà Luce. Restoration funding provided by Gucci and The Film Foundation.
The screening is sold out. Next time, don't procrastinate!