Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Fellini's Roma (1972)

I haven't seen a lot of Fellini movies, and I certainly missed this one when it first came out. It may be just as well -- I don't know if I would have appreciated it back then. A couple of nights ago, on the other hand, I found it mesmerizing, something I had to watch and enjoyed watching just as a fascinating object. Such movies had more appeal to me than when I was younger.

One does not have to be a genius to see that there must be a large amount of autobiographical reflection in this movie. There are scenes that might be from Fellini's childhood, More from the wartime era, and quite a few from 1972 or thereabouts. There is no plot, just a certain number of realistic but satirical scenes and others that are more fantastic.

One scene I could not find on the web somebody described to me long ago. I was glad to finally see it. The camera follows an official through the perpetually under-construction Roman subway system, during which he complains about how hard it is to make any progress when there are so many archaeological finds in the way, some of which are so significant that the tunnels have to be rerouted. Then the workers detect a great hollow space along the current route. They break through into the space and find it is a Roman villa whose walls are covered with brilliantly preserved paintings of Roman men and women. And then... and then... as workers and officials and out-of-town visitors all watch, the outdoor air corrodes the paintings, and they suddenly and completely disappear.

Then there is this indescribable scene::

This movie also had a lot of shots of the richest and cleanest and most spectacularly dressed hippies I have ever seen, hanging around the fountains of Rome (and in one scene being beaten up by cops while older rich people watch). Were they for real?


  1. Indescribable.

    My Fellini moment was in Naples. A cold evening in the market, the magnificently dressed whores all warming their hands by an impromptu bonfire. Guess you had to have been there.

  2. George Ferzoco4:49 pm

    Hi Steve -- although Fellini got his start and inspiration via neorealism, you can be certain that each and every frame of Roma is staged, on a set at Cinecittà studios outside Rome.
    A breathtaking movie, one of my favourites ...

  3. I love the early Fellini films (up until Casanova, and I make an exception for Ginger e Fred, which was almost up to his old greatness) and they have been etched into my retinae. Just lately I got Giulietta degli spiriti on dvd from one of my sons, my first Fellini ever, and it was still as good as I remembered it. But I understood it even better now that in my twenties too. Everytime I saw a movie of his I thought: so this too is possible! Wonderful visions and highly charged images.