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26 Dolce Vita, La 1960 
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Post 26 Dolce Vita, La 1960
When I first watched 8 1/2, I was to some extent baffled by it. Don't get me wrong, I loved it, but I was up in arms about what it was actually supposed to mean, content to just let it be and revisit it at a later date (If you wondered why my original post on 8 1/2 seemed so half-assed, that's why. Also laziness). Still, like anything that affects one greatly, there was a nagging urge in the back of my head to try to understand 8 1/2, figure out the meaning behind it and the man who made it. I think, to some extent, watching La Dolce Vita for the first time has given my more insight on the ever-present mystery of Federico Fellini than a rewatch of 8 1/2 ever good.

Don't worry, that statement's not nearly as bold as it may seem at first. If one tests the waters of Fellini's by watching something like La Strada, then watching 8 1/2 first must be like taking a dive out of a helicopter into a raging whirlpool. That's probably why I liked it so much; it's an improbably challenging work, filled to the brim with philosophical, allegorical and cinematic ideas without ever losing sight of the main character's crisis at its center. It challenged me, provoked me, and awed me, but still left me drawing at blanks when trying to come up with a "theme" or a "point" other than wowing the viewer with Fellini's cinematic prowess. On almost any article I've read dealing with Fellini's entire body of work and influence he almost always gets referred to as a "showman" and I imagine 8 1/2 is why.*

La Dolce Vita on the other hand, is not very showy at all, although it is clearly a Fellini film. The man's films definitely have a certainly rhythm about them, a combination of emotional melancholy, suave cool, and intellectual crisis that separate his work from anything else out there. (Although I am mighty curious to see if this holds true of his more neorealistic films. La Strada, to the top of the queue you go!) I think this is what's given Fellini his lasting influence, and why his work is considered more than "frustrating, second-tier Bergmanien stuff" by most. What makes La Dolce Vita so much eaiser to digest than 8 1/2 though is its structure. With 8 1/2, I got the impression that every scene was meant to convey some new truth to me about the character, dismissing all that came before and shedding new light on the mystery of the main character. 8 1/2 offered very little in the way of solace until the credits rolled, constantly doubling back on our perceptions and shedding new light on Guido's artistic crisis. La Dolce Vita, on the hand, rides on a wave of mini-climaxes up until near the end which have little too do with each other besides provide , which brings the whole thing together and provides conclusion for Marcello. Those might sound similar, but they make a world of difference. Thinking back on La Dolce Vita a whole hour later, the main ark seems almost abundantly clear to me. Here's my interpretation:

[Reveal] Spoiler:
Marcello is living something resembling the sweet life in Rome. However, he yearns for something beyond it. When with one of his many lady friends, the answer to his problems is love, but when with his intellectual friend Steiner or writing alone, he yearns for truth through his or other's art. After being betrayed by Maddalena and having his falling-out-of-sorts with Emma, Marcello loses interest in love, but he is still searching. The real breaking point in Marcello's search is Steiner's suicide, which represents the death of truth, in art and in the mind. If a man has assured as Steiner ends his own life, what hope is there for someone as unsure as Marcello? To compensate for this blow, Marcello drowns himself in "The Sweet Life", becoming the kind of vapid, partying sell-out he used to watch smirking from the sidelines. Luckily, he's so drunk he doesn't even know!


Okay, to sum up: If you're planning on watching a Fellini film, don't watch 8 1/2 first. While I'm not sure I can claim La Dolce Vita is a great starting place, since at 2 Hrs 45 Min it could be a grueling experience for the less foreign-inclined filmgoer it's a hell of an eaiser watch than 8 1/2. Both feature an excellent lead performance by a one Mr. Marcello Mastroianni, who is starting to seem to me to be like an Italian version of Toshiro Mifune (Without all the yelling, that is), fantastic camera work and direction from Fellini and crew, and an overly satisfying viewing experience for the filmgoer that enjoys a good challenge. You know, I think this Fellini guy may be someone to look out for. I think he's got a future in this whole movie thing. Wonder what he'll stir up next! 9/10

(Note to Rob/Moderators: I believe you already created a topic dedicated to La Dolce Vita which currently resides on page 4 of our little hide-out. I decided not to use that topic though since all it had on it was "Need Comments" and I figured any good topic should start out with some content in post 1. I hope I made the right choice here, and sorry if I didn't.)

*Let's not anyone get the wrong idea here; I still love 8 1/2 and were I asked to name my five favorite movies right now on the spot it would definitely earn one of the slots. Still, all my deliberating on it has gotten me relied up for a rewatch, so maybe a second look will change my mind. Guess we'll find out eventually.


Sat Aug 15, 2009 2:35 am
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Post Re: 26 Dolce Vita, La 1960
Oh, La Dolce Vita... Good times...

Side note before I get to the movie: Don't ever let someone who doesn't know what they are in for watch Fellini with you. I accidentally let this happen with a few of my family members, and their reactions were along the lines of "WTF?!" followed by resolutions to never watch a Fellini movie ever again and then queries as to the validity of my cinematic journey as a whole. It was slightly entertaining, but if you ever want to actually enjoy a Fellini movie with someone, prepare them.

Anyways - I saw 8 1/2 and then La Dolce Vita. I completely agree with you, Zeppelin. Don't do that. You've made some great points about 8 1/2, but I don't think I'll address them here. As to La Dolce Vita, I again mostly agree with you. This movie is much more accessible than 8 1/2. Marcello is an easier character to follow and relate to. Each mini episode in the film all contribute to the overall narrative of Marcello's philosophical struggle.

Here's what I got out of it. It differs from what Zeppelin understood a bit:

[Reveal] Spoiler:
One interpretation of the seven episodes is that each episode represents a deadly sin. Without going into detail about each specific episode, they all come together to show how Marcello lives a life of vanity, and he struggles with his mistress about this. His job forces him to be out in society and be around celebrities, so he is not completely to blame for his situation. He accepts his place and tries to enjoy himself, while his mistress tries to tie him down and start a traditional family. No one in the film summarizes his struggle better than his good friend, Steiner. He has settled down and is raising a family, but he is not at all happy with his life. He wishes he still had his freedom, just as Marcello does. Steiner's murder suicide deeply affects Marcello. It shows him that a man tied down with responsibilities is a man that is trapped. Not only does he remain resigned to his place in the profane Italian society, but he resolves never to leave it. Yet in the later scenes, we find that this does not make him happy.


So it seems that there is no simple solution for Marcello. He is afraid of responsibilities, but he is unhappy with his complete freedom. I think that La Dolce Vita is a narrative of what Italian society in the 1950s does to an individual, rather than a character study of Marcello. With no apparent conclusion in the movie, we can only assume that he will continue to struggle with this, and that this is a problem that many others face. This is why Marcello Mastroianni is so perfect here. He embodies the 1950s Italian man.

Maybe I'll come back to this some day. I think 8 1/2 needs revisiting soon as well.


Sat Aug 15, 2009 4:56 am
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Post Re: 26 Dolce Vita, La 1960
Zeppelin wrote:
(Note to Rob/Moderators: I believe you already created a topic dedicated to La Dolce Vita which currently resides on page 4 of our little hide-out. I decided not to use that topic though since all it had on it was "Need Comments" and I figured any good topic should start out with some content in post 1. I hope I made the right choice here, and sorry if I didn't.)



No problem at all Zepp. I have deleted the old post and really like your comments.

It's funny but the mere mention of the name Fellini has some of my friends recoiling and uttering pretentious.

Sad, Rob


Sat Aug 15, 2009 11:43 am
Post Re: 26 Dolce Vita, La 1960
Zeppelin wrote:
(Note to Rob/Moderators: I believe you already created a topic dedicated to La Dolce Vita which currently resides on page 4 of our little hide-out. I decided not to use that topic though since all it had on it was "Need Comments" and I figured any good topic should start out with some content in post 1. I hope I made the right choice here, and sorry if I didn't.)


You could have posted in the existing thread too. I believe what Rob does is delete the "need comments" post and then set it up as if you created the thread. At least this is what happened when I replied to the "need comments" in Ikiru.


Sat Aug 15, 2009 3:08 pm
Post Re: 26 Dolce Vita, La 1960
ed_metal_head wrote:
Zeppelin wrote:
(Note to Rob/Moderators: I believe you already created a topic dedicated to La Dolce Vita which currently resides on page 4 of our little hide-out. I decided not to use that topic though since all it had on it was "Need Comments" and I figured any good topic should start out with some content in post 1. I hope I made the right choice here, and sorry if I didn't.)


You could have posted in the existing thread too. I believe what Rob does is delete the "need comments" post and then set it up as if you created the thread. At least this is what happened when I replied to the "need comments" in Ikiru.


Good to know. I'll keep this in mind if this ever comes up again.

Anyway darthyoshi, while I don't agree about the whole thing representing the Seven Deadly Sins, (Lust and Greed show up in nearly every story, while I can't think of a single major instance of Sloth or Gluttony) I can agree that the film tries to show Marcello's empty life. I think our interpritations can actually sit side by side very comfortably. You seem to be more aware of the whole picture while I focused more on the conversations Marcello had with Steiner, his father, Emma and Maddalena in looking for meaning. Our theories really aren't that different, yours just focuses more on the societal implications while mine is more focused on the character of Marcello. Just different ways of looking at the same thing.


Sat Aug 15, 2009 5:47 pm
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Post Re: 26 Dolce Vita, La 1960
Zeppelin wrote:
Anyway darthyoshi, while I don't agree about the whole thing representing the Seven Deadly Sins, (Lust and Greed show up in nearly every story, while I can't think of a single major instance of Sloth or Gluttony) I can agree that the film tries to show Marcello's empty life. I think our interpritations can actually sit side by side very comfortably. You seem to be more aware of the whole picture while I focused more on the conversations Marcello had with Steiner, his father, Emma and Maddalena in looking for meaning. Our theories really aren't that different, yours just focuses more on the societal implications while mine is more focused on the character of Marcello. Just different ways of looking at the same thing.


The seven deadly sins thing is what I discovered after research into La Dolce Vita's structure. I'm not completely buying into it either, but its the most convincing explanation for the episodic nature of this film.

I think when you first see it, all you can do is focus on Marcello and his interactions with the secondary characters of the film. But I've had this sit for a while, and I couldn't find a suitable conclusion for Marcello without looking at a broader picture. If he's screwed either way, and you can't blame him for why he is in his current situation, then you have to look at who or what caused the problem in the first place; the hedonistic society that surrounds him. Just look at all the people that hang off of the movie star and how quickly the fake sighting of Mary becomes so popularized and commercialized.

But I suppose you are right in that our views sit side by side. You are looking at how Marcello reacts to the crazy world that surrounds him, and I'm looking at how the crazy world affects Marcello.


Sat Aug 15, 2009 5:57 pm
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Post Re: 26 Dolce Vita, La 1960
ed_metal_head wrote:
Zeppelin wrote:
(Note to Rob/Moderators: I believe you already created a topic dedicated to La Dolce Vita which currently resides on page 4 of our little hide-out. I decided not to use that topic though since all it had on it was "Need Comments" and I figured any good topic should start out with some content in post 1. I hope I made the right choice here, and sorry if I didn't.)


You could have posted in the existing thread too. I believe what Rob does is delete the "need comments" post and then set it up as if you created the thread. At least this is what happened when I replied to the "need comments" in Ikiru.



That's exactly what I have done, but either way is fine.

Rob


Sat Aug 15, 2009 8:17 pm
Post Re: 26 Dolce Vita, La 1960
Nice video review by A.O. Scott in the New York Times today.


Tue Oct 20, 2009 2:44 pm
Post Re: 26 Dolce Vita, La 1960
I need help on this one guys. I saw this a couple of weeks ago and it is still brewing in my head.

Here what I've got...Marcello is this dude that is unhappy with his life, a life that I must say, does not seem to suck. He's got this beautiful woman who wants nothing more than to madly love him, plus his job has him hanging around celebrities and aristocrats. He seemingly works when he pleases. And it seems that he continues to look for something else...whether it be more women, materialistic things, or, just, happiness...wherever or whatever that/it may be.

I believe that somewhere in this film is the answer to my last statement...what or where is happiness? You know, la dolce vita. Problem is, I can't exactly put my finger on it.

Perhaps it lies with Paola...the young waitress we meet at the middle of the film. Something about youthfulness, and enjoying the moment, perhaps. Notice how she is enraptured by that cha-cha song.

Perhaps it lies within the symbolism of that beast they pull up on the shore. You guys have mentioned that everything gets wrapped up nicely at the end. My question is...how?

Or perhaps it lies with Marcello's father, or with Emma, his fiancee, or with Steiner somehow...I don't know. Maybe I'm not supposed to know. Maybe happiness is different for different people...maybe that's what the film is trying to tell me.


I think where I get bogged down is that I have the feeling that every scene in there is significant in some way, and I'm trying to wrap it all together into a cohesive whole...and it's just not happening.

What was the significance of the Madonna "sighting"? What about that whole deal with the aristocrats in that old, run down guesthouse? And iconic as it is, what's the significance of those two at the Trevi fountain?

I need a little help.


Fri Oct 01, 2010 2:34 pm
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