What else can be written about this classic art movie? The plot is vague and lacks narrative drive, but the pace of La Dolce Vita (trans: The Sweet Life) is quick, quick, slow – and ripe with an edgy sense of anticipation. Marcello Mastroianni plays a hack newshound, forever chasing the glamour and gossip that leads him into the soul-destroying trap of life as an endless party, resulting in unhappiness and frustration over his unfulfilled ambitions to write something meaningful.
The opening sequence is a bizarre piece of vérité surrealism as a giant statue of Christ flies above Rome, suspended beneath a helicopter (a favourite Fellini scene for the chief!). There are numerous paroxysms of music and dance, as unexpected events interrupt and occasionally shatter Marcello’s complacency: the night drive with a bored heiress (superbly played by Anouk Aimée), the suicide attempt by his lover (Yvonne Furneaux), the giant fish found rotting on a beach, news reports of a ‘Madonna’ sighting – but here, as in all modern life, the seemingly miraculous is just another a lie. As the buxom starlet, Sylvia, Anita Ekberg is a blonde screen goddess who makes America’s premier sex symbol, Marilyn Monroe, look like a cute little chipmunk by comparison. Sylvia’s scene in the fountain is rightly famous; what stupendous cleavage! Caught out alone with her, Marcello gets beaten up by Sylvia’s jealous beau,
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Robert (the former ‘Tarzan’, Lex Barker, her real-life husband). Was this art imitating life? Life does imitates art in our use of ‘paparazzi’ to identify today’s intrusive press photographers, for this is based on Paparazzo, the name of a relentless photojournalist character in this archly satirical drama.
My favourite sequence is the amusing séance: “There’s a message for someone here,” claims the medium. But, of course, there’s no such thing – was she having an ecstatic trance or was that just drunken rambling?
DVD extras: great looking black and white cinematography, scene access in 24 chapters. Text screens: an uncredited synopsis of the film, plus Fellini biography and filmography.