Thursday, January 20, 2005

La Dolce Vita

Today is Federico Fellini's birthday (here is a link to a lengthy survey of his career), and as a completely inadequate gesture toward honoring his work on his day, I thought I'd post some comments on La Dolce Vita (1960; starring Marcello Mastroianni, Anita Ekberg, Anouk Aimee), which I bought back in December.
I'm by no means an expert on Fellini, so what follows is not terribly informed by much beyond admiration and having also seen La Strada and 8 1/2. But my excuse is that by trying to write about something I have some impressions about, perhaps I can dislodge some ideas that I don't know are within me.
What strikes me first, as I think back on my seeing this film a month ago, are its images: the opening scene; the famous Trevi Fountain scene; etc., etc. In its series of short scenes (as opposed to a more continuous narrative), it stands to reason that what would stay with us are images as opposed to moments from its plot. There IS no plot in the conventional sense; rather, what we get are a series of impressions of late-'50s Rome as experienced by celebrities, the press and photographers who pursue them in search of images, and the wealthy young and, sigh, not-so-young. There's much beauty here, much glamour, much joie de vive. Much surface.
The opening scene--a large statue of Christ suspended by wires and flown over Rome by a helicopter--tells us this will be the case. The statue is shown in its statue-ness; it's merely an object, as opposed to a finger pointing to Christ. It's emptied of its larger significance and value. And La Dolce Vita's discontinuous scenes--in one scene, for example, Marcello is breaking up with his girlfriend; a few scenes later, they have been reunited but with no explanation provided as to how this had come about--has the same effect: what we see, beautiful and even magical though it may be, has little if any larger meaning beyond itself.
The title, then, might be ironically read as meaning "Life that is sweet and pleasing but ultimately devoid of sustenance."
Bittersweet, then, is La Dolce Vita. Rome's ruins/history (take your pick) serve as backdrops rather than subjects for discussion. No learning . . . at least within the world of the film. The audience, though, is another matter.

Technorati tag:

No comments: