FELLINI: THE MAGICIAN OF CINEMA WHO WAS MAKING POETRY
By Miguel Angel Barroso García
Image (ablove), Federico Fellini
[dropcap] The[/dropcap] filmmaker won his third Hollywood Oscar for Best Foreign Film. With Giulietta degli spiriti, 1965, Fellini takes a step forward in his art and composes one of his most mysterious and complex films, although endowed with an apparent “simplicity” that is what makes him so deep and mesmerizing in the eyes of the viewer. The absolute protagonist of the film was again his wife Giulietta Masina, who portrays a middle-aged woman belonging to the wealthy bourgeoisie, whose marriage is about to break definitively due to her husband’s infidelity. This simple story is woven by Fellini in a way that makes us travel the inside of the mind of that simple, kind woman and full of “ghosts” of childhood that do not allow her to be free or access that happiness that wants to conquer every minute of their life.
Giulietta degli Spiriti is an absolute masterpiece of the filmmaker and remains as a singular work (despite being totally fellinian) within his filmography. Fellini-Satyricon, 1969, closes with the gold of the sixties, and we could say that this second and intense stage of his work. Satyricon is once again a rare bird within the Fellinian world. Freely based on the book of Petronius: the Satiricon, it shows us the decadence of Rome without hiding its gluttonous banquets, its libidinous acts, the contempt for the artists and the pettiness of men. Fellini is supposed to tell us about classical Rome, but we soon realize that this beautiful, tender and tragic adventure actually tells us about the world in which we live. And that is their greatness, discovering that life has not changed anything for men and women of all times: oppression, injustice, envy, sex, mediocrity, wealth, poverty, yearning for freedom , the search for God and, above all, the search for oneself, are still the same concerns that we have in our contemporary world. But Satyricon is dazzling in its imagery, it is overflowing in its baroque without limits, it is overwhelming in its sea of colors, it is a giant in its proposal of interrogation on the life and the death.
Satyricon is a film of great scope and at the same time of great simplicity; is how the human soul is: simple and complex, guilty and innocent, free and imprisoned. Fellini reaches a state of maturity that faces the seventies with a new vision of his most intimate and collected cinema, more contemplative and contained, despite not giving up at all its colorful baroque, or its thunder and silences, alternating like the moods of their characters. The two masterpieces of this period are undoubtedly: Amarcord, 1973 and Casanova, 1973. Amarcord earned nothing less than his fifth Hollywood Oscar for Best Foreign Film. The film contains one of the most beautiful soundtracks of its fetish composer Nino Rota (with whom he made all his films passionately until the death of the composer), in addition to one of the most popular in the history of cinema. Although the sound is typically Fellinian, this time the Rota soundtrack is very intimate, very engaging, very nostalgic; and that is certainly what Fellini was looking for alongside the great screenwriter Tonino Guerra when they wrote the script. Unique music for a great decoration of beautiful stone carton (Fellini loved to recreate in the studio all the films, and made mythical studies Cinecitta, where he was fascinated to shoot), brimming with baroque elements, where all the dreams of the filmmaker are paraded (we are new in the city of Rimini), their yearnings and their worries. Because at all, it is an autobiographical film as it was said at the time of its premiere, it is not, since Fellini reinvented his life in each of his films; and it may be in this film where the filmmaker most memories of his childhood have mixed, or where he has been most seemingly biographical.
But Amarcord is a complex film of structure, encompassing many creative records, since beneath its apparent comedy tone, especially the first half of the film, which is centered on the buffoonery and pranks of the village boys, beats with much it forces a dramatic heart that rests the historic events (in this case the period of fascism), stirs with serene, but intense and proud pain.
And it is this infinite bitterness with which Fellini draws all his cinema, which is built three years later Casanova, undoubtedly the most bitter film of the filmmaker, whose singularity away radically from all his films. Fellini never wanted to tell the life of Giacomo Casanova, but to explore inside, to know why that human being was in the end so unhappy, being one of the greatest lovers of humanity. And this does not mean that Fellini is hard on Casanova, on the contrary, he echoes his sadness, his frustration, because while he insists on letting others know that he is not the lover, and that in fact he The man in front is talented, nobody seems to want to know it and is despised. And this is the most moving part of Fellini’s film, the absolute humanization of the character Casanova, making him a man and not a myth.
This reflective and humanistic sadness that are incorporated in the film, will form part of all his later cinema, full of smaller and intimate films, where they will intensify the beautiful artifices of his cinema. And we mean that Fellini will never want to film nature as it is, but recreate it in his beloved studies Cinecittà, endowing them (although it seems incredible) of greater truth than if they were real. And this creates a magician, a tightrope player, a circus man as he liked to define himself. His characters seek the company of other human beings, they look for the bustle, the deafening noise of the party, of the drunkenness, of the degrading orgy if necessary; all to get out of the unbearable monotony of existence, the most absurd emptiness of day to day. And happiness seems to accompany them in these moments of thunder and deafening screaming where they want to say things that are not heard and that leave a terrible dawn, empty, of utter desolation. But the purpose of the man in Fellini is to keep on walking to find more human beings with whom to share the joy of being alive and telling (if they can be heard) all that they would be able to do if the world were more benevolent with them, more ordered with their plans of regeneration, more compassionate with their merits.
Thus, in these eighties were born a series of beautiful films like Prova d’orchestra, 1978; La città delle donne, 1980 and above all the wonderful piece of absolute art entitled E la nave va, 1983, which is a song to humanity and all the aspirations of a healthy nature and brimming with piety for others and for ourselves. Fellini’s speech has not changed, his religiosity remains as pure as ever, but he has become even sweeter in his expression, in his perfect narrative full of sets that are noted, so that the viewer is not called a delusion and between definitely in the world of dreams, where a magician poet makes his alchemy and guesses the future of each one who dares to look into his eyes.
And why not? Magic is the most real thing we have on our side and we do not realize it. But Federico Fellini did, and he built his dances, his canvases, his brushes, and his human faces in a lifetime, which always smile even when bitterness dominates the soul.
Miguel Ángel Barroso García is a dedicated and published Film Historian. His credits include organizing numerous international film festivals and authoring several books including “The Hundred Best Films of Italian Cinema History” (2008) and “The Hundred Best Films of the 20th Century” (2009). Miguel organized the videoconference, “The Unforgettable Anna Magnani”, in tribute to the actress Anna Magnani on the centenary of his birth, held at the Italian Cultural Instituto Madrid.