Saturday, January 3, 2015
CANON OF FILM: "AMARCORD"
Director: Federico Fellini
Screenplay: Federico Fellini and Tonino Guerra
Like many who first discover Fellini, I had abandoned him for a while. I still ranked “La Dolce Vita,” and “8 ½” as favorite essential films, and I had enjoyed watching other works of his like “I, Vitteloni”, or “Variety Lights”, “Fellini’s Satyricon” or “Juliet of the Spirits” (Okay I didn’t enjoy the last two) and had often thought about adding “La Strada,” to the canon, but my heart hasn’t been in Fellini films lately. I had been far more interested in other filmmaking greats, those like Wenders, Herzog, Kieslowski, Bergman, Kurosawa, Ozu, they were striking me as more intriguing lately. A lot of people go through that phase, especially when we start discussing the latter portion of Fellini’s canon, where he challenged the audience between the realities of memories and fantasy and which ones were stronger or more relevant in the mind and breaking down the walls between the film and audience, almost mocking them.
“Amarcord,” is often considered his last great film, it earned him his last Oscar until the honorary one he received in ’93, and many consider it one of the few films that truly combines both the personal autobiographical contents of his films his the Felliniesque circus-like eccentricities and exaggerations that make his films both fantastical and realistic. “Amarcord,” translates to “I Remember,” and the movie doesn’t really have much of a plot, it’s a fragmented combination of supposedly actual, albeit stylized events from Fellini’s childhood in pre WWII, Rimini, a subject he often avoided in film and interviews, with this and “I, Vitteloni,” being the rare exceptions. The movie follows many different characters in the town, often in a context of growing up and the roles for adults and children in mostly in terms of sex. Women are displayed constantly as those who service men, while men are portrayed as incompetent fools who think they’re in control of everything, but are constantly undermined by asexual women. The women range on the sexual level from the classy Garadisca (Magali Noel) who is herself offered up to a Prince is a strange fantasy sequence, the lower class Volpina (Josiane Tanzilli) a local street prostitute who instigates as often as she’s called upon, and the grotesque in the monster-chested girl who runs the tobacco store (Maria Antonietta Beluzzi) who serves tobacco and receives payment in sexual gratification that neither the men or the boys can give her. The lack of role models are a major concern in the film to the children. Titta (Bruno Zanni), a Fellini stand-in, who tries to understand women but like all the other men, mostly objectifies them through features like Garadisca’s behind which is as much a character as Garadisca, and is unable to find anyone who can truly teach anyone how to be an adult, and instead unprepared adulthood is thrust upon the character, whether it happens when they’re 10 or when they’re 40. There’s a lawyer who tries to explain to us the film and the events from a beginning burning of the witch ceremony to a wedding that ends the film, but he’s often interrupted by others, often by others humor, which as much of the film’s humor, is scatological, full of farts, shits and piss, another sign of the sexes inability to connect with each other on a real level. Sometimes it’s clear which of these memories are actual memories, but sometimes they’re fantasies that are remembered how we want to remember them, and sometimes they’re just Fellini’s imagination, all of them are memories from Fellini. I’ve seen “Amarcord,” twice now and I want to see it again. There’s so much there that Fellini says that it’ll take many viewings for me to truly encapsulate all of it, but also because the movie is just a fun and fanciful tour of a the kind of hometown that can only exist in the movies, filled with eccentric and loving characters and caricatures that are all worth exploring. I think I’m starting to remember why I loved Fellini so much before.