29 March 2005 | AudemarsPiguet
Fellini becoming Fellini...
Fellini's Vitelloni is considered(sadly)to often as one of the films not belonging to the better half of his creations. O.k. it may lack the flawless level of technical and artistic accomplishment of later works,however in my opinion it is a small and unrighteously overlooked,forgotten,under-appreciated masterpiece. A short and essential form of exercise and training for his largely acclaimed successes,in spite of the minor subject and some minor flaws capturing most of the "fellinesque" essence,probably willingly restraining and understating it. There is less baroque,deeply symbolical(in a :philosophical,pantheistic,hermetic sense of the word),lush and disturbing imagery,however in La Strada,Notte Di Cabiria or Il Bidone Fellini proved that he can turn even day-to-day subjects into great films,without idealizing nor vulgarizing reality,without using expensive costumes,sets or special effects,natural yet never boring. The same goes about this film:it's the story of five young men living in a small town(most likely Fellini's birthplace Rimini) in post-second-world-war Italy. There is even a storyteller and what struck me from the first scene was the resemblance with Scorsese using the same story-telling technique in Goodfellas or Casino,in order to make the story more actual,credible and more accessible to the viewer,to better get in the mood(no wonder that Scorsese adored this film and probably even used it as a source of inspiration).In a warm,typically Italian,partly poetic,partly ironic tone the five are introduced in such a way that the viewer gradually gets the feeling of having known these characters since childhood. Both for their own fault but(probably even more)for the lack of real social,cultural and economical perspectives the grim and old-fashioned town is providing,all of them have,in spite of their distinctive personalities,a lot in common:they are all well out of their teens,biologically adults yet socially quite immature,they all lack a permanent,full-time jobs,yet don't see themselves as unemployed,rather bohemians or careless playboys,they all are somewhat noisy,conceited yet harmless whereabouts,all trying to escape the town's utter boredom engaging in "a bit of everything"(amateur art,petty crime,small business,casual love-affairs,gambling,partying or the so Mediterranean&aristocratic preoccupation of "Dolce far Niente"). They aren't bad boys,nor hoodlums(both as some would know from Scorsese's films)however they major mistake,the one that influences all of them in a negative way(however without leading to their downfall or some serious moral crisis)is their incapacity to rid themselves of their idleness and to act-but that's what makes them enjoyable too... Fellini is obviously self-centered,individualistic,coming to terms with his own strong and uneven ego,so this film is,as some might expect,autobiographical,all the five men being more or less an alter-ego or at least inspired by persons closely connected to him,his childhood&youth,Rimini-every time Fellini fictionalizes his own self,he creates a masterpiece,a Dorian Grey-sort of self-indulgent myth that gets it's value from being this way.While other filmmakers,even accomplished ones would just be hilarious repeating the same sort of characters under different names and plots,Fellini keeps us wanting more and more of his personality,every piece of this intricate puzzle-whether it's this film,La Dolce Vita,81/2,Amacord or several others-providing the intellectual excitement of having discovered more,of having taken a fabulous mental journey,without having revealed(or not even wanting to completely reveal)all of Fellini.. There are humorous moments too and,from a comical viewpoint,Sordi's performance is the best-especially in the extravagant,delirious carnival scene when he dances dressed as a woman to the timeless melody "Titine"(which made film history due to Chaplin's unique performance in Modern Times,Sordi's gestures to the same tune also revealing his immense comical talent,maybe it's Fellini's tribute to another master of cinema,note that while Chaplin sings gibberish,but he suggests a possible storyline with his mimic,the same tune is here strictly instrumental,accompanied by Sordi's mainly visual,almost silent comic style of humor),and,after wards experiences a burlesque hangover including a trumpet,an over-sized head and a seemingly endless monologue.Or,again Sordi in the scene when he's mocking men working at a road for no particular/infantile reasons.Another interesting,yet somewhat tragicomic scenes shows a strict,patriarchal father beating up his son,though his son is an adult,married and with children-showing how traditional family life was regarded in the past,not only in Catholic Italy,at an extent that might seem surrealistic today. Besides its very humorous moments and some highly beautiful(yet without the tangled symbolism usually associated with Fellini,just clean,simple,yet high quality visuals)the message of the film is a rather serious,even depressing one-in spite of their hedonism and immaturity,the Vitelloni exhale a bottled up,almost James Dean-like rebellion against the hypocritical,superficial,narrow-minded society of the fifties,however they lack the courage/will to express it or aren't even aware of it. In his later films Fellini will analyze his complex relationship both with society and himself over and over again-however this film is definitely not a failure in his effort to understand this relationship,just an anticipation of probably even more rewarding cinematic art-works.