I wrote the previous review having just walked to my room after viewing Amarcord. I was ecstatic, and my comments were vague. Now that I have raved, I would now like to show a few of this film's merits.
I had previously thought that Fellini as a filmmaker had died after 8 1/2. His films following that seemed utterly pretentious, as if the director had lost his touch and was trying desperately to figure out what people had liked so much about his films (the exemplary masterpieces being La Strada, Nights of Cabiria, La Dolce Vita, and 8 1/2). I thought that he had decided that it was off-the-wall flamboyancy and densely-layered symbolism that made his films great, and that he was mistaken. I still think this is true for his immediately post-8 1/2 films (Giulietta of the Spirits, Satyricon, and Roma, to be exact). Then, I have now discovered, he made a new discovery.
To be truthful, Amarcord is not much like his pre-Juliette of the Spirits films, his Golden Age. It is, in fact, a lot like the three films of his that I truly dislike, again, Juliette of the Spirits, Satyricon, and Roma. Amarcord, like those films, is quite flamboyant - the colors are orgasmic, as they were in those three bad films, the sex is exaggerated (sort of as if these films all took place in that fantasy world where Guido from 8 1/2 had his harem), and the characters are sort of typical or stereotypical.
So what is different about Amarcord? Well, I think the difference is sincerity. In fact, I would say that Fellini's major trait as a director is not flamboyancy, but sentimentalism. UH-OH! That dreaded word! To call a film "sentimental" is an insult. I do not understand this. In all his best films, Federico Fellini absolutely loves his characters. Often, you will notice that a director loathes the characters of his film, either loathes or just feels cynical and indifferent. This is the trait of such much-ballyhooed films as Pulp Fiction, Fight Club, The Matrix, Lola Rennt, etc. Fellini's characters are his children. A couple of filmmakers have restarted this trend, Paul Thomas Anderson of Boogie Nights and Magnolia fame is the best example. While I think that he is still a maturing filmmaker, he is already a great one. And even towards his most despicible characters he shows love.
Anyway, back to Amarcord, the structure of this film is exquisite. It has no real plot line, which is great. Plot is unnecessary. I would much rather experience a world than a contrived story. Fellini has realized this forever. Even his first film, Variety Lights (it was co-directed, actually) has a lack of plot. The wonderful characters just exist, and you exist along with them. Amarcord's script is revolutionary. How to describe it... Actually, I think of Roma as Fellini's failed attempt to make Amarcord. It is a tourists' guide of sorts to Rome. There, Fellini tried to make a love poem to Rome while also mixing in a decay-of-Europe theme, and it never worked. It felt awfully forced. Amarcord also has one very serious subject: the rise of Fascism in Italy. Many critics have complained about Fellini not criticizing the Fascist Party in this film, but rather treating it kindly, for the most part. In fact, all of the characters whom you fall in love with in the film, except for one man (who we identify, though incorrectly, as Fellini's own father), love and support Mussolini. Some people are absolutely outraged at this prospect, believing that Fellini is doing a great disservice to his country. This is nuts! I think we're lucky he had any of his characters criticize the Fascist party, because, truth be told, the people of the Italian countryside loved the Fascist Party until after the onset of WWII (see Vittorio de Sica's rather pretentious _Two Women_ to see this; he actually creates a very unbelievable character to oppose the Fascists in that film). The same goes for the Nazis in Germany. The fascist parties of Europe helped them out of the Great Depression (and consequently threw them into a horrible war), so it is no wonder they were beloved by their countrymen. To say different is simply revisionist history.
I don't have much more I want to say, although there is plenty left to discuss. This film is a masterpiece. And though it may be sacrilige, this is my favorite Fellini film. 10/10