20 September 2009 | MetalAngel
A very well-made film that's as much a nostalgic tear-jerker as a strong criticism and satire!
Federico Fellini is one of the greatest directors and screenwriters the world has ever seen...and that must be the biggest understatement of the century. He had the ability to take simple, real elements and transform them into a surreal, enchanting experience that speaks for itself without the aid of a complicated plot or a multi-million dollar production design (although that's not to say his films aren't visually breath-taking). Even though it's not one of his greatest masterpieces, "Ginger e Fred" is one such film that demonstrates his never-ending talent.
The main plot is as simple as it gets. Amelia and Pippo (Giulietta Masina and Marcello Mastroianni) are old friends who haven't seen each other for years, and in their youth, they were reasonably famous for their imitation of Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire, doing their classic tap dancing and glamorous choreographies. Now, they're very old, but they're being invited by a big (and sleazy) TV station to perform in their epic Christmas program reenacting their age-old act. The film is about these two old people, seeing each other after so many years, and remembering those golden years when they were celebrated, important, and had the spark of love and friendship alive for each other.
They're not the only ones invited to the show, though. A huge cast of quirky and colourful characters also make their appearance, each one trying to grab their share of the spotlight performing sometimes interesting, sometimes plain stupid, acts and/or abilities and "amazing" stories. We see an (obviously) Fellini-esquire array of supporting freaks- the priest who renounced his vows to marry his lover, the monk who levitates, the singing slovenly dwarfs, Swedish townsfolk with their fifteen-tit cow, a transsexual who services an entire prison row and is being processed for it, a medium who listens to ghosts through a tape recorder...the list is endless. They all have odious, over-familiar dialogue which makes us relate to the grotesque things we think well of in life. Our heroes, Amelia and Pippo, are thrown in with this collection of freaks, and find themselves both hating and liking the situation they've accepted.
The images the film presents are as unusual and as surreal as we have come to experience through other Fellini films. The dialogue sounds casual and witty, but is continually spiked with longing, electricity, loathing and disenchantment. Our main characters speak and travel this (seemingly) alternate world they've entered and find it horrifyingly equal to that they live in. The way they all try to hog the spotlight, their unnatural addiction to TV and celebrities, the way they're all brainwashed through the televised images...Fellini makes a point on all of these. He also continually presents TV commercials about pork and meat, each commercial bearing a scantly-clad woman with a gruesome piece of meat and proclaiming it to be utterly delicious. The people believe it. We also see various posters and written advertisements with strange and slightly disturbing images for a variety of products that don't work, and proclaiming nothing but lies. People believe them.
We see two main characters, Amelia and Pippo, being likable characters trying to relive their friendship, trying to regain their previous vitality and trying to fit in with a series of "freaks" (in every sense of the word) in a world where greed, money, fame and awful manners have been allowed to run rampant. We see our main characters trying to quit their association with this distasteful universe only to be drawn in over and over again by a faint memory of fame, by an interlude with someone famous, by the expectations their friends have of them.
We, as the audience, feel happy to relate to these old friends who have met once again, and feel their angst. We also feel a certain repugnant hate for the rest of the characters, unfeeling beasts who (to our surprise and chagrin) also seem, each in their own way, very similar to us and the people that surround us. And what is all the more interesting is the way Fellini never even delves into the personalities of these characters (with the exception of Amelia and Pippo) but indirectly spends every second of the film injecting meaning and objection into them. The images, of course, speak for themselves.
Masina and Mastroianni are perfect in their roles, the music is both catchy and nostalgic, the costumes are...well, out of this world and the screenplay is both earthbound and ethereal. I couldn't understand the emotional implications of the ending, but I suppose that must be Fellini's point, to leave the audience thinking. And, believe me, this movie does get you thinking! And though it's definitely not one of Fellini's greatest, it still is entertaining and amusing to analyze.
Rating: 3 stars and a half out of 4!