David Thomson's Movie of the Week

LA DOLCE VITA

TONIGHT, 11.50PM BBC2

Perhaps you had to be there. That's my way of suggesting that Federico Fellini's "La Dolce Vita" (1960) is now a painfully slow, stilted three-hour curio, no matter that some books call it a turning point in the cinema of ideas. Made in an age of nuclear dread and rising European prosperity, "La Dolce Vita" was a self-conscious reflection on where the world was going - it was a millennium movie 40 years early, set in an Italy of political upheaval, Vatican corruption, scandalous crimes (the death of Wilma Montesi), the invasion of Hollywood ("Ben-Hur" was being made in Rome at the same time) and the rise of the paparazzi. In the 1950s, Fellini had made a string of fine, modest pictures - "I Vitelloni", "La Strada", "Nights of Cabiria" - but this was more ambitious. Marcello Mastroianni plays the journalist trying to find answers, and the dissolutes he meets include Anita Ekberg (as a statuesque Hollywood star), Alain Cuny (as the intellectual writer), Nadia Grey (doing a bizarre striptease), Magali Noel, Yvonne Furneaux and Hollywood discard Lex Barker. "La Dolce Vita" won the prize at Cannes. It grossed $10 m in Europe, and another $8 m in the US. Alas, Fellini became "Fellini-esque", less a true story-teller than the figure of the film director.

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