David Thomson's Movie of the Week

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The Independent Culture


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.