He came to the medium in the period of Neo-Realism in the years after the Liberation. But he was closer to the 'poetic realism' of prewar France than to the political themes of directors like Rossellini. His debut film, Luci di varieta, a story about travelling music- hall performers co-directed in 1950 with Alberto Lattuada, dealt, like his first fully realised work, I Vitelloni, with socially marginal men and women, rather than the 'ordinary workers' who preoccupied Neo-Realist directors.
After a brilliant satirical portrait of contemporary Rome in La Dolce Vita, he set about a project of self-analysis that was to preoccupy him for the next two decades, often using the actor Marcello Mastroianni as his alter ego. His imagery was often unforgettable, sometimes irritatingly personal and obscure. He broke all the Hollywood rules of narrative in films that, despite occasional self-indulgence, were made with the self-confidence of genius.
In Intervista, one of the few films from the last decade of his life, he exhibits the Roman studio complex at Cinecitta with the proprietory air of a master of ceremonies. He treated cinema itself in much the same way, delighting in its ability to perform miracles, using it to exorcise his private demons and preferring the free flow of improvisation which allowed him to work like a Renaissance painter orchestrating the creation of some vast mural. Perhaps it was only in a studio system like that of Cinecitta and in a cinema industry as confident as that of Italy in the two decades after the Second World War that the varied talents of such great individual directors as Fellini, Pasolini and Antonioni could flourish. It offered him the security of an analyst's couch, which he used to embark on one of the most fascinating and idiosyncratic enterprises in modern art.
(Photograph omitted)Reuse content