President Oscar Luigi Scalfaro, who had long ago attacked Fellini's La Dolce Vita for its 'scenes of perversion, prostitution and orgiastic eroticism' - Catholics had tried to have it banned - led the mourners, accompanied by the speakers of both houses of parliament. The service was televised nationwide.
The controversies he had caused have been forgotten in the outpouring of sadness and admiration. And anyway, the funeral arrangements were made by his wife of 50 years, the actress Giulietta Masina, of a very different temperament from him and a devout Catholic.
The sincere sadness at Fellini's death brought together Italians at a moment when their political and moral revolution appears to have become badly bogged down in nastiness, confusion and uncertainty. It reminded them that they had also produced great things. Giovanni Spadolini, Speaker of the Senate, said: 'the tributes to Fellini are the only reason for hope in this so-desperate Italy.' During the service, prayers were offered for 'this tormented Italy'.
French actress Anouk Aimee, who starred in two of his films, Italian actress Monica Vitti, fellow directors Michelangelo Antonioni, Lina Wertmuller and Franco Zeffirelli, but also little-known film folk, were among the thousands in the Michelangelo-
designed basilica while thousands more gathered in the circular Piazza Esedra outside.
Ms Masina, who has been ill herself, looked extremely pale and fragile as she received condolences from President Scalfaro and other high officials of state. Clutching a rosary, she waved her arms in farewell as the coffin, with her wreath of red roses on it, was carried down the aisle to the waiting hearse amid a standing ovation by those present. Then she burst into tears.
On Tuesday 75,000 people, ordinary Romans and famous personalities, many of them weeping, had filed past his coffin as it lay in state in studio five of Cinecitta, where he had made many of his films. The scene was set, again, by Ms Masina who chose a backcloth of blue sky and clouds used in one of his films, and music from his soundtracks.
Italian cinemas last night started their programmes 30 minutes late as a sign of mourning. Fellini's home town of Rimini, where he will lie in state today before being buried in his family tomb, renamed the square outside its Grand Hotel, a principal setting of the film Amarcord, after him.
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