'Pray for the soul of dying Fellini'

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The Independent Online
ROME - Federico Fellini, the Oscar-winning Italian director, lay dying in a Rome hospital yesterday. Doctors reported that he was in a coma after suffering brain damage and said he was unlikely to regain consciousness.

The last hopes for the 73-year-old director appeared to evaporate yesterday afternoon when Maurizio Bufi, head of intensive care at Rome's Umberto I hospital, said: 'Fellini will probably not come out of the coma.' Dr Bufi said doctors were running tests to try to establish the severity of the coma.

Fellini, who had major heart surgery in June and then suffered a stroke in August, lost consciousness on Sunday night, stricken by cardio-respiratory failure. Doctors had earlier confirmed that his brain had been badly damaged by the latest illness.

'The situation is absolutely grave. Fellini has suffered severe brain damage,' his personal physician, Gianfranco Turchetti, said.

Franco Zeffirelli, a fellow director, was in a sombre mood after visiting the hospital on Monday night. 'He's alive but it seems there is no more hope for him. Let's pray for his soul,' said Zeffirelli. 'Italy just doesn't produce giants like Fellini any more,' he added.

Fellini, a five-times Oscar winner revered by colleagues and film fans around the world, is attached to an artificial respirator. Doctors said he fell ill on Sunday night while eating dinner in the hospital, where he had been undergoing rehabilitation for a stroke he suffered on 3 August that left him partially paralysed down his left side.

Fellini had been allowed out of hospital on Sunday to spend the day with his wife, the actress Giulietta Masina. The couple were preparing to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary next week.

He had been improving steadily after the August stroke in his hometown of Rimini on the Adriatic coast. He began the physical therapy in a northern clinic and was continuing it in Rome so that he could be close to home.

Some critics have attacked Fellini's work as obscene, decadent, sacrilegious and vulgar, but others have acclaimed him as Italy's greatest post-Second World War film director. He is perhaps best known for his 1960 classic La Dolce Vita. He won his first Oscar for La Strada in 1954. That was followed by Le Notti di Cabiria in 1957, 8 1/2 in 1963, and Amarcord in 1973. He won his fifth Oscar last March for a lifetime's achievement.