Great Italians of the Past: Federico Fellini

Great Italians of the Past: Federico Fellini

  • WTI Magazine #89 Mar 16, 2017
  • 117

When in 1993 Federico Fellini comes up on the stage of the Academy Awards for the last time, he is beautifully honored by the America of movies and dreams, engaged and grateful for the career of one of the greatest filmmakers ever, a source of inspiration for American masters like Woody Allen and Martin Scorsese.

Born in 1920 in Rimini, a town that is often at the center of his masterworks, since he was a boy Fellini was marked by his love for drawing. His cinematographic description of the world and of humanity would always be mixed with the power of image, with forms made even more powerful by the music of the great composer Nino Rota, linked to the director by a relationship of friendship and deep empathy.

And if the image is the means, the dream remains, to Fellini’s art, the essence of the story: a Dream made of wonder and melancholy, travel and memory.

Linked to his native land is, for sure, his first major international success: “I vitelloni”. Shot in 1953, “I vitelloni” describes the lives of a group of boys in Rimini. But it is with “La strada”, shot in 1954 , that the Italian maestro wins Hollywood. The film tells the story of two street artists in Italy right after the end of the second world war, two characters that will last forever in the collective imagination: Gelsomina, played by Fellini’s wife Giulietta Masina; and Zampanò, played by Anthony Quinn. The movie earned him, in 1957, the first Academy Award of his career, the first for Best Foreign Language Film.

The second Oscar statuette is for “Le notti di Cabiria”, in 1957, a fresco of the human contradiction of a prostitute who has not ceased to believe in life and love, but eventually victim of her own naivety.

In 1960, “La Dolce Vita” definitively gives the director the well-earned worldwide fame. The evocative power of the images and the successful combination of criticism and celebration of Italy in full growth economy, make this masterpiece one of the most famous movies in the history of cinema. The influence of La Dolce Vita is undeniable. It is from the family name of one its characters, that comes the term “paparazzo” which from then started to be generally used.

The third Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film comes to the great master with “8 ½”, in 1963. In the movie, Fellini is the victim of his own language of imagination and remembrance. He himself tells that he forgot a story and that he then decided to transfer on film its emptiness. Marcello Mastroianni is his alter ego in the interpretation of a director struggling with a film that does not yet exist.

Memory is again an underground and powerful protagonist in what is perhaps the last great Federico Fellini’s masterpiece: “Amarcord”. The movie, made in 1973, won him the fourth Academy recognition. Remembrances are back, and so is Fellini’s land, his origins, the parties and the varied humanity in his Rimini (Amarcord means “I remember” in the dialect spoken in Romagna). The screenplay develops around the story of a young man, Titta, and his staggering path toward maturity.

Federico Fellini's cinema film is a universal cinema that transcends the boundaries of his country, touches the heart of the American tradition, inspires the great directors. The depth of his relationship with the United States is all in the words pronounced in English by the master, standing on the stage on the night of the Oscar for Lifetime Achievement in 1993: "I come from a country and I belong to a generation for which America and movies were almost the same thing. And now, to be here with you, my dear Americans, makes me feel at home".