La Dolce Vita - Film (Movie) Plot and Review

(The Sweet Life)

Italy-France, 1960

Director: Federico Fellini

Production: Riama Film (Rome) and Pathé Consortium Cinéma (Paris); black and white, 35mm. Totalscope; running time: 180 minutes. Released February 1960. Rome. Filmed 16 March-27 August 1959 in Rome, the Odescalchi Palace, Fregene, and in the studios of Cinecittà.

Producers: Giuseppe Amato with Angelo Rizzoli, and Franco Magli as executive producer; screenplay: Federico Fellini, Tullio Pinelli, Brunello Rondi, and Ennio Flaiano, from an original story by Federico Fellini, Tullio Pinelli and Ennio Flaiano; photography: Otello Martelli; editor: Leo Cattozzo; sound: Agostino Moretti; art director: Piero Gherardi; music: Nino Rota; costume designer: Piero Gherardi; artisic collaborator: Brunello Rondi.

Cast: Marcello Mastroianni ( Marcello Rubini ); Walter Santesso ( Paparazzo, the photographer ); Anouk Aimée ( Maddalena ); Adriana Moneta ( Prostitute ); Yvonne Furneaux ( Emma, Marcello's mistress ); Anita Ekberg ( Sylvia, a Hollywood star ); Lex Barker ( Robert, Sylvia's fiancée ); Alan Dijon ( Frankie Stout ); Alain Cuny ( Steiner ); Valeria Ciangottini ( Paola ); Annibale Ninchi ( Marcello's father ); Magali

La dolce vita
La dolce vita
Noel ( Fanny, a chorus girl ); Nadia Gray ( Nadia ); Jacques Sernas ( Matinee idol ); Polidor ( Clown ).

Awards: Cannes Film Festival, Gold Palm, 1960; Oscar for Best Foreign Picture, 1961; New York Film Critics Award, Best Foreign Film, 1961.



Fellini, Federico, and others, La dolce vita , edited by Tullio Kezich, Bologna, 1960; translated as La Dolce Vita , New York, 1961; also included in Quattro film , Turin, 1974.


Renzi, Renzo, Federico Fellini , Lyons, 1960.

Agel, Henri, Le Cinéma et le sacré , Paris, 1961.

Lo Duca, Giuseppe, editor, La Dolce Vita , Paris, 1961.

Borde, Raymond, and André Bouissy, Nouveau cinéma italien , Lyons, 1963.

Budgen, Suzanne, Fellini , London, 1966.

Huss, Roy, and Norman Silverstein, The Film Experience , New York, 1968.

Richardson, Robert, Literature and Film , Bloomington, Indiana, 1969.

Ketcham, Charles, Federico Fellini: The Search for a New Mythology , New York, 1976.

Rosenthal, Stuart, The Cinema of Federico Fellini , London, 1976.

Strich, Christian, editor, Fellini on Fellini , New York, 1976.

Stubbs, John, Federico Fellini: A Guide to References and Resources , Boston, 1978.

Alpert, Hollis, Fellini: A Life , New York, 1981.

Fruttero, Carlo, and Franco Lucentini, Je te trouve un peu pâle: Récit d'été avec trente fantasmes féminins de Federico Fellini , Paris, 1982.

Costello, Donald, P., Fellini's Road , Notre Dame, Indiana, 1983.

Grazzini, Giovanni, editor, Federico Fellini, Intervista sul cinema , Rome, 1983.

Burke, Frank, Federico Fellini: Variety Lights to La Dolce Vita , Boston, 1984.

Chandler, Charlotte, The Ultimate Seduction , New York, 1984.

Fava, Claudio F., and Aldo Vigano, The Films of Federico Fellini , Secaucus, New Jersey, 1985.

Murray, Edward, Fellini the Artist , New York, 1985.

Kezich, Tullio, Fellini , Milan, 1987.

Bondanella, Peter, The Cinema of Federico Fellini , Princeton, 1992.

Secchiaroli, Tazio, Tutto Fellini , New York, 1994.

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Chandler, Charlotte, I, Fellini , Collingdale, 1998.


"Su La dolce vita la parola a Fellini," in Bianco e Nero (Rome), January-February 1960.

Aristarco, Guido, in Cinema Nuovo (Turin), January-February 1960.

Bruno, Edoardo, in Filmcritica (Rome), February 1960.

Pasolino, Pier Paolo, "L'irrazionalismo cattolico di Fellini," in Filmcritica (Rome), February 1960.

Rondi, Brunello, "Dialettica de La dolce vita ," in Filmcritica (Rome), February 1960.

Laura, Ernesto, "La stagione delle mele d'oro," in Bianco e Nero (Rome), March-April 1960.

Delouche, Dominique, "Un Fellini baroque," in Etudes Cinématographiques (Paris), Spring 1960.

Grandi, Libero, "Filming La Dolce Vita in Black-and-White and Wide-Screen," in American Cinematographer (Los Angeles), April 1960.

Lane, John Francis, "Fellini Tells Why," in Films and Filming (London), June 1960.

Agel, Henri, in Etudes Cinématographiques (Paris), Summer 1960.

Laugier, Jean-Louis, "Il dolce Fellini," in Cahiers du Cinéma (Paris), July 1960.

Mardore, Michel, in Positif (Paris), July-August 1960.

Lefèvre, Raymond, in Image et Son (Paris), October 1960.

Rhode, Eric, in Sight and Sound (London), Winter 1960.

Durgnat, Raymond, in Films and Filming (London), January 1961.

"Quattro domande sul cinema italiano," in Cinema Nuovo (Turin), January-February 1961.

Mekas, Jonas, in Village Voice (New York), April 1961.

Alpert, Hollis, in Saturday Review (New York), 15 April 1961.

Crowther, Bosley, in New York Times , 20 April 1961.

Kauffmann, Stanley, in New Republic (New York), 1 May 1961.

Lane, John Francis, in Films and Filming (London), June 1961.

Hart, Henry, in Films in Review (New York), June-July 1961.

Franchi, R. L., in Film Quarterly (Berkeley), Summer 1961.

Holland, Norman, "The Follies Fellini," in Hudson Review (New York), Autumn 1961.

Peri, Enzo, "Federico Fellini: An Interview," in Film Quarterly (Berkeley), Fall 1961.

Duprey, Richard, "Bergman and Fellini, Explorers of the Modern Spirit," in Catholic World (Paramus, New Jersey), October 1961.

Bergtal, Eric, "The Lonely Crowd in La Dolce Vita ," in America (New York), 7 October 1961.

Flaus, John, in Film Journal (Evanston, Illinois), April 1962.

Kael, Pauline, "The Come-Dressed-As-the-Sick-Soul-of-Europe Parties," in Massachusetts Review (Amherst), Winter 1963.

Harcourt, Peter, "The Secret Life of Federico Fellini," in Film Quarterly (Berkeley), Spring 1966.

Levine, Irving R., "I Was Born for the Cinema," in Film Comment (New York), Fall 1966.

Wood, Robin, "The Question of Fellini Continues," in December (London), nos. 2–3, 1967.

Baldelli, P., "Dilatazione visionaria del documento e nostalgia della madre chiesa in Fellini," in Cinema dell'ambiguità: Rossellini, De Sica e Zavattini, Fellini , Rome, 1971.

Lefèvre, Raymond, "Fellini," in Image et Son (Paris), January 1971.

Julia, Jacques, "Psychanalyse de Fellini," in Cinéma (Paris), May 1971.

Martin, Marcel, "Un Artiste sous le chapiteau," in Cinema (Paris), May 1971.

Torres Fernández, A., in Contracampo (Madrid), June-July 1981.

Villien, Bruno, in Cinématographe (Paris), September 1981.

Film Criticism (Meadville, Pennsylvania), Autumn 1984.

Pulleine, Tim, in Films and Filming (London), September 1987.

Nowell-Smith, Geoffrey, in Monthly Film Bulletin (London), October 1987.

Rhodie, S., "How Sweet It Is: La Dolce Vita ," in Cinema Papers (Fitzroy), March 1989.

Kiarostami, Abbas, "De Sophia Loren à La dolce vita ," in Positif (Paris), June 1994.

Childebert, T., and André Moreau, "Dolce vita dolorosa: La dolce vita ," in Télérama (Paris), 26 October 1994.

Amengual, Barthélemy, "Propositions pour un portrait du jeune Fellini en néo-réaliste," in Positif (Paris), July-August 1995.

Hutera, Donald, interview with David Glass, in Time Out (London), 3 April 1996.

Castiel, E., in Séquences (Haute-Ville), no. 189, March/June 1997.

Statta, Gloria, "The Buzz About Paparazzi: Marcello Mastroianni Remembers Working with Federico Fellini and Tazio Secchiaroli, the First Paparazzo," in Aperture , no. 150, Winter 1998.

Gundle, Stephen, La Dolce Vita , in History Today , vol. 50, no. 1, January 2000.

* * *

Fellini's epic study of the loss of values at the climax of the Italian "economic miracle," delineates the daily activities of a writer, turned reporter for a sensationalist journal, who is too deeply compromised by the degeneracy around him to see it, never mind report on it. The opening and closing scenes of the film are cleverly matched allusions to Dante which underscore the moral loss and its consequences for Italy, at the very moment when the revival of Fascism was beginning to make a difference in the balance of political powers.

Marcello follows a helicopter delivering a monumental statue of Christ, on a tow line, to the Vatican. From his own helicopter, he flirts with women sunbathing on a roof. The noise of the machine drowns out his voice as he tries to shout for their telephone numbers. In a parallel scene of shot-countershot the film ends with Marcello accosted by a charming and innocent girl who had once waited on his table. A stretch of water separates them and the noise of the sea makes her words inaudible to him. An Italian audience might recognize the allusion to the Medusa of the Inferno in the grotesquely reified image of Christ soaring through the Roman sky; even more evident would be the figure of Matilda at the top of Purgatorio who represents the summit of earthly beauty, irradiated by divine grace. Marcello has lost the ability to react to the grossness of the former and the saving promise of the latter. The world he inhabits is as lost as he is: Marcello moves from prostitutes to aristocratic women while, at the same time, deceiving his girlfriend; his intellectual friend, Steiner, who had urged him to find more fulfilling work, kills himself and his children; he covers for his newspaper the scene of a false miracle where someone is trampled by the enthusiastic crowd; he follows an American movie star as she utters banalities and poses for the press. In the center of the film Marcello accompanies his father on his first night in Rome since he was one of Mussolini's blackshirts (this is subtly suggested by the old man's references, never bluntly stated). The father's physical collapse and profound embarrassment when he fails to perform with a prostitute predicts the hero's eventual confrontation with the limitation of his values, just as its suggests that the playboy figure of 1959, brilliantly represented by Marcello Mastroianni, is a modern version of the Fascist ideal.

The moral atmosphere of La dolce vita reflects that in all of Fellini's films, but the grandeur of its scale, the refusal to resort to a pitiful or lovable protagonist, and the accuracy of its caricatures make it one of his most enduring achievements. Its initial success was, however, due in great part to the supposedly daring and sensational manner with which it dealt with sexual themes. Actually, it was one of three films to emerge from Italy at the end of the 1950s which heralded a powerful renewal of that national cinema. The others were Michelangelo Antonioni's L'avventura and Luchino Visconti's Rocco e i suoi fratelli , both released in 1960.

—P. Adams Sitney

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