In spite of the fact that Italian intellectuals and social critics preferred the implicitly political and sometimes even revolutionary messages of the neorealist classics, the public preferred Hollywood works or Italian films made in the Hollywood spirit, and even the neorealist auteurs soon became uncomfortable with the restrictive boundaries imposed upon their subject matter or style by well-meaning leftist critics. In Italian cinema history this transitional phase of development is often called the "crisis" of neorealism. In retrospect, the period from the mid-1950s to the mid-1960s can be described more accurately as a natural evolution of Italian film language toward a cinema characterized by many different styles and concerned with psychological problems as well as social ones. Crucial to this historic transition are a number of 1950s films by Rossellini, Michelangelo Antonioni, and Federico Fellini (1920–1993). In Antonioni's first feature film, Cronaca di un amore ( Story of a Love Affair , 1950), he borrows a plot indebted to Cain's The Postman Always Rings Twice , American film noir , and Obsession, but his distinctive photographic signature is already evident: characteristically long shots, tracks and pans following the actors; modernist editing techniques that reflect the slow rhythms of daily life; and philosophical concerns with obvious links to European existentialism. Antonioni continued to develop this kind of narrative into the next decade, eventually emphasizing image over narrative storyline.
Acclaimed film director, accomplished screenwriter, and cartoonist, Federico Fellini is one of Italy's most celebrated filmmakers. In 1943 he married actress Giulietta Masina, who starred in several of his films.
When World War II ended, Fellini wrote important neorealist screenplays, including Roberto Rossellini's Roma, città aperta ( Open City , 1945)—work that earned him his first Academy Award ® nomination, Paisà ( Paisan , 1946) and L'Amore ( Ways of Love , 1948), which contains "Il miracolo" ("The Miracle"); Alberto Lattuada's Senza pietà ( Without Pity , 1948);and Pietro Germi's Il Cammino della speranza ( The Path of Hope , 1950). Subsequently, Fellini launched a series of major works dealing with Italian provincial life that won him international fame, including Lo Sceicco bianco ( The White Sheik , 1952), La Strada ( The Road , 1954), and Le Notti di Cabiria ( The Nights of Cabiria , 1957). The last two films won Oscars ® for Best Foreign Language Film. Shortly thereafter, Fellini completed one of the most successful of all postwar European films, La Dolce Vita ( The Sweet Life , 1959), his first collaboration with actor Marcello Mastroianni. The film's title became synonymous everywhere and in numerous languages with the society life depicted by Rome's gossip-column photographers or paparazzi , a word Fellini contributed to the English language. Fellini's often imitated but never equaled masterpiece 8½ (1963) cast Mastroianni as Fellini's alter ego and earned a third Oscar ® for Best Foreign Film.
Fellini's later films became more personal and thus are linked to the postwar European art film. They deal with such themes as the myth of Rome— Satyricon ( Fellini's Satyricon , 1969) and Roma ( Fellini's Roma , 1971); Italy under fascism— Amarcord (1973), a film that won Fellini his fourth Oscar ® for Best Foreign Film; and the very nature of art and creativity itself— E la nave va ( And the Ship Sails On , 1983); Ginger e Fred ( Ginger and Fred , 1986); and Intervista ( Fellini's Interview , 1987). As Fellini's art developed beyond his neorealist origins, it began to explore dreams or surrealistic fantasies and to exploit the baroque imagery and sumptuous Cinecittà sets for which his cinema has become justly renowned.
During the last years of his life, Fellini made three television commercials for Barilla pasta, Campari Soda, and the Banco di Roma. They are extraordinary lessons in cinematography and reveal not only his genius, but also his grasp of popular culture. He also exhibited his sketches and cartoons, many of which were taken from private dream notebooks, thus uncovering the source of much of his artistic creativity—the unconscious. Fellini received numerous honors during his lifetime, including twenty-three nominations for Oscars ® in various categories (eight of which were successful and four of which were for Best Foreign Film); a special fifth Oscar ® for his career achievement (1993); the Golden Lion Career Award from the Venice Film Festival (1985); and dozens of prizes from the world's most important film festivals.
Lo Sceicco bianco ( The White Sheik , 1952), La Strada ( The Road , 1954), La Dolce Vita ( The Sweet Life , 1959), 8½ (1963), Giulietta degli spiriti ( Juliet of the Spirits , 1965), Satyricon ( Fellini's Satyricon , 1969), Amarcord (1973), Intervista ( The Interview , 1987)
Bondanella, Peter. The Cinema of Federico Fellini . Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1992.
Chandler, Charlotte. I, Fellini . New York: Random House, 1995.
Fellini, Federico. Fellini on Fellini . Translated by Isabel Quigley. New York: Da Capo Press, 1996.
Kezich, Tullio. Federico Fellini: His Life and Work . New York: Faber, 2006.
Stubbs, John C. Federico Fellini as Auteur: Seven Aspects of His Films Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 2006.
Fellini's early works also continue an evolution beyond neorealist preoccupation with social problems. In I Vitelloni ( The Vitelloni , 1953), a film to which Martin Scorsese's Mean Streets (1973) is deeply indebted as a model, Fellini provided a portrait of six provincial slackers, their miserable daydreams, and their humble existence. Instead of indicting his characters for their limited perspectives, Fellini, as in his later films, focused upon the clash of illusion and reality in the dreary lives of his comic figures. Soon afterward, two masterful films
established his international reputation as an auteur : La Strada ( The Road , 1954) and Le Notti di Cabiria ( The Nights of Cabiria , 1957). Both works won an Oscar ® for Best Foreign Film, and in them both, Fellini moved beyond mere portrayal of provincial life to reveal a new emotional dimension, one motivated by a personal poetic vision and a particular Fellinian mythology concerned with spiritual poverty and the necessity for grace or salvation—concepts that seem to be Catholic but that, in Fellini's works, take on a strictly secular and vaguely existentialist connotation. As Fellini once remarked, he believed the story of one's neighbor was just as important as a narrative about a stolen bicycle (an obvious allusion to De Sica's neorealist masterpiece), and Fellini became the standard-bearer for the transcendence of neorealism by Italian film.
Although he was the neorealist director most directly associated with contemporary events and the use of documentary techniques and nonprofessional actors, Rossellini also joined Antonioni and Fellini in moving Italian cinema toward what he called "a cinema of the Reconstruction," most particularly in a number of films he made with his wife Ingrid Bergman: Stromboli (1950), Europe '51 ( The Greatest Love , 1952), and Viaggio in Italia ( Journey to Italy , 1953). In each of these important but unpopular films, Rossellini employed one of the most glamorous and famous Hollywood stars in intimate roles that played completely against any traditional treatment of the female movie star in Hollywood, a technique lionized by Rossellini's New Wave fans but rejected by popular audiences as uninteresting.