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Overview for Federico Fellini
Federico Fellini

Federico Fellini



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Also Known As: Died: October 31, 1993
Born: January 20, 1920 Cause of Death: cardiac arrest
Birth Place: Rimini, , IT Profession: Writer ... director screenwriter actor cartoonist reporter short story writer proofreader wardrobe master scenery painter radio writer secretary


and his third Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film.

Celebrated as a brilliant social critic, Fellini found himself under careful scrutiny by the international community, which anxiously awaited his next film. But like any long-suffering artist, he suffered from a bout of writer¿s block, which he transformed into his most personal work, "8 1/2." The film was a brilliant gamble, as Fellini took his uncertainty about what film to make next and ended up creating one about an internationally acclaimed director who does not know what film to make next, thus confronting his personal confusions head-on. Once again, Mastroianni played the director's alter ego, and again Fellini was Oscar-nominated as Best Director. Even the name of the film itself came directly from his own experiences: Having directed six features, co-directed another ¿ counting as one-half ¿ and helmed episodes of two anthology films ¿ each also counting as a half ¿ Fellini realized he had made 7 1/2 films and hence chose the title "8 1/2" for his most reflexive film. For the first time, surreal dream imagery clearly dominated, with no clear demarcation between fantasy and reality in this groundbreaking and exceptionally influential film.

Fellini's next film, "Juliet of the Spirits" (1965), was his first in color. Again starring Masina, whose career was at a low ebb and with whom Fellini had been having personal problems, "Juliet" applied the methods of his previous two films to examine the psyche of a troubled upper-class housewife. For the first time, the voices of those critics who attacked Fellini for self-indulgence were louder than those who praised him for his perceptive vision. Fellini's next film, "Fellini Satyricon" (1969), which was loosely based on extant parts of Petronius' Satyricon, was the most phantasmagorical of all Fellini's works and followed the bawdy adventures of bisexual characters in the pre-Christian world. Fragmentary and at times incomprehensible, the dream-like "Fellini Satyricon" was best described by the director himself as a science fiction of the past. It was also his most decadent and undisciplined work, a sensuous and explicit film featuring wildly divergent and disturbing images of sex and nudity, dwarves, earthquakes, hermaphrodites, decapitation, erotic feasts and orgies, suicide, mythological creatures, violence and hundreds of the most grotesque extras ever assembled. Naturally, the film polarized critics, with some declaring that Fellini's self-indulgence had run amuck, while others praised it as a new kind of non-linear cinema. Still, it earned Fellini his second Oscar nomination for Best Director.

Fellini's work since "Satyricon" was seen by many as less focused and certainly more inconsistent. Retreating from the excess of "Satyricon," he directed a set of more modest films that possessed striking imagery while diminishing the distinctions between fiction film and documentary. With "The Clowns" (1970), Fellini dealt with his life-long love of circuses, while "Fellini's Roma" (1972) centered on his love-hate relationship with the Eternal City. Meanwhile, the critical, potent but little-seen "Orchestra Rehearsal" (1978), his most overtly political work, portrayed the orchestra as a metaphor for discordant Italian politics. Perhaps his most acclaimed post-"Satyricon" film was "Amarcord" (1974), an accessible work which can be seen as a summation to that point of his autobiographical impulse. Lovingly describing Fellini's Rimini boyhood and peppered with offbeat humor, "Amarcord" organized its images through a strong emphasis on the natural cycle and a coherent narrative, though it also contained such memorable flights of fancy as a peacock that appears during the winter snow. "Amarcord" earned Fellini his third and final Best Director nomination at the Academy Awards.

Though "Amarcord" was his fourth film to win an Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film, Fellini found it increasingly difficult to find financial backing and distributors for his films in the 1980s. The downturn in his critical reputation and the inaccessibility of several key films led many to dismiss them either as unimportant or as further signs of his alleged self-indulgence. "City of Women" (1980) was delightful enough, but suffered from a lack of cohesion and a long running time. Still, it contained a number of striking images that unfortunately failed to overcome its muddled take on men¿s conflicting feelings toward women. He fared better with his next effort, "And the Ship Sails On" (1983), which showed that his flair for flamboyant characterization had not lost its comic or satiric prowess. Set on a luxury liner in 1914, the film focused on a group of aristocrats, politicians, singers and even a rhinoceros bound for a remote island to scatter the ashes of a famed opera singer. All was carefully crafted to underscore the superficiality of bourgeois life. He next directed "Ginger and Fred" (1985), which was heavily criticized upon its release and was the last to get a full art-house run in the United States, though it did contain its share of touching and amusing moments featuring longtime collaborators Masina and Mastroianni.

With "Intervista" (1987), Fellini carried the reflective outlook of his later years around full circle. A fitting companion piece to "8 1/2" and a re-visitation with Mastroianni and Anita Ekberg of that other landmark, "La Dolce Vita," Fellini again directly confronted his own position and status as a filmmaker, this time with a sadder, more wistful nostalgia than he had as a younger man. His last completed film, "Voice of the Moon" (1990), was considered by some critics to be his most surreal. Like "Intervista," it was a small film chock-full of references and last-minute thoughts, altogether alternately strange and sad. "Voice of the Moon" turned out to be an appropriate postscript to a film career filled with laughter and wonder at the bizarre circus of life. Critics at the time were harsh, however, with many panning it at the 1990 Cannes Film Festival. After sitting down with Canadian filmmaker Damian Pettigrew for a series of long interviews that were later shown in the documentary "Fellini: I¿m a Born Liar" (2002), Fellini received an Honorary Oscar in 1992 that was presented to him by Sophia Loren and Marcello Mastroianni. The following year, however, Fellini suffered a series of health problems, including two strokes that ultimately ended his life on Oct. 31, 1993. He was 73 years old.

By Shawn Dwyer Fellini¿s first unquestioned masterpiece, while earning him an Academy Award nomination for Best Original Screenplay and the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film during the category¿s first year in competition.

After two very strong but less important works ¿ "Il Bidone" ("The Swindlers") (1955) and "Nights of Cabiria" (1956), with the latter winning Best Foreign Language Film at the Academy Awards ¿ Fellini directed his two most influential masterworks: "La Dolce Vita" (1959) and "8 1/2" (1963). "La Dolce Vita" was a three-hour, panoramic view of contemporary Italian society as seen from the perspective of a journalist, played by Fellini's alter ego, Marcello Mastroianni. A savage, if subtle satire which exposes his perception of the worthless hedonism of Italian society, "La Dolce Vita" provided a wealth of unforgettable images: from its opening ¿ a parody of the Ascension as a helicopter transports a suspended statue of Christ over rooftops with sunbathing women in bikinis ¿ to its signature scene of bosomy Anita Ekberg bathing in the Trevi Fountain. The film was a major international hit that was condemned by both the Catholic Church for its casual depiction of suicide and sexual themes, and by the Italian government for its scathing criticism of Italy. Ultimately, "La Dolce Vita" was the greatest and most important film to emerge from Europe in the 1960s, and earned Fellini an Academy Award nomination for Best Director

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