Cast & Crew
Five men in their mid-to-late 20s drink, womanize and idle in their Italian seaside hometown. While some of them dream of leaving, only one finally does.
Best Writing, Screenplay
The film opens as the buzz and excitement of summer changes, in an instant, to the bitter reality of tourist season's end. The five friends -- Fausto, Leopoldo, Riccardo, Alberto and Moraldo -- roam Rimini's streets in idle recreation, play pool and wait for Carnival, which becomes a stand-in for an unlived fantasy life.
The lothario of the group Fausto (Franco Fabrizi) is eventually forced, against his will, to settle down when he impregnates local beauty queen Sandra (Eleonora Ruffo) though his roving eye and tomcatting ways continue.
His friends have their dreams too. Leopoldo (Leopoldo Trieste) is the most ambitious among them, an amateur playwright, dreaming of escape. And the taciturn Moraldo (Franco Interlenghi) becomes a stand-in for Fellini himself, observing all of the changes in his friends' lives.
I Vitelloni was Fellini's first international success and his third film made a year before his career-defining La Strada (1954). Though La Strada was written before I Vitelloni, when Fellini showed the former script to his producer he was told it wouldn't make a lira. So he went back to the drawing board with Ennio Flaiano and Tullio Pinelli, his co-screenwriters on The White Sheik (1952). "In spite of our different backgrounds, the spirit of the script we wrote was Fellini's," claimed Pinelli.
I Vitelloni won a Silver Lion at the Venice Film Festival. Because it takes place in the director's hometown of Rimini (which would also later provide the setting for Amarcord, 1973), many consider the film to be autobiographical. In I, Fellini (by Charlotte Chandler), the director stated "For a young man in Rimini, the life was inert, provincial, opaque, dull, without cultural stimulation of any kind. Every night was the same...When I left Rimini, I thought my friends would be envious because I was leaving, but far from it. They were perplexed. They didn't feel the drive to leave that I did." Fellini never considered actually shooting the film in Rimini, fearing that as a returning film director, he would appear patronizing to his townsfolk, and the young men he grew up with who now worked in undistinguished jobs in the small town.
The film also starred Fellini's brother Riccardo, who plays an amateur singer, and who Fellini felt would best of all understand the vitelloni sensibility, since he had once been one himself. Since the film's release in 1953 it has gone on to influence a host of films about small town boys with big time dreams like Martin Scorsese's Mean Streets (1973) and Barry Levinson's Diner (1982).
I Vitelloni's producer Lorenzo Pegoraro was initially distressed at the lack of big names in the production and the casting of Alberto Sordi. "Sordi makes people run away," he complained. But Sordi would go on to become one of Italy's biggest screen comics and years later, when I Vitelloni was revived, the poster was altered to put Sordi's name above the title. On the first day of shooting Pegoraro was still so angry over the casting of the film with unknowns that he reportedly locked himself in the bathroom and refused to come out to sign checks.
The Italian neorealist director Vittorio De Sica was initially considered as a possible marquee "name" in the role of Natali, an aging actor who visits the town and tries to seduce Leopoldo. But De Sica wanted to alter the character to suit his needs and Fellini was reluctant to do so, so the role eventually went to Achille Majeroni. Ironically enough, Franco Interlenghi, who plays Fellini's stand-in Moraldo, was the small boy in De Sica's Shoeshine (1946).
Director: Federico Fellini
Producer: Jacques Bar, Mario De Vecchi, Lorenzo Pegoraro
Screenplay: Ennio Flaiano from a story by Federico Fellini, Ennio Flaiano and Tullio Pinelli
Cinematography: Carlo Carlini, Otello Martelli, Luciano Trasatti
Production Design: Mario Chiari
Music: Nino Rota
Cast: Franco Interlenghi (Moraldo), Alberto Sordi (Alberto), Franco Fabrizi (Fausto), Leopoldo Trieste (Leopoldo), Riccardo Fellini (Riccardo).
by Felicia Feaster
I Vitelloni on DVD
Synopsis: In a dreary Italian seaside resort (clearly meant to suggest Fellini's home town of Rimini), a group of men in their late twenties and early thirties still live at home with their parents and lack any sense of direction in life, preferring to spend their free time playing pool and picking up women. (The title, which means literally "the big calves," became a popular expression in Italian thanks to Fellini's film.) When Fausto (Franco Fabrizi) impregnates Sandra (Leonora Ruffo), the sister of fellow vitellone Moraldo (Franco Interlenghi), he tries to skip town but his father forces him to marry her. He moves in with Sandra's parents and even agrees reluctantly to take up a job in a religious paraphernalia shop, but is unable to keep his hands off other women. Alberto (Alberto Sordi) mooches off his sister Olga (Claude Farell), but at the same time chastises her for dating the wrong men and expounds pompously on protecting the family honor. Leopoldo (Leopoldo Trieste) is an intellectual who dreams of becoming a great playwright but churns out turgid, cliché-ridden work. Over time, the quiet, observant Moraldo begins to recognize the limitations of his friends and imagines a better life for himself.
Fellini's first film as a solo director, The White Sheik (1952), is a delightful, underrated comedy that already displays many of his characteristic themes and stylistic mannerism, from its naive heroine to Nino Rota's circus-inspired music. I Vitelloni, however, is a far more resonant work, thanks to its spot-on acting and its rich characterization. For example, Fausto's failed attempt at seducing the shopkeeper's wife is painful to watch, as is his absurd but all-too-recognizable attempt to save face by lying to his friends. Even a throwaway moment like the scene where the gang strolls down a street at night, stopping to kick a tin can back and forth before harassing a woman who walks past, rings true as a representation of pent-up boyish energy. A comic highlight is the vulgar musical review performed by the aging, has-been actor that tries to seduce Leopoldo. Yet even as Fellini mocks his characters' shortcomings, he always maintains a genuine sense of affection for them. Some of the vitelloni are developed more fully than others-the singer Riccardo (played by Riccardo Fellini, the director's brother), for instance, hardly registers-but Fellini's choice to concentrate on a few characters gives the film stronger dramatic focus.
The direction is impressive throughout, but perhaps nowhere more so than the Carnival ball sequence, with its dazzling combination of decor, composition, and camera movements. The oversized papier-mache head that the drunken Alberto carries with him down the street afterwards suggests something of the phantasmagorical visions that would dominate Fellini's later films. Also memorable is the image of the gang standing on a pier at the deserted beach, gazing silently out at the ocean, and the beautifully photographed shots of the nighttime town.
Criterion's transfer displays nicely rendered detail and contrast, with only a few very minor instances of print damage. Frankly, the print used for the DVD looks better than the restored 35mm print that played theatrically during the last year or so, and those who remember the old beaten-up and dupey print used for the VHS and laserdisc versions will be thrilled with the improvement. The special features, while they hardly match up to those on the lavish, multi-disc Criterion box sets of Battle of Algiers or The Leopard, are worthwhile nonetheless. The most interesting is "Vitellonismo," a Criterion-produced documentary consisting of interviews with surviving cast members, production team members, and Fellini scholars; it gives a strong sense of film's place in Fellini's career and personal life and contains many engaging anecdotes. I've always had a weakness for the kinds of production stills, posters and other promotional materials reproduced in the stills gallery, but even so the American promotional materials are a hoot for the way they emphasized sex to sensation-hungry "art film" audiences of the early Fifties. Not only was the film titled "The Young and the Passionate," but the tagline was "A daring story of uninhibited youth!" In truth, what little sex there is in the film is deliberately awkward rather than titillating. Lastly, the disc includes the original Italian trailer--too bad they didn't throw in the American trailer--and liner notes by Tom Piazza. I Vitelloni is one of Fellini's best films, Criterion thankfully does right by it.
For more information about I Vitelloni, visit Criterion Collection. To order I Vitelloni, go to TCM Shopping.
by James Steffen
I Vitelloni on DVD
Released in United States 1953 (Shown at the 1953 Venice Film Festival (in competition).)
Released in United States 1956
Re-released in United States 2003
Winner of the Silver Prize at the 1953 Venice Film Festival.
Released in United States 1953
Released in United States 1956
Released in United States August 14, 1990
Released in United States January 2000
Re-released in United States 2003
Shown at Lincoln Center, New York City in the series "A Roman Holiday" August 14, 1990.
Shown at the 1953 Venice Film Festival (in competition).
Released in United States January 2000 (Shown in New York City (Anthology Film Archives) as part of program "Kino International Retrospective" January 6-27, 2000.)
Released in United States August 14, 1990 (Shown at Lincoln Center, New York City in the series "A Roman Holiday" August 14, 1990.)
Quasi-autobiographical story of director Federico Fellini, whose brother Riccardo plays one of the featured characters. Fellini's alterego here, Moraldo (played by Interlenghi), later evolves into Marcello (played by Marcello Mastroianni in "La Dolce Vita").