Saturday, December 24, 2005

Fellini's Roma

Roma (1972) is Fellini's tribute to the chaotic, jumbled, surreal city of Rome. Some viewers might find the film's lack of a traditional plot and characters a bit too chaotic and directionless, but in my opinion, it's one of the film's strengths. Freed from any allegiance to plot or character, Fellini roams the city, past and present, real and imagined, unhinged from any purpose other than the sheer joy of throwing his frenzied fancies onto the screen, one after the other.

He offers us a series of vignettes all connected--more or less--to the autobiographical character of a film director (named Fellini) making a film about Rome, complete with self-reflexive debates about what sort of film to make and what to include: glimpses inside of two old-fashioned Roman brothels (the expensive and the cheap), a group of construction workers digging a metro line, the discovery of ancient Roman frescoes which begin to disappear a few moments after they're uncovered, a warren-like maze of a boarding house full of odd characters, and best of all, a Papal fashion show.

Some of the scenes satirizing Roman manners (if that's the right word) may be a bit too specific for a non-Italian audience: a long, drawn-out scene in a busy neighborhood restaurant and another at a rowdy old-fashioned vaudeville performance may still please viewers with their surreal inventiveness, but the object of their satire--Roman eating habits and communal behavior--might be lost on an audience not intimately familiar with the Rome of the 1960s. Also, his portrait of a city overrun with hippies seems a bit dated

But in the end, the city of Rome is the perfect love-object for Fellini, and his perfect film subject: a strange and infinitely-faceted palimpsest of images and memories whose complexity and mystery only grow in the imagination and with the passage of time.

FilmStocker Rating: A-


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