La Dolce Vita (1960)

A review by Shlomoh Sherman
July 15, 2015

La Dolce Vita (1960)
Plot: A series of stories following a week in the life of a philandering paparazzo journalist living in Rome.
Director: Federico Fellini
Writers: Federico Fellini (story), Ennio Flaiano (story)
Stars: Marcello Mastroianni, Anita Ekberg, Anouk Aimée
Director: Federico Fellini
Stars: Marcello Mastroianni, Anouk Aimée, Claudia Cardinale
Plot: Journalist and man-about-town Marcello struggles to find his place in the world, torn between the allure of Rome's elite social scene and the stifling domesticity offered by his girlfriend, all the while searching for a way to become a serious writer.
Plot Keywords: journalist - writer - celebrity - socialite - party
Taglines: The Roman Scandals - Bound to shock with its truth!
Genres: Comedy - Drama
Certificate: Not Rated
Parents Guide: Contains: Sex & Nudity, Violence & Gore, Profanity, Alcohol/Drugs/Smoking, Frightening/Intense Scenes
Country: Italy - France
Language: Italian - English - French - German
Release Date: April 19, 1961 (USA)
Filming Locations: Bassano Romano, Viterbo, Lazio, Italy
Box Office: Gross: $19,516,000 (USA)
Company Credits: Production Co: Riama Film, Gray-Film, Pathé Consortium Cinéma
Technical Specs:
Runtime: 174 min - 177 min (premiere) - 165 min (re-release) - 180 min (premiere)
Sound Mix: Mono (Western Electric)
Color: Black and White
Won: Best Costume Design, Black-and-White, Piero Gherardi
Nominated: Best Director, Federico Fellini, Best Writing, Story and Screenplay - Written Directly for the Screen, Federico Fellini, Tullio Pinelli, Ennio Flaiano, Brunello Rondi, Best Art Direction-Set Decoration, Black-and-White, Piero Gherardi

I am sure that I saw La Dolce Vita when it first came out but when watching it earlier this week, it was as though I had seen it for the first time. I did not remember one frame from seeing in in 1960. I was fortunate enough to be able to download a copy of this re

La Dolce Vita is Italian for Sweet Life. However, the lives of the characters portrayed in this film are anything but sweet. Fellini shows us a post war upper class Italian society living lives that are shalow and insipid. The plot revolves around Marcello Rubini, a journalist, artfully played by handsome and dynamic Marcello Mastroianni.

Marcello is on a never-ending quest to pursue and involve himself in the lives of the rich and beautiful people. He can follow them, involve himself in their lives, make love to them, all the while being distracted by the egoism of his own superficial and meaningless inner soul. The very idea that he can make love to women rather than with them is a clue to his callousness. He is particularly nasty and emotionally abusive toward his girlfriend, Emma, play by the beautiful Yvonne Furneaux. Miss Furneaux reminded me of Elizabeth Taylor but a sweeter and more fragile Taylor.

As the film progresses, Marcello's transition from simply ignoring Emma to his brutal verbalization of her gives the audience a visceral empathy with her fragility.

La Dolce Vita is perhaps best remembered for the famous Trevi Fountain scene between Marcello and the provocative and sultry Swedish actress, Sylvia, played by Anita Ekberg, who seems to relish displaying her sensuous neck. I never thought of Ekberg as being particularly interesting or attractive even though she was supposed to be one of the sex goddesses of the era. In the film, her character comes across as self-indulgent as that of Marcello's.

In the Trevi Fountain scene, Sylvia, carrying a white kitten, wades into the fountain, beckoning Marcello to follow her. "Marcello! Come here. Hurry up," she yells to him.

You can see the excerpt by clicking the play arrow.

In the last scene of the film, Marcello and his "friends" are down as the beach, looking at a dead giant squid that has been washed up on the shore. Someone observes that the squid's eyes are open and the crowd wonders what it must be seeing. But perhaps the squid epitomizes the beautiful, rich people in the film, and the equally vacuous Paparazzi constantly pursuing them. Their eyes are open but they see very little. They are emotionally and spiritually deceased.

As the scene draws to a close, we see a young girl several yards away, gesturing and speaking to Marcello. The noise of the surf drowns out her words, making it impossible for anyone to hear what whe is saying. Marcello holds up his hands, indictating to her that he he cannot hear her but the look on his face betrays his utter lack of interest in what she is saying. She smiles with the realization that she is speaking to a fool.

Reviewer Red-Barracuda (Edinburgh, Scotland, UK) sums the film up nicely in his July, 2009 review: "This is a problem with the film in general; a three hour expose of shallow people is an exhausting experience. It's very well acted and photographed. It's just a little unengaging and occasionally tedious."

So after all this time, you may be wondering why I wanted to watch La Dolce Vita. My interest was engaged by watching a delightul recent movie on Netflix.

Elsa & Fred (2014), staring Shirley MacLaine and Christopher Plummer, is a remake of an earlier Spanish version from 2005. It is the story of two elderly people, living in the same apartment building who meet and fall in love.

Elsa has lived for many years with the constant memory of the scene in 'La Dolce Vita' at the Fontana di Trevi.

She sees herself very much as Anita Ekberg in it. And now, loving Fred, she begins to see him as Marcello Mastroianni.

Unlike the Marcello character in La Dolce Vita, Fred is and has always been a good man who did everything he was asked to do. He has met Elsa after losing his wife. After meeting her, everything changes for him. Elsa is determined to show him that the time they have left to live can be sweet and that they should enjoy it together. When Fred discovers Elsa's fantasy of living out the Fountain scene, he generously offers to take her to Rome where they can become the Marcello and Sylvia in which life can be truly sweet [Dolce].

The fountain scene recreated by Fred and Elsa is beautifully done, complete with Fred caressing her neck and she sprinkling water on his head.

I had never heard of Elsa & Fred but when I saw the title listed on Netflix, and the storyline, I was intrigued. Glad I saw it, and you would be too.

Did You Know?

Producer Dino De Laurentiis left the project when director Federico Fellini refused to cast Paul Newman in the lead.
After Federico Fellini rejected the idea of Paul Newman for the lead role, Dino De Laurentiis suggested Gérard Philipe. He thought Marcello Mastroianni was "too soft and goody-goody; a family man rather than the type who flings women onto the bed."
In the beach house sequence, when the woman asks Marcello if he was a 'writer once,' and Marcello announced he's now a publicity agent,' the young woman reads frm a magazine 'he has a Greek profile, but the modernity of his expression brings him to the most modern actor of our time - Paul Newman.' She reads the quote - and the actor's name with disappointment, which is an intentional sly reference to Paul Newman, as Paul Newman was Dino De Laurentis' choice for the lead - which Marcello Mastroiani eventually took.
Federico Fellini had considered Henry Fonda for the part of Steiner. But Fonda refused the role
The film contributed the term "paparazzo" to the language. The term derives from Marcello's photographer friend Paparazzo. Federico Fellini took the name "Paparazzo", as he explained in a later interview, from the name of someone he met in Calabria (Southern Italy) where Greek names are still common. "Paparazzi" is the plural meaning.
It seems that term "paparazzo" was coined by Federico Fellini himself. Paparazzo means "sparrow" in one Italian dialect (in normal usage the Italian for "sparrow" is "passero"). Fellini explained that the photographers hopping and scurrying around celebrities reminded him of sparrows.
The famous scene in the Trevi Fountain was shot in March, when nights were still cold. According to Federico Fellini (in an interview with Costanzo Costantini), Anita Ekberg stood in the cold water in her dress for hours without any trouble. Marcello Mastroianni, on the other hand, had to wear a wetsuit beneath his clothes, and even that wasn't enough. Still freezing, he downed an entire bottle of vodka, so that he was completely drunk while shooting the scene.
When shooting the famous Fontana di Trevi scene, director Federico Fellini complained that the water in the fountain looked dirty. A representative of Scandinavian Airlines System (SAS) present at the shooting was able to supply the film team with some of the airline's green sea dye marker (for use in case of an emergency landing at sea). This was used to color the water, and the director was satisfied.
The film wasn't released in Spain until 1981 because of moral censorship.
The Italian catholic party Democrazia Cristiana and the Vatican were deeply against this movie for the portrayal of the city of Rome and its vicious aristocracy (which is historically very close to the Church). One article against the movie, "La schifosa vita" (The filthy life) was probably written by Oscar Luigi Scalfaro, in 1992, President of the Republic.
A scene was mooted that involved Marcello's relationship with an older writer, Dolores, to be played by Oscar winning actress Luise Rainer. After much protracted discussions and difficulties, due to Luise Rainer's wish to rewrite her role somewhat, Federico Fellini cancelled the scene altogether.
This was late film critic Roger Ebert's favorite movie. According to him, he saw it over 25 times.

When Marcello is typewriting in a restaurant on the beach and talking to the blonde young girl, the bar of the typewriter is centered on the machine. In the next take, it is displaced to the left of the typewriter.
In the Via Veneto scene when Marcello meets his father, the windshield of Marcello's car is missing. You can see his hand holding on to the windshield frame as he exits his car.
The water in the Trevi Fountain continues flowing even after the sound of it has faded away, and only stops when the camera changes view.
At the top of St. Peter's dome the wind blows Sylvia's hat off. The wire on her hat used to achieve this effect is clearly visible trailing off to the right during the scene.
When the two children see the Madonna, the time of day is stated as 7:00. However, the very short shadows of the characters reveal that it is midday.

Marcello Rubini: [to Emma] A man who agrees to live like this is a finished man, he's nothing but a worm! I don't believe in your aggressive, sticky, maternal love! I don't want it, I have no use for it! This isn't love, it's brutalization!
Marcello Rubini: You are the first woman on the first day of creation. You are mother, sister, lover, friend, angel, devil, earth, home.
Steiner: We must get beyond passions, like a great work of art. In such miraculous harmony. We should love each other outside of time... detached.
Transvestite: By 1965 there'll be total depravity. How squalid everything will be.
Paparazzo: [looking at Lex Barker drunk asleep] This one played Tarzan!

Toccata and Fugue in D Minor: Toccata and Fugue in D Minor, BWV 565 (uncredited) Written by Johann Sebastian Bach (as J.S. Bach) Performed by Alain Cuny
Patricia Music by Dámaso Pérez Prado and lyrics by Bob Marcus Performed by Dámaso Pérez Prado
Ready Teddy (uncredited) Written by John Marascalco and Robert 'Bumps' Blackwell
I'm Goin' Away (uncredited) Written by Alan Greene
Jingle Bells (uncredited) Written by James Pierpont
Ma, He's Making Eyes At Me (uncredited) Written by Sidney Clare and Con Conrad

Message Boards:
Recent Posts:
Is Nico in this movie? - pattijane-55226
What was it that Steiner felt he lacked in life? - jophassa
poor movie - omar_sy
the young blond girl from the restaurant - gabypanama
The ENDLESS party scene - GiantTurtleBoy
You hated Dolce but loved another Fellini's? - svallee-5

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Cast overview, first billed only:
Marcello Mastroianni ... Marcello Rubini
Anita Ekberg ... Sylvia
Anouk Aimée ... Maddalena
Yvonne Furneaux ... Emma
Magali Noël ... Fanny
Alain Cuny ... Steiner
Annibale Ninchi ... Marcello's father
Walter Santesso ... Paparazzo
Lex Barker ... Robert - Sylvia's husband
Jacques Sernas ... Il divo
Nadia Gray ... Nadia
Valeria Ciangottini ... Paola
Riccardo Garrone ... Riccardo
Ida Galli ... Debuttante of the year
Audrey McDonald ... Jane

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