Dolce Vita, La (1960): Fellini’s Masterpiece A
Fellini once explained the artistic intentions behind “La Dolce Vita” (“THe Sweet Life”) in this way: “We have to make a statue, break it, and recompose the pieces. Or better yet, try a decomposition in the manner of Picasso. The cinema is narrative in the nineteenth-century sense: now let’s try to do something different.”
“La Dolce Vita” was a more personal yet critical film than Fellini’s earlier work, for the first time scrutinizing on screen Italy’s decadent postwar “cafe society.” Indeed, as Italy began its postwar economic boom, becoming a consumer society, Fellini depicted the inevitable confrontation within the elite, between the new rich and the aristocratic establishment. The phrase “dolce vita,” or the “sweet life,” became synonymous even in English with European hedonism.
“La Dolce Vita” created a tremendous scandal. Church groups, Roman nobility and right-wing politicians who had rallied behind “La Strada,” insisted that “La Dolce Vita” be banned. Liberals, meanwhile, rushed back to Fellini’s side, claiming the film accurately depicted the corruption of Italy’s upper class. The great debate over the film led to box office records: La Dolce Vita broke all Italian records. Years after the film’s release, international tourists still flocked to Rome to visit locations used in the story.
The movie had huge impact on every aspect of culture, language (it introduced the term paparazzi to the wide public), fashion (wearing dark glasses at night), depiction of cool parties and orgies (almost every European film of the 1960s included such scenes), and so on.
The only foreign-language picture to be up for major awards, “La Dolce Vita” was nominated for four Oscars, including Best Director for Fellini. The movie won the B/W Costume Design for Piero Gherardi. The other nominations were for Original Screenplay (Fellini, Tullio Pinelli, Ennio Flaiano, and Brunello Rondi) and B/W Art Direction (also Gherardi)
Fellini was born to a farming and trading family in the coastal town of Rimini in 1920. As a young man, he wound up in Rome and tried to become a journalist. Fellini began his film career in the Italian neo-realist movement, which started at the end of World War II. He collaborated with the country’s most prominent filmmaker at the time, Roberto Rossellini, on the screenplays for the ultra-realistic films, “Open City” (1946) and “Paisan” (1946). Eventually, Fellini was to become the best known Italian filmmaker outside of the country, the only Italian artist nominated for multiple Oscar Awards as director.
related article 1: Oscar Directors: Fellini, Federico.
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