Thursday, October 14, 2010

Hit Me With Your Best Shot: "La Dolce Vita" (1960)

This week's "Hit Me With Your Best Shot" topic is Federico Fellini's wonderful classic La Dolce Vita (1960). One caveat before we begin: I've had a difficult night and computer issues, so I was only able to pull screenshots from the film's first half. But no matter. Ninety minutes in, Fellini has already gifted us with a greater movie than most and there's still another one its same size waiting after the imaginary intermission.

Who crafts pictures like Fellini? Or rather, who crafts motion pictures like him? No one. His camera is often moving and its subjects always are. Fellini loves a crowd and his hordes are either surrounding the action on the verge of chaos or they're lining up to follow some invisible pied piper of dance leading them through a restless black & white bacchanalia.  The effect is so sensual and dizzying that the image of Anita Ekberg as Sylvia lifted up exposing maximum cleavage only to be continually spun around is about as perfect an encapsulation of the Fellini feeling as you can get.

This image of Marcello Mastroianni (below), which suggests he's directing the picture (and he will in as proxy), is interesting. He's not directing anything at this moment but observing the chaos. He's climbed up a tower to get a better view of the religious frenzy in progress.


About that religious frenzy. It's insane to stand in the pouring rain whilst in ailing health praying for magical healing. It's crazy to run to and fro and back and forth following the ever-changing whims of two kids who claim to have seen the Madonna. It's bonkers to tear the branches off a tree as if the leaves had healing powers. The madness ends when the children demand that a church be built right on the spot they're standing on.

I'm certain Italy has enough churches already. But make it a movie theater and I'll riot with you. I believe in the church of cinema and Fellini is a* god. (*Cinema is a polytheistic religion.)


This god's best creations are gorgeous and impossibly chic. Marcello and Anouk Aimée (pictured above) and Anita and even Yvonne (to a lesser degree) never seem to need any sleep. They wander from setpiece to setpiece and from day to night to dawn back into day in stylish shades, perfectly tailored suits and gowns. They don't need sleep or washing machines or ironing boards. They're always dressed in their finest and so so cool.

My favorite shot in the film's first half is Anita's dreamy aimless wandering through Italian streets with a newly adopted furry friend. The camera isn't sloppily drunk, careening around her but it's definitely got a good buzz going, while she communes with kitty. This is, you should know, a very personal choice for "best shot" as Fellini proceeds to completely spoil me: cats, beautiful actresses, rich black and white images, the glory of unexpectedly vivid details (Ekberg placing the cat on her head); all of these could make me ecstatic alone...but together?

(These images are culled from more than one shot -- there's a few cuts -- but the work is so fluid and alive that it all just flows.)

Imagine the joy of being in a Fellini movie. You get to wear great clothes, dance, cruise Italy while lit and lit perfectly. And when you're coming down from the high of a great party, when sleep is as yet unthinkable, you can take a whimsical stroll through magically quiet city streets.


Should you suddenly decide to take an immortal dip into a nearby fountain, you've arrived in style with an utterly fashionable mewling chapeau.

Impossibly cool.


*
Blog Bello
 Next Week!
  • MEAN GIRLS (2004). I don't think I've ever looked at this movie from an images standpoint. But I love to watch it, so why not? Are you with me? Pick your favorite shot by next Wednesday, let me know, and I'll link up.
 Previously on "Hit Me With Your Best Shot"
Related Reading

9 comments:

okinawaassault said...

Plugging mine. http://okinawaassault.wordpress.com/2010/10/10/fellinis-women-dont-walk-they/

Jose said...

Awww indeed, this scene seems to have been made just for you. I also love how right Rob Marshall got the essence of Ekberg and Marcello with Nicole and Daniel in "Nine".
If you ask me, Nic's Claudia was way more Anita than Cardinale.

okinawaassault said...

By looks, I guess, Nic's Claudia has Cardinale's mindset. Cardinale's character is sober and willing to shoot ideas with him and eventually see that they can't work together. Ekberg, on the other hand, was taking him on a joyride. The latter gets tired in the morning, but I think she'll be up and running by the next night.

Andreas said...

I love the scene with the kitty! Even better, it's echoed later on when those dancers at the club are wearing kitty outfits.

Here's my best shot(s) - I went in a slightly more morbid direction:
http://mendthiscrack.wordpress.com/2010/10/14/living-la-dolce-vita/

Glenn Dunks said...

I don't like this movie and I wasn't going to rewatch it just to get an image. Sorry. :(

8 1/2, however...

Andrew R. said...

*resists a VERY strong urge to pick the fountain shot, then gives in*

All right, here's everyone's favorite shot: tada.

And the shot that isn't remembered as well: voila.

Mean Girls? Like the movie, but it has very little to look at.

NATHANIEL R said...

Andrew R -- fun second image and the first is indeed inarguably iconic. As for MEAN GIRLS I don't think of it as a "visual" movie either but that's kind of why I'm interested in looking at it. All movies being visual objects even if we think of them as aural ones.

Glenn -- hmmm. care to elaborate on why?

Robert said...

For me it's the final shot, when the girl looks at the camera, I audibly gasped the first time I watched it.

http://i105.photobucket.com/albums/m214/Rant1229/859612733_34e153554c.jpg

Glenn said...

Nathaniel, if I wanted to watch boring rich people do nothing for 3hrs I'd take a quick trip to the posh suburbs of Melbourne. Yes, yes, their lives are "unfulfilling under the surface" etc etc, yawn. I fell asleep twice. I don't need Fellini to spend 3 hours telling me this stuff, ya know?