San Francisco Film Festival: La Dolce Vita by Federico Fellini

This year, the SFiFF featured a wonderfully-restored version of Fellini’s classic film, the first time I’ve seen it on the big screen. There is something about seeing a film the way it was originally intended – a cliché, yes, but nonetheless true. Everyone in the audience was in awe, regardless of whether we had seen it before. Shots of alarming beauty: a statue of Jesus being hauled by helicopter over a vastly-expanding Roman suburb; Anouk Aimée’s graceful head leaning over an empty fountain; the empty and gilded walls of a Catholic church; and of course, That Fountain Scene. And what about Marcello Mastroianni? Like Rome, he is eternally wondrous – that rare actor who can go from charming to cruel to heartbroken, with the slightest of changes to his face and his body. It is remarkable how contemporary that film feels, still fresh, still relevant, still shocking. The conundrum has never really been solved: how does a man, in the face of bourgeois temptations, empty fame, societal conventions, and uncertainty about God and faith, make art? How does he live? What is the good life?

In Italian and English.

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