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Directors in Focus
The Divine Comedy of Federico Fellini

Inspired by the recent release of new prints of the classic Nights of Cabiria, Juliet of the Spirits, and Fellini Satyricon, as well as by the availability of a wonderful new documentary portrait, we seize the moment to pay tribute once again to the inimitable Federico Fellini (1920–1993). Beginning as a gag writer in 1939, Fellini progressed to script writing and soon began assisting prominent Italian filmmakers such as Roberto Rossellini. In his own early films, he combined the photographic authenticity of Italian neorealism with subtle humor and a poetic sensibility. His later work is characterized by its increasingly fantastic, oneiric vision, embodied in such masterpieces as 8 1/2 (1963) and Fellini Satyricon (1969). Fellini’s collaboration with his wife, actress Giulietta Masina, resulted in several profound inquiries into the female psyche, particularly in La Strada (1954), Nights of Cabiria (1956), and Juliet of the Spirits (1965). While, sadly, a number of Fellini’s films have fallen out of U.S. distribution (and his final film The Voice of the Moon remains unsub-titled), we are pleased to present this selection of fifteen films by the man they called il maestro, comprising some of the most compelling and original visions of the late twentieth century.


May 25 (Friday) 7pm
May 26 (Saturday) 7 pm
May 30 (Wednesday) 7 pm
May 31 (Thursday) 7 pm
June 28 (Thursday) 7 pm

Fellini Narrates: A Discoveed Self-Portrait (Fellini Racconta—Un Autoritratto Ritrovato)

Directed by Paquito Del Bosco
Italy 2000, digital video, b/w and color, 68 min.
Italian with English subtitles

Delving into the voluminous radio and television archives of Italian broad-casting company RAI, director Paquito Del Bosco and his team have come up with some wonderfully rare interviews with the late Federico Fellini. From an early radio discussion in February 1952 at the time of the opening of his first solo feature film, The White Sheik, to conversations on the set of La Dolce Vita and 8 1/2, Fellini Narrates captures much of the charm and humor of the maestro while offering many insights into his character and career. Among the rarely seen material is footage of a press conference with Fellini and Ingmar Bergman in which the pair announce their plans to collaborate on a film (sadly never realized), as well as a brief visit to the set of Fellini’s never-completed film The Journey of Mastorna.

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May 25 (Friday) 8:30 pm
May 26 (Saturday) 8:30 pm

Fellini Satyricon

Directed by Federico Fellini 
Italy 1969, 35mm, color, 131 min.
With Martin Potter, Capucine, Max Born
Italian with English subtitles

One of Fellini’s most ambitious productions, Satyricon mixes the maestro’s fascination with the mythic realm depicted in ancient Roman frescoes together with Petronius’s fragmentary narratives of Rome during the decadent reign of Nero. The result is a tale of Imperial Rome—filled with an array of wonderfully grotesque imagery—whose course is continually shifted by the whims and demands of the lascivious emperors, exotic demigods, and deranged oracles who populate it. The maestro conducts his episodic journey through the waning days of this golden era guided by two Roman students, who become wide-eyed witnesses to Fellini’s opulent cinematic conjurings of both the natural and the supernatural: earthquakes, imprisonment on a slave ship, and encounters with sea monsters, magical hermaphrodites, and a seven-foot Minotaur.

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May 29 (Tuesday) 7 pm

I Vitelloni (The Wastrels)

Directed by Federico Fellini
Italy 1953, 35mm, b/w, 109 min.
With Franco Interlenghi, Alberto Sordi,Franco Fabrizi
Italian with English subtitles

Partly autobiographical, I Vitelloni is a study of five young men adrift in the wasteland of their provincial home town on the Adriatic coast. Middle-class layabouts who live aimlessly by cadging off their families as they nurse vague ambitions and spend their days in pursuit of amusement and girls, the characters are trapped as much by their own moral bankruptcy as by the futureless society in which they have never quite grown up. Beautifully shot and performed, and governed by an inextricable mixture of affectionate sympathy and acid satire, I Vitelloni clearly (and beneficially) trails the neorealist roots Fellini would later shake off.


May 29 (Tuesday) 9 pm
May 30 (Wednesday) 8:30 pm
June 4 (Monday) 7 pm

La Strada (La peine perdue de Jean Eustache)

Directed by Federico Fellini
Italy 1954, 35mm, b/w, 115 min.
With Giuletta Masina, Anthony Quinn, Richard Basehart
Italian with English subtitles

Italian with English subtitles Widely considered to be Fellini’s first masterpiece, La Strada features a sublime performance by Giulietta Masina in the role of Gelsomina, a tragic waif who is sold to an itinerant strong man (Quinn) who exploits at every turn his new assistant’s desire for affection. Despite the pessimism of much of the story, memorably embodied in the grey and desolate towns the pair visit, Fellini had already begun to move far away from his roots in neorealism toward more poetic and symbolic imagery. Winner of an Academy Award for Best Foreign Film, La Strada also features a memorable and haunting score by the great composer and lifelong Fellini associate Nino Rota.

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May 31 (Thursday) 8:30 pm
June 4 (Monday) 9 pm

Nights of Cabiria (Le Notti di Cabiria)

Directed by Federico Fellini
Italy 1956, 35mm, b/w, 117 min.
With Giuletta Masina, François Périer,Amedeo Nazzari
Italian with English subtitles

The second of Fellini’s films to win an Academy Award for Best Foreign Film, Nights of Cabiria is the poignant tale of a naïve prostitute who searches for love and fulfillment in the string of men she meets. Giulietta Masina’s perfomance as Cabiria—an impoverished prostitute living on the outskirts of Rome who is betrayed by her faith in human nature—is rightly considered one of the great performances on film. We present the recently restored full-length version, which greatly improves the murky qua-lity of available American-release prints and includes a previously banned seven-minute sequence: the legendary “man with the sack” sequence, which Fellini was forced to cut, reportedly under
pressure from the Church.

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June 6 (Wednesday) 7 pm
June 12 (Tuesday) 7 pm

La Dolce Vita (The Sweet Life)

Directed by Federico Fellini
Italy 1960, 35mm, b/w, 176 min.
With Marcello Mastroianni, Anita Ekberg, Anouk Aimée
Italian with English subtitles

Marcello Mastroianni became an international star thanks to his swaggering portrayal of a reporter for the society pages of a Roman newspaper who becomes enmeshed in the lives of the jaded aristocracy as he attempts to search for something more meaningful. The decadent lifestyle quickly takes its toll, however, as the film follows Mastroianni’s journey through a nightmarish world in which emotions have been destroyed by surface realities, moral conventions, and unresolved guilt. Banned by the Catholic Church in many countries, the sensationalism of the film made La Dolce Vita an international success, although often to the detriment of the film’s serious intent. Epic in scale and episodic in structure, this cinematic anatomy of the decrepit values of modern society never wavers in its brilliance.

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June 11 (Monday) 7 pm

Juliet of the Spirits (Giulietta degli Spiriti)

Directed by Federico Fellini
Italy 1965, 35mm, color, 145 min.
With Giulietta Masina, Mario Pisu, Sandro Milo
Italian with English subtitles

Considered the anima (the female counterpoint) to the animus of Fellini’s 8 1/2, Fellini’s first color film ventures deeply into the surreal as it explores the repressed desires of a bourgeois housewife. Giulietta Masina stars as a middle-aged woman haunted by hallucinations from her past and subconscious. While her husband philanders, the woman consults clairvoyants and mediums and escapes into a world of the imagination drawn from the “spirits” of her past, present, and future. In an effort to prevent her world from crumbling, she confronts the specters and fantasies that have imprisoned her throughout her life. A lavish and baroque visual spectacle, Juliet of the Spirits boasts the brilliant photography of Gianni de Venanzo and the opulent designs of Piero Gheradi.

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June 13 (Wednesday) 7 pm
June 30 (Saturday) 7 pm

8 1/2

Directed by Federico Fellini
Italy 1963, 35mm, b/w, 135 min.
With Marcello Mastroianni, Claudia Cardinale, Anouk Aimée
Italian with English subtitles

Recipient of more than sixty international awards, 8 1/2 is one of the most lauded works in the history of cinema and one of the most celebrated creations about the inability to create. A famous movie director (Mastroianni), unable to find the inspiration to start his new film and harried by his wife, his mistress, and an assortment of industry hangers-on, retreats into personal recollections, dreams, and fantasies—replete with harems, spaceships, and a luminous actress (Cardinale). Described by Fellini as “something between a muddled visit to a psychiatrist and an examination of a disordered conscience with Limbo as the setting,” 8 1/2 is a brilliant portrait of the creative process and a powerful meditation on the relationship between the realms of fantasy and film.

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June 18 (Monday) 7 pm

The Clowns (I Clowns)

Directed by Federico Fellini
Italy/France/West Germany 1971, 35mm, color, 92 min.
With Anita Ekberg, Fanfellu, Federico Fellini
Italian with English subtitles

This feature-length pseudo-documentary about the dying art of the clown is itself a three-ring circus of spectacle, slapstick, and sensation. Fellini and a comically clumsy film crew investigate the art of the circus clown by observing and talking to current and former practitioners of the profession. Made for Italian television, The Clowns includes reconstructions of scenes from Fellini’s own childhood in Rimini, where the circus often came to town. “My films owe an enormous amount to the circus. For me the clowns were always a traumatic visual experience, ambassadors of a vocation of showmanship,” Fellini has stated. Here the great Italian ringmaster of the cinema affectionately returns to the root of his inspiration, absorbing it masterfully into his own personal vision.

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June 18 (Monday) 9 pm
June 21 (Thursday) 9:30 pm

Amarcord

Directed by Federico Fellini
France/Italy 1974, 35mm, color, 127 min.
With Pupella Maggio, Armando Brancia, Magali Noël
Italian with English subtitles

A series of impressionistic vignettes depicting Fellini’s seaside hometown of Rimini during the Fascist era, Amarcord centers on a family with a sex-obsessed teenage son, an irascible anti-fascist father, and an insane uncle. Employing a gentle mixture of dreamlike fantasy and bittersweet cynicism, Amarcord (“I remember” in the local dialect) breathlessly shifts between the melodramatic, the intimate, and the burlesque. One of Fellini’s most accessible and compelling films, the work is replete with unforgettable images—a peacock flying through the snow, a child on his way to school who encounters cows that the early-morning fog has transformed into monsters.

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June 21 (Thursday) 7 pm
June 27 (Wednesday) 9 pm

Fellini's Roma (Roma)

Directed by Federico Fellini
France/Italy 1972, 35mm, color, 119 min.
With Alfredo Admai, Sbarra Adami, Britta Barnes
Italian with English subtitles

“A story of a city” according to its director, Fellini’s Roma weaves together a series of images of the Eternal City, from the 1930s to the turbulent era of the 1970s. Avowedly autobiographical, the film follows Fellini as he attempts to make a documentary on Rome but recalls instead his arrival in the city in his early twenties amidst the seedy prewar music halls and brothels. Among the more memorable sequences in present day Rome is a gigantic traffic jam (mostly filmed inside Cinecittá Studios), the discovery of ancient Roman murals underground, an ecumenical fashion show, and the last screen appearance of Anna Magnani, caught unawares late at night.

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June 6 (Wednesday) 7 pm
June 12 (Tuesday) 7 pm

Casanova

Italy 1976, 35mm, color, 166 min.
With Donald Sutherland, Tina Aumont, Cicely Browne

Loosely based on episodes from the life of eighteenth-century Venetian author, scientist, and libertine Giacomo Casanova, the Fellini version portrays its protagonist as an enigmatic and lifeless man who fornicates with one woman after another until, ultimately, he couples with an automaton. Imbued with an air of funereal solemnity and elegance, the film forsakes realism in favor of a stylized romantic pessimism that confronts impotence, failure, sexuality, and exploitation as fully as Pasolini’s Salo. Enhanced by Danilo Donati’s Oscar-winning costume design, Nino Rota’s haunting score, and an extraordinary performance by Donald Sutherland, Casanova is a film of visual daring and pure imagination that renders an elegiac farewell to an era of Italian cinema.

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June 25 (Monday) 7 pm
June 28 (Thursday) 8:30 pm

City of Women (La Città delle Donne)

Directed by Federico Fellini
Italy 1980, 35mm, color, 139 min.
With Marcello Mastroianni, Anna Prucnal, Bernice Stegers
Italian with English subtitles

Snaporaz, a middle-aged businessman, takes a train through an unmistakably metaphoric tunnel and finds himself in a world completely dominated by women. Widely misinterpreted upon its release as Fellini’s statement on women and the feminist movement, it is rather a film about men’s ideas about women: their fears, fantasies, and projections. Marcello Mastroianni stars as the bruised, baffled, and bedazzled man who stumbles into a feminist convention, setting off a series of wild, surrealistic fantasies evoked with Fellini’s visual and emotional mastery.

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June 26 (Tuesday) 7 pm
June 29 (Friday) 9 pm

Ginger and Fred (Ginger e Fred)

Directed by Federico Fellini
Italy 1986, 35mm, color, 125 min.
With Giulietta Masina, Marcello Mastroianni, Friedrich von Thun
Italian with English subtitles

Fellini brought Giulietta Masina and Marcello Mastroianni together here for the first time in their careers in the roles of Amelia Bonetti and Pippo Botticela, two retired Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers imitators who are reunited after thirty years for a nostalgic TV variety show. Masina, serene without being coy, and Mastroianni, flabby and balding, are a delight as the past-their-prime partners who are able to relive their former glory for a few magical moments. Ginger and Fred reveals Fellini in a paradoxical mood: soured in the way he portrays television as an inimical purveyor of garbage and Rome as a putrescent dump; mellowed in the way he depicts his protagonists as finally capable of affection and fleeting tenderness in the crass world that surrounds them.

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June 27 (Wednesday) 7 pm
June 29 (Friday) 7 pm

Intervista

Directed by Federico Fellini
Italy 1987, 35mm, color, 105 min.
With Sergio Rubini, Marcello Mastroianni, Anita Ekberg
Italian with English subtitles

Intervista combines a film-within-a-film, the essay memoir, a playful recollection of previous works, and an eerie conflation of past and present in this surreal and imaginative distillation of a man’s life and work. As Fellini prepares to direct an adaptation of Kafka’s Amerika, his every move and gesture is captured by a Japanese documentary crew. Reminiscing about his first visit to the studio as a young reporter, Fellini takes the Japanese crew, and Marcello Mastroianni, on a nostalgic visit to Anita Ekberg’s house in the country. Conceived as a tribute to famed Cinecittá Studios on its fiftieth anniversary, this affectionate divertissement, lightly balancing illusion and reality and bubbling with magical stories from Fellini’s past, is the director’s valentine to the movies and the filmmaking process.

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