One hundred years of Fellini, the tamer of the movie circus

Faced with oblivion, it is difficult to know what remains of the "Fellini myth" one hundred years after its birth: Rimini, January 20, 1920. In the history of cinema, he figures as one of the great creators of author cinema, perhaps the most radical and disconcerting, with permission from the quirky Godard. Both, for those things of fortune -and criticism-, exchanged their names in the adjectives gentilicios «Godardiano» and «felliniano», which they call their personal world. The first for his intellectualized laziness and the second for his gallery of unusual and bizarre friquis characters.

They have not been the only ones to deserve the right adjectival for their singular imaginary. Also Kafka and his absurd world «Kafkiano», and, in Spain, the «Berlanguiano» Berlanga, indicative of the choral delirium with a crazy background of sainete and horrifying fallero. One of the first who deserved in life to be considered a personal creator with a poetic universe of his own, thanks to the «politics of the authors» of the magazine «Cahiers du Cinéma», was Federico Fellini. The components of the Nouvelle Vague contrasted his theory of the filmmaker as an author of the industrial chain cinema of Hollywood studios.

Since then the director is the star. His poetry is transferred to his cinema through an aesthetic and moral vision that permeates everything. Roberto Rossellini ascended to the altars of Art as the great master of neorealism, but no one brought to the extremes of personal delirium the theory of the author as Federico Fellini. With him begins the hypertrophy of the «author cinema» as a self-realization of the director, which reaches Almodóvar and his «Pain and glory» (2019), a little «almodovarian» version of «Fellini 8½» (1963), after passing through the director Bob Fosse, who adapted it to the cinema in the musical version "All That Jazz / Start the show" (1973), without crediting it.

Garden of freaks

Numerous directors have confessed the influence of this seminal film. From Woody Allen with "Stardust Memories" (1980) to Truffaut with "American Night" (1973); until integrating it felliniano like style trait in "The great beauty" (2013), of Paolo Sorrentino, where the unusual beauty of Rome is mixed with its monstrous of Romans, that border with the "freaks" of the circus that Fellini loved so much. It was also Bob Fosse who first directed on Broadway "Sweet Charity" (1966), musical version of "The Nights of Cabiria" (1957) by Federico Fellini, and took it to the cinema in "City Nights" (1969), with Shirley MacLaine in the role that made Giulietta Masina famous.

Pier Paolo Pasolini, who adjusted the dialogues to the Roman dialect of Cabiria, paid tribute to Fellini in "Mamma Roma" (1962). Anna Magnani is the other side of Cabiria: aggressive, torn, blissful and tongueless, but honest and detached like Cabiria.

The influence in the cinema of Berlanga is evident in "Thursdays, miracle" (1957), directly extracted from the pilgrimage sequence to the Madonna of Divine Love to beg for a miracle and in Bardem, "Calle Mayor" (1956) baby from "The Useless" (1953). Like Miguel Miura's play "Maribel and the strange family" (1960), in which an honest and naive single is unable to distinguish a peripatetic from a modern girl.

Although in its beginnings Fellini found in Neorealism its source of inspiration, with its touch of social and critical denunciation of the miserable world that the Italians lived after the IIGM, however, the “constants” that Federico Fellini points out reflect his manias and tastes for women of overflowing forms and unusual situations in a magical world.

He went on, in a decade, from the Neorealist melodrama, saturated with a poignant miserabilist poetic, to an excessive hyper-reality, in line with the answering world that was imposed with the hippie counterculture and May 68. Facing the chaotic world of the red brigades and the Terrorism of the lead years, Fellini reacts by exacerbating its bizarre mythology and moving away from reality. If the counterculture exalted the film "Freaks" (1932) as a metaphor for the hippie interior monstrosity, Fellini exacerbates his narcissism with a gallery of friquis that extravagantly reflected the author's outside world.

"La dolce vita" (1960) is a summary of her personal world dispersed in her previous films, as the industrial boom progresses. Rome is seen as an octopus that advances in the suburbs in a threatening way. A scenario in which humanist and Catholic criticism of guilt, redemption and love of life has disappeared.

In the 60s, his world dresses in mundane luxuries and is populated by voluptuous women, such as Anita Ekberg, prototype of breast exuberance, frivolity and nocturnal debauchery in an empty world, full of neurotics and depressants. The diva bathing in the Trevi Fountain - «Marcello, come here!» - is the top scene of her cinema. With the subsequent slap to the Gilda, Fellini pays tribute to Hollywood cinema.

The director-artist

From then on, Fellini is torn between biographical and chronic subjectivity, and will take as his artistic object his own fantasized life experience. The circus will be the environment and the fair monsters the collective protagonists of the felliniano circus. The structure of the trip gives way to the fragmentation of the postmodern story, in which the hierarchies are subject to the whim of the creator, such as Joyce's "Ulysses."

With Fellini the fantasy of the demiurge is born in the cinema that creates his own world. «Fellini 8½» is the movie about this new modern hero. A "ridiculous hero" who, according to Lacan, "lives in a continuous situation of loss": the director-artist, responsible for its creation. Out of focus, there is a large team that works to make that director-artist "create" his masterpieces.

The felliniano already appears in "The strada", where the monster without conscience Zampanó and the pure and innocent Gelsomina coexist. And enveloping them, the world of the circus with its dwarfs, saltimbanks and friquis, who will invade their cinema at the same time that Fellini leaves the social conscience, the political denunciation of inequalities and injustices and adapts his neo-realistic melodrams to a narcissistic exhibition of himself , as who makes his life fabulous the greatest spectacle of cinema. In «Fellini 8½» the protagonist is directly Fellini, turned into a circus tamer, restoring the whip with which he directs his actors, mere figures of his overflowing imagination. This distorted reality that the public will recognize as the felliniano oozes a baroque taste for the ornamental and decorative, the cartoon, the dreamlike fantasy and the self-referentiality.

In "Amarcord" (1973), an imaginative autobiography of his youthful memories, Fellini presents as fantastic beings the same characters that were only poetic everyday beings at the beginning. Now the tobacconist is a voluptuous woman with huge breasts that satisfy the young man who was Fellini and the Gradisca the mockery of childlike reverie. The gallery of exotic characters are repeated, as in "Fellini Satyricon" (1969) and "And the ship goes" (1983), of a dislocated mannerism, extracted from the expressionism of Otto Dix and George Grosz.

Gradually the screen is filled with strange characters, now projected on the screen of their subjective reality with irony and even cruelty: artists and celebrities, paparazzi, street and luxury prostitutes, decadent aristocrats, bulky and unpleasant women, a portrait hyperreal of a grotesque Mediterranean baroque. This is what felliniano consolidates, where "everything and nothing is autobiographical."

From Chaplin to Fellini

If in "La strada" the performance of Giuletta Masina (in the picture) is "chaplinesca", in "The nights of Cabiria" the chaplinesco passes to fellinesco. As a general essay on "La dolce vita," the sluts from the outskirts compete with the luxury haughty haughty of Vía Veneto. The felliniano appears with that rich guy who eats spaghetti in the nightclub bar, surrounded by profiles of disturbing women. Or the movie star that uses Cabiria as an incentive for sex, repeated in the scene of Anouk Aimée and Marcello Mastroianni at the house of the guy in "La dolce vita." The music of Nino Rota is an essential part of the success of the felliniano.

Inventor of himself

Fellini made movies of his life. He was his main argument. As important as his films was his personal promotion. He was a narcissist who made himself a popular show. He invented the paparazzi, "la dolce Vita" and the Via Veneto. He invented himself as a director-artist with a personal world, full of quirky beings, tailored to the author's baroque phantasmagoria. The felliniano is a style trait that defines all the star directors.


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