Saturday, August 4, 2012
Masterpieces Classics: La Dolce Vita (1960)
When I think of Fellini's La Dolce Vita, I think of the Trevi Fountain sequence. It may be the highlight of the film, but is it the film? No. It is a small part, and that's all.
La Dolce Vita, or in English, The Sweet Life, is actually quite bitter. The film, known for its divided sequences, is episodic. Unlike life, it has the boring parts cut, instead, remain memories. All of them, bitter, but they are memories, none the less, and they are the important ones that truly define Marcello.
The first episode is of Jesus. Not the man, the statue, being carried by helicopter. In the helicopter is Marcello (played by Marcello Mastroianni), a journalist that brings the ladies to the bedroom one night, but not the next. Think of him as the fisherman who drops the big fish.
In this first episode, Marcello unsuccessfully tries to get phone numbers from 3 sunbathers. None give in. Sweet life? More so bitter.
In the second sequence, Marcello tries to bring the famous Maddalena (Anouk Aimée) to the bedroom. He fails.
The third sequence is probably the most famous. Yes, the Trevi Fountain. Marcello tries to get it on wīth the gorgeous American actress named Sylvia (famously played by Anita Ekberg). They feel moments of tenderness, helping a cat, and in the fountain. At dawn, Sylvia's husband is angered at his wife for her decisions. Another bitter end for Marcello... Or is it?
So you may think that the whole film is about the journalist Marcello, trying to find love in Rome. That is not true. He is married to his suicidal wife, and they already have kids. Why is he putting himself in such affairs? Think of it like a European Don Draper.
The next episodes are about Marcello on the job, looking for the supposed 'Virgin Mary', as described by two kids, a suicidal friend who lets go, and a failed orgy. By the end of the film, Marcello is older and grayer. What is he looking for? Love?
The ending. Marcello is on a beach. A sea monster is discovered. It's horribly disfigured, and dying. In the distance, Marcello sees a woman waving to him. Instead of chasing her, he simply shrugs.
He is older, and sweeter. His past encounters, bitter, have prepared him for a sweet life.
La Dolce Vita.
The Sweet Life.
Sean Wu is a self-proclaimed junior film critic. He currently is co-head of 9301 Productions.