La Dolce Vita
Decadence, perhaps inevitably, dates itself: Fellini's much-censored 'La Dolce Vita' no longer shocks in its depiction of upper-class excess and listless living the way it did upon release in 1960, but it's a gorgeous artifact, nonetheless
Reviewed by Kimberley Jones, Fri., Dec. 31, 2004
LA DOLCE VITAKoch Lorber Films, $34.99
Decadence, perhaps inevitably, dates itself: Fellini's much-censored La Dolce Vita his eighth film and the one that shot the filmmaker and his star/alter ego, Marcello Mastroianni, to international fame no longer shocks in its depiction of upper-class excess and listless living the way it did upon release in 1960, but it's a gorgeous artifact, nonetheless. Fellini's sprawling (three-plus hours) masterwork charts seven crazy nights and bleaker dawns in the life of celebrity journo Marcello Rubini (Mastroianni, in a part that was originally intended for Paul Newman). Impotent and smirking, Marcello sleepwalks through showgirl nightclub acts, a devastating murder/suicide, and the film's final, debauched party. Film scholar Richard Schickel, in the audio commentary, relates the story of how Fellini realized he had no idea how to stage the orgy, having no personal experience with one; he then turned for advice to filmmaker friend Pier Paolo Pasolini he of the magnificently depraved Salò who admitted to having no experience with orgies, either. It's a funny, revealing anecdote; one wishes there were more like it from the stilted-sounding Schickel, who too often summarizes what's happening onscreen or falls into long stretches of silence. That's indicative of the overall remainder-bin feel of the DVD's extras. There's a stiff-backed intro from Alexander Payne, who somehow manages to keep a straight face while reading off cue-card bon mots like "the empty lives of moneyed people of our modern world, adrift without moral reference point in a sea of dissatisfaction and alienation." Worse yet are the second disc's offerings: recycled interviews (with poor sound quality) with an aged Mastroianni and his co-star Anita Ekberg (still the bombshell, her larger-than-life proportions now bizarrely swathed in a bath towel); unilluminating bits on the restoration; and an incongruous collection of "never-before-seen!" deleted scenes from Fellini's 1986 film Ginger and Fred. Slim pickings that do nothing to further the cause of the film, but no matter: La Dolce Vita and its iconic images the Christ statue swinging from a helicopter, the dead sea monster, Ekberg's oversexed stomp through the Trevi fountain are monument enough.
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