City of Women (La città delle donne) Reviews
First, the women as stated in the title. Lots and lots of women. Beautiful women, ugly women, strange women, dangerous women, young women, chidlish women, strong women, old women, dumb women, smart women, dead women, living women, mothers, children, sisters, the familiar face of that idealized girl you may have seen in your dreams or not....In any case, there are lots and lots of women in this film. Men beware, for Fellini has his eyes on you.
The plot is rather simple: Marcello Mastroianni follows a buxom woman off a train and foolishly gives into his childish and male weakness for sex. He unwittingly finds himself in a series of increasingly nightmarish and surreal encounters with different types of fantasies and fears associated with the female. fellini once described the film as a "Womanizer's nightmare." the description is apt as it is all from Snaporaz's (as he called....or dare I say Fellini?) point of view. It is both a dream, a literal trip down the rabbit hole, perhaps even a female dreamworld where the delrious fantasies of man go hand in hand with the dangerous threats to male dominance over woman.
Repeatedly throughout the film Snaporaz's attempts to fullfill his dreams are snatched away from him by his nightmare view of woman at what he perceives to be their worst: feminists, apathetic teenagers, old woman who want to rape him, militants; in direct contrast, he imagines several apparitions of an ideal woman. She appears in all shapes and sizes as a mother, a nurse, a starlet on the silver screen, and finally, as a prostitute with the world's biggest butt. Most of it is shown with visual flair and with a tongue planted firmly in the cheek; to take it literally would be foolish. It is a mirror aimed at males and, to a greater extent, woman who allow themselves to be coveted and objectified. But that's besides the point; the film serves as a sort of 'apology' to all the woman in Fellini's life, most of all his wife, Giulietta Masina. However exaggerated the attacks on Snaporaz are, they have a certain edge to them that cannot be denied; they hold weight because they're true. however extreme the male's stereotypes of woman become, the statements against man are undoubtedly accurate and, unfortunately, outlast timely relevance and enter the realm of eternity.
That is not to say there are only female visions portrayed in the film. Like I said, it is a major criticism lobbed towards the male viewers in the audience. If anything, the females watching this might find more humor than any man might in the constant rape scenes, castration imagery and most of all and most unsettingly, in the character of Dr. Cazone, or as it's translated, Doctor Xavier ZUBERCOCK. He rescues Snaporaz from the androgynous nympho girls when he unwittingly stumbles into the doctor's garden. The old man lives in a giant Greco-Roman style castle with phallic imagery so over the top as to be utterly hysterical.
He is a clown, so overconfident in his sexuality and dominance over woman (especially in a scene involving sex-zen....you fill in the blanks) that he is impossible to take seriously. His aria to his greatness and voluntary 'giving' up of woman is equally prespoterous and shows Fellini's clear disgust with his kind. Dr. Zubercock celebrated his ten thousandth woman with a birthday type celebration, he 'captures' what he thinks is the essence of woman in a mausoleoum of orgasms, where all the conquered woman in his life have their sounds of sex recorded for posterity and possibly later pleasure. He's also a dirty old man though this implied, as one of the pictures in the gallery of orgasms appears to be little fat girl. A warning for men? No, more like an accusatory finger pointed at them. Fellini is especially hard on intellectualls, that is, the constant freudian symbolism and archetypes of woman portrayed as literal apparitions, is the fault of men who wish to categorize female stereotypes as a means of control through psychology and intellectual prowness on the male's part. This is of course ridiculous and Fellini swiftly topples man's tower down.
Despite the film's scathing criticims towards men in general (has there ever been a film that dealt explicitly with men and women?), that is not to say it is great fun to watch. From the moment Snaporaz steps off the train to his downfall from the giant woman in the sky, the film's dream narrative never ends and gains momentum until it reaches the climactic circus, a common motif for Fellini.
Special notice must be given to Marcello Mastroianni, who's befuddled and hapless Snaporaz works brilliantly in the face of his own paradoxes and impossibility of ever truly satisfying women. However much Fellini may exercise his control over the acting of EVERYONE (which is true, as he would often and deliberately work with no sound recording equipment so he could free up the camera as well as his shouting into the mic at actors, telling them what to do.) Marcello's personality seems to be directly connected to Fellini's sensibilities. That's not to say the other actors in Fellini's films are not as connected but that's a different story.
What makes the New Yorker's DVD release a shame is that it is a horrendous transfer. It is relentelssly dull and too washed out. But the legendary Giuseppe Rotunno's photography still shines through. I can only wonder what it would look like if it had a proper restoration...then the film's clearly dreamlike, vibrant and atmospheric look would pop out. And the amazing Dante Ferretti makes the sets and production; gloriously theatrical and encompassing, the world he has created for Fellini is every bit as compelling as the people who inhaibt it, which is to say that every character is wacky and cartoonish, includgin Snaporaz. Giant windows with plam trees throwing themselves onto the glass, a hotel where banners of cracked eggs and pictures of beautiful women being married, a courtroom with hundreds of portraits of womanizers (including Fellini's own Casanova! played by Donald Sutherland. He can be seen quite clearly...) a circus where a band plays on a wild box car past dancing young girls, and, most spectaculary, the world's largest slide. Snaporaz finds a hole under his bed and discovers it to be a portal into a long, tongue like slide that floats in the air by rollercoaster like supports. Everything is lit up by what looks like thousand so lightbulbs and three old clowns sing a musical number to Snaporaz as he sails the way down, seeing all the woman of his childhood and life. It is a beautiful and brilliant moment that encapsulates the entire movie...
But the ending retains Fellini's old sense of melancholy and spectacle, as Snaporaz floats away with his 'ideal' woman only to be shot down and awake back on the train, ala Wizard of Oz and Alice in Wonderland, except....does the dream/nightmare end? Has Snaporaz come to grips with his fallibities as man? Will he be able to accept his fantasies without guilt or is he simply resigned to the fact that he can never understand women?
What is clear is this: Women don't need men. And that, Fellini says, is the greatest fear.
Made me dowload "The Visitors" with Gino Soccio, though it's disco
But It's strange disco, just like the movie