La Dolce Vita Reviews
The film tells the story of a tabloid photographer in Rome in the 50s who discovers that the high society world isn't all that it seems, that trying to find a balance betwween the relics of the past and the ever-growing ways of the modern world is complicated, and that it can be quite a challenge to discover who one really is amidst all of this. That's pretty much it. That's the plot in it's most simplified way.
It doesn't take long to really get all of this, but the film is just under three hours. I really don't think it needed to be. However,the film is wall to wall with style and cinematic craft. The film has a neat structure (it takes place over the course of about a weeks worth of days and nights, though not consecutively), and there's all kinds of religious imagery and symbolism-allowing the viewer to either just read into it like there's no tomorrow, or just take it at face value. Normally I'm cool with this sort of thing, but again, the movie is just about 3 hours...and kinda slow at times.
The film could have had far more substance, especially given the theme and premise, but the slice of life stuff it quite nice too. It just all happens to ramble far too often. Maybe I'm being too hard on this though. Maybe I should have been really exhauted and had my mind on other things when I sat down to watch it. Or maybe (and I'm probably in the minority here) Fellini was more full of crap than people might like to admit. I loved 8 1/2 , but I was in a different mood and mindset when I saw that.
I do love the music and cinematography though. There's some really gorgeous (and sometiems surreal) images, and some sequences are just fantastic, but it's all just kinda hard to endure in one setting. Ther performances aren't bad, but it seems like Fellini was more interested in just letting everything just run wild instead of having a far tighter hold on things. Maybe the issues Im haivng with this can be attributed to the fact that, as a bunch of critics and scholars have said, this was a transitional film for Fellini between his neo-realistic stuff, and his whimsical art film. It has elements of both, and they are done well, but maybe they just don't blend all that wonderfully.
I'm rambling, much lke the movie. I didn't hate it, but I found it very hard to endure. Is it a really good movie? Yeah. Is it really all that influential? Sure. Does it deserve all the accolades and respect it gets? To an extent. You should see this, just to say you finally saw it, because it is worth it. As a cohesive masterpiece though, I didn't find it to be that exactly. 4 stars for the film overall, and an extra half star just for the style and technique.
I dreaded seeing this film because I found most of Fellini's other work to be vapid and unimpressive, but La Dolce Vita was not that bad. It's not remarkably inaccessible like 8 1/2 or banal like Amaracord, but because it's a Fellini film, I can't be sure if what I got out of the film is similar to what the consensus view is. Here it goes regardless: I see this film as an exploration of hedonism. Marcello's relationship with Emma is grounded but ultimately not fulfilling and in some ways quite destructive; after all, she's introduced in a suicide scene. Marcello's relationships with his the starlets he covers is best summed up in a description of Sylvia: she's a hot mess, flighty, alluring in her unattainable nature - the very nature that makes him want to attain her all the more; she's unpredictable, vital, and very much alive. Yet as Marcello tries to enter this world and be worthy of her and people like her and live "the sweet life," so to speak, he descends into confusing pleasure for happiness and popularity for importance.
Of course, it's Fellini, so I could be way off base.
I can't say that I truly enjoyed the film, but because I was able to tease out a theme (the one I just articulated), it intellectually engaged me. The performances are all good, nothing too extraordinary.
Overall, this is the best Fellini film I've seen so far, but that's not saying much.
The script is wonderful, and the story develops itself almost spontaneously. The eccentricities of the characters are fascinating, as is the broken domestic life of Marcello and his girlfriend. Every scene is a cinematic masterpiece of sheer beauty. Also present is Fellini's conception of the Italian masses, from the most rich to the most humble. I really like the scene in which the children allegedly see the Virgin Mary, because the mediatic paraphernalia that these people build around such an event is the exact same as that which they surround the starlets and the aristocracy with, every Roman night. It shows that there is a shallow side to everything in such a rotten society, even to religion. Also that every walk of life has its opium ;)
Some people see this as a pessimistic movie... some people say it both celebrates and mocks the lifestyles of the rich and the famous. I personally don't see the celebration, I see the mockery, and in the end I see some optimism. I think there's some hope for Marcello, if he will just gather the strength to go on.
This is really impossible to miss. Maybe I still think 8 1/2 is more my type of movie because it's non-linear, surrealistic, grandieuse. This is Fellini when he was still all about intelligent observation and remarkable character creation, and not as much about image and absurdity -which I love and others hate. If Satyricon and Otto e Mezzo are the reasons you hate Fellini, maybe this is the reason to love him :). And Marcello Mastroianni is in it, that never hurts.
As a unifying device. Fellini used a newspaper gossip columnist who either observed or participated in the various events, from staging of a "miracle," in which two children fasely claimed they saw a vision of the Madonna, to an orgy in an ancient castle peopled with prostitutes, transvestites, decadent aristocrats and other sordid types.
The gifted Marcello Mastroianni portrayed the columnist -- a man who did not feel deeply, had guilt feelings because he could not, and finally realized he had become immune to emotion.
Whatever one's reservations about the philosophical profundity or lack thereof in the film, there was no denying the technical skill with which it was made. Fellini's images were rich and brilliant and edited so fluidly and diveresely that they fairly swirled across the screen, as well as Nino Rota's score, which has become a classic in its own right.