La Dolce Vita (1960)















I don't understand Fellini's "La Dolce Vita". I don't think that anyone has seen the movie and come away with a definitive answer. Yes, it's about family, love, marriage, sexual politics, friends, death, highs, lows...and in its most naked form: life itself—but can anyone say that "La Dolce Vita" is exclusively about life? Perhaps, like one of the characters says in the film, "La Dolce Vita" is a commentary about the upper class. Maybe the rich dance along in life with little to no care about how their actions influence others. Maybe it's about that...maybe.
At the movie's opening, it would seem that Marcello has the best job imaginable. He's a gossip columnist who gets to travel the world, meet beautiful people, occasionally have affairs with these people, return home and flit the day away in "high society", whatever that may be.
The movie's opening shot centers on a statue of Jesus being flown to the pope via helicopter. Another helicopter follows, taking photographs; but these journalists pause for a moment to try to have a communication over the roar of the machine with some girls who are sunbathing on top of a roof...it doesn't work out well.
The next scene, which is abruptly cut to in an episodic way that carries throughout the entire film, takes place in a restaurant where Marcello is about to bust a minor celebrity cheating on their spouse. The scene is very distracting, introducing so many new characters with no care nor understanding for the viewer. Marcello seems to get around, he picks up a friend and they set out to make a night of it.
This friend, a lady named Maddalena who is bruised on her face, hiding behind sun glasses even in the apex of the night, and Marcello pick up random strangers for kicks and giggles. They take a woman home and then get served coffee in her flooded apartment. Walking on boards to keep their feet from getting wet, they make themselves at home in the lady's bedroom and make love on her bed while she sits outside, not embarrassed at all, simply waiting for them to finish.
Traversing outside, they pay the woman a little for her troubles and descend back into the city where the troubles of their everyday lives great them. Marcello gets met by his girlfriend, who is right in the middle of trying to commit suicide. An emotional roller coaster, it's never really spelled out why Marcello and Emma stay together.
Surreal to a point of being deadly fascinating, "La Dolce Vita" most of the times feels like a well-done soap opera, punctuated by great performances, emotional meltdowns, and casual affairs.
Marcello is struggling with his life, he is torn between lovers—journalism and literature, Maddalena and Emma, etc. etc. He plods from day to day in a dream-scape world, in this daze he meets a famous actress who shows him how to live a little more.
Each person that he comes into contact with over the course of the movie, imparts some wisdom to him and he throws it out the window...metaphorically.
Struggling as morbid circumstances surround him, it's obvious that Marcello is keep on trying something new...but he's too scared to do so.
"La Dolce Vita" is a movie that demands to be thought about while you're viewing it. To not analyze the film would be to let the images wash over you, understanding nothing. What is "La Dolce Vita" about? I really can't say. I have my broad theories that have been stated—it's about life, it's a commentary—but that really doesn't to Fellini's picture justice. There's a mythical odyssey-like quality to the film; but also a vagrant uncaring that sinks deep within the film.
Like the ending scene, in which a beach party come to a huge monster from the sea and Marcello sees a woman from his past. She yells to him from across a span, but he can't hear her over the chatter and the waves.
He shrugs his shoulders and then walks away. You see her face. Cut to black.
Throughout all the confusion and the oddity—what is happening? There is a deeper meaning to this; and I can't begin to scrape the surface.
But I will say this: "La Dolce Vita" is a staggering achievement, entertaining throughout, and deeply emotional. It's the kind of movie that creeps under your skin.










Score: ★★★★

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