Amarcord (1973) (R)
You can't deny Fellini's talent...you just can't. What you can do is question the application of it. I've seen Fellini work in wondrous ways with movies like "La Dolce Vita"; but when it comes to the esteem and the amount of blind submission, I am different than the most. Fellini can't be good just because he's Fellini and here we come to "Amarcord" which must have something else beneath it than what I see.
Certainly a movie about the past, teenage delinquency, lost love, and Fascism—"Amarcord" is Fellini at his most adult. Contained within the minutes of "Amarcord" is the undying thought that the most acceptable pervert in society is the teenage boy. It's handled casually in movies like "My Left Foot"; but with "Amarcord", it really spells out the awkward rampant adolescence of the characters.
Educated in a strict school, they rebel in grotesque and slightly humorous ways like making a long tube that extends to the front of the room for one of the boys to urinate into, leaving a puddle of fluid at the front of the classroom and blaming another classmate for it. Wow, that's cheerful.
In fact, urine seems to be a large part of the story telling because later on a journey, we stop to see two character relieve themselves, only to have one simply wet himself...wow, that's cheerful, round two.
Yet all this doesn't compare to the sexual acts of the characters, who appear to be in the most severe grip of puberty at the movie's opening. They ogle the women, cat-call the girls, have fantasies about the ladies. They can't seem to walk down the street without making some sort of wolfish comment or action towards a girl. This would hold true to Fellini's previous works with the feminine persuasion. My thoughts go back to "8½" when the main character whips a harem of women into place.
Still, there's something almost laughable about how Fellini moves this group of boys. They mutually masturbate in a car and later think about how much they do this while confessing to a priest. The movie vaguely rings true of Sergio Leone's "Once Upon a Time in America".
Yet Fellini's talent shines through it all. The way characters address the camera is a joy to see. The movie seems to be about a small town in Italy. There is no real narrative here and no real moral conveyed, no matter what people say. If the movie is about Fascism why is the philosophy introduced like a character and then swept away later on?
Perhaps "Amarcord" is a coming of age story, the closest thing I can find it resembling. The main character, if there was one, is Titta (Bruno Zanin) who suffers from the worst of the adolescent cravings. He sidles up to the town's sex symbol during a movie and tries to lift her skirt up...he gets farther than we'd expect, but still comes away empty handed.
As the few years past and our various narrators tell us of the places and people, we begin to understand the frivolity of it all. "Amarcord" at its best, seems like a historical mockery and at its worst it looks like a completely unnecessary picture.
Of course, I am one of the few that feels like this, just read Roger Ebert's extolling review if you want another point of view. The film would go on to win the Oscar for Foreign Film; but to me, the town as a character isn't enough to make me care about anything.
I don't care how many breast,s prostitutes, peacocks, snowfalls, or shouting families you put into a movie in the end, it has to add up to something and "Amarcord" doesn't add up to anything at all.
Posted by Micah Jones