Wednesday, June 08, 2022

La dolce vita

From Their Mouths to Christ's Ears

La dolce vita [The Sweet Life, 1960] by Federico Fellini became one of the most celebrated films in all of cinema. Why should that have been? Leave it to il boom!, the Sixties moniker that recalls the economic upswing in the years following the Second World War. If you watch Fellini and this movie in particular, it's apparent that parties and bacchanal were the primary outlet of nightlife self-entertainment. Meaning more, one could find themselves on the dancefloor or at a neighboring table to take in the paganistic brouhaha and lumpily reside as a spectator with polite claps as a Thai clown shakes his palms in anxious excess. This was il boom: here 2 hours and 56 minutes is the time over which Fellini lets fully loose, with greater films still to come. Why did Fellini make this one in particular? Out of celebration for the new way? I'd propose he made it out of partial disgust, via that ability that can find beauty and trash at once and reconcile it...

The word is "kitsch." There's nothing in life quite like that Dylan lyric that perceives "flesh-colored Christs that glow in the dark." La dolce vita opens with the flesh-silver body of Christ flying over the city of Rome, dangled from a helicopter to bring the Word to... the silverfish bodies of rooftop tanners? — no, it's going to il Papa. Fellini equates the flying Christ of Catholicism to paganism, a reverse invasion, or inversion if you will, — an invasion upon the (film) world itself, where down is the new up. Just check out the apartment buildings being erected, non-descript, like "la région parisienne" in Godard's 2 or 3 Things I Know About Her or the relocation of Fontaínhas's denizens to the white-dry-walled projects of Costa's Colossal Youth. The disembodied dubbed voices of Italian cinema of the era only underscore the disconnect between what is seen and what is heard, a "hearing" that exemplifies the gap between the reality 'on the ground, all around' and that which is projected in the bacchanalian enclaves of Roman nightlife, or rather Marcello (Marcello Mastroianni) being both 'in' and 'out' of the subjects of his paganic 'journalism,' capturing in words — accompanied by Paparazzo's (Walter Santesso's) on-the-fly images — the photo-roman (cf. The White Sheik) that will enchant the outskirts' readership.

Sylvia (Anita Ekberg) is so distracted, both in and out. The Trevi Fountain does shut off after a while. Nico and company haunt the haunted chateau. Can't it be said that La dolce vita launched the 1960s?


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