Written by Rodney Welch Thursday, 30 June 2011 15:37
After years of making great slice-of-life films of Italian life, Federico Fellini in 1960 turned his attention to Italy itself—Italy and, by extension, life in the modern world. The result was La Dolce Vita, a three-hour epic about a philandering tabloid journalist, Marcello (Marcello Mastroianni), who is torn between settling down with the one woman who truly loves him, the needy, fiery Emma (Yvonne Furneaux) and the many women he attracts. Marcello is torn in other ways as well, as he dreams of being a real writer but is a little too intoxicated by "the sweet life"—the great Italian nightlife of cafes, cabarets, beautiful homes, whores, long drives, and impulsive romantic escapades.
Marcello's story, his rise and eventual fall, is the framework for a bigger story, an examination of a society where sensation has taken over, where values (whatever they once were) no longer matter, and where the fake has long since supplanted the real. From beginning to end, the world of La Dolce Vita is filled with masks and fakery, in ways both obvious and not. It begins with one of the signature shots of 1960s cinema: in which a statue of Christ, dangling from a helicopter, wafts through the air in transport to the Vatican—a suggestion, perhaps, that this is as close to a Second Coming as this society is going to receive, that religion is either as much of a sham as everything else, or in any event that it no longer connects with the lives of people.
What does connect? What is it that has meaning, value, purpose? The question lingers in the background as Fellini takes us from one crazy event to the next. There's Maddalena (Anouk Aimee), Marcello's lover, whose life is full of as many random encounters as his, whose idea of spicing up her sex life is to pick up a hooker and then seduce Marcello on the bed in the woman's flooded apartment. There's Sylvia, the busty American actress (Anita Ekberg) who is all body and no brain—a child in a woman's body—as vapid as she is sexy. There's Emma, the soul of the film, the fiercely passionate lover who wants only a home and family, which is just the kind of environment that for Marcello offers nothing but sterility. And, most painfully of all, there is Steiner (Alain Cuny), Marcello's idol, the man he wants to be, and a man so burned-out on life he would rather be anyone else.
Widely controversial in its own day—for reasons that seem rather quaint to us 50 years later—and hugely influential, La Dolce Vita became one of the key movies of its day to examine the jet set; lots of movies have since penetrated the not-so-secret world of the rich and famous, but it was one of the first and it remains the best. Also, it's a work that is steeped in ambition, as Fellini erects one ambitious sequence after the next, creating scenes (particularly the orgy at the end) that would define him forever.
A brilliant reflection of Italy in a certain era, it is also a work that ages well, not only in the way it addresses the search for values, but also the search for love. It's a movie about mostly superficial people, but it is itself anything but superficial.
Nominated for four Academy Awards and winner of the Palme d'Or (Golden Palm) at the 1960 Cannes Film Festival, it was voted the 6th Greatest film of all time by Entertainment Weekly, ranked #11 in Empire magazine's "The 100 Best Films Of World Cinema", and continues to show regularly on lists of great films.
Available for free streaming at Netflix or for purchase at Amazon.
Wednesday, 01 June 2011 00:00
You may know Marcia Clark as the lead prosecutor in the O. J. Simpson trial. But if that’s all you know about her, you have some catching up to do. Clark has launched a new career as a novelist with Guilt by Association, a legal thriller featuring District Attorney Rachel Knight.
As if prosecuting crime as part of LA's Special Trials Unit weren’t enough, Knight finds herself ensnared in the circumstances surrounding a colleague’s death. According to a Publishers Weekly starred review, “Readers will want to see a lot more of Knight, who combines strength of character and compassion with all-too-human foibles.” Reviewers praise Clark’s humor, fast-paced plotting, and of course, her authenticity. You can read an excerpt from the novel here.
Clark will be visiting BookBalloon on June 22 to chat about Guilt by Association and answer questions from readers. Don’t miss this chance to get in on one of the most exciting debuts of the year.
Forum participation requires registration, which is free.
Tuesday, 26 April 2011 00:00
The Movie Club has scheduled The Death of Mr Lazarescu for its June discussion.
Variety was right when it called this film "unexpectedly mesmerising."... The Death of Mr Lazarescu grips like an Arthur Miller play.... Four months after having seen this film, I wonder why it still moves me so much. -- Mark Cousins
- Cannes: Un Certain Regard Award
- Chicago International Film Festival: Special Jury Prize
- Copenhagen International Film Festival: Jury Special Prize
Friday, 21 January 2011 17:31
Here at BookBalloon, we're following along with the Library of America's Story of the Week project: "Every Monday The Library of America will feature a free Story of the Week. It could be anything: a short work of fiction, a character sketch, an essay, a journalist’s dispatch, a poem. What is certain is that it will be memorable, because every story is from one of the hundreds of classic books of American literature published by The Library of America."
Join us in the Reading Club as we discuss these classics. Forum registration is free.
Thursday, 20 January 2011 23:01
We highly recommend:
1. Kings of the Earth - Jon Clinch
2. Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet - David Mitchell
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks - Rebecca Skloot
3. Next - James Hynes
4. Freedom - Jonathan Franzen
5. The Lonely Polygamist - Brady Udall
Wolf Hall - Hilary Mantel
6. Nashville Chrome - Rick Bass
Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter - Tom Franklin
Faithful Place - Tana French
Major Pettigrew's Last Stand - Helen Simonson
7. Cassandra at the Wedding - Dorothy Baker
8. At Mrs. Lippincote's - Elizabeth Taylor
Composed: A Memoir - Rosanne Cash
Gold Boy, Emerald Girl - Yiyun Lee
I Shall Wear Midnight - Terry Pratchett
Kraken - China Mieville
The Lacuna - Barbara Kingsolver
The Nobodies Album - Carolyn Parkhurst
The Passage - Justin Cronin
So Much for That - Lionel Shriver
Stitches - David Small
The Surrendered - Chang-Rae Lee
A Visit from the Goon Squad - Jennifer Egan
9. Before They are Hanged - Joe Abercrombie
The Cookbook Collector - Allegra Goodman
The Hand That First Held Mine - Maggie O'Farrell
The Last Argument of Kings - Joe Abercrombie
Lord of Misrule - Jamie Gordon
The Moonflower Vine - Jetta Carleton
The Slap - Christos Tsiolkas
Congratulations to all of our winners! May 2011 be as great a reading year or even better!
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