Federico Fellini (1920 – 1993) holds a very special place in my heart. The first foreign film I ever watched was Roberto Benigni’s 1997 masterpiece Life is Beautiful, and I was moved beyond expression. And though that film wasn’t directed by Fellini, it was the spark that launched me on a journey into the belly of Italian cinema, which ultimately led me to its ringmaster.
When I first watched Fellini’s 8½, I remember not liking it very much. I was, however, quite inebriated at the time, so I’m sure that had inhibited my enjoyment somewhat. But when I woke up, I did so with a dreamy sensation and strange black and white visions. I attributed this to the movie, so I watched it again, sober and sensible, and I was enthralled by the story, the dialog, and the masterfully crafted cinematography. In short, I was hooked.
So in honor of the Italian auteur’s birthday, I’ve compiled a Top 8½ Fellini Films list. I recommend that every film enthusiast (and most especially if you’re also a filmmaker!) should see each of them at least once. And here they are, in reverse order:
8. Orchestra Rehearsal (1978) This doc-style movie made me see instruments and their players in a whole new light.
7. Il Bidone (1955) A wonderful little swindle film with one downer of an ending.
6. Fellini Satyricon (1969) A visionary (and oftentimes disturbing) take on Petronius’s ancient Roman satire. Occasionally I’ll show an excerpt or two from the film in my Civilizations courses. My students are never quite the same afterward.
5. I Vitelloni (1953) A fun film with a hopeful, somewhat happy ending. Somewhat. I’d watch it again.
4. Nights of Cabiria (1957) A touching tale of a prostitute (played by Fellini’s wife Giulietta Masina) searching in circles for happiness, but finding only heartache at every turn.
3. The White Sheik (1952) One of Fellini’s funnier films, but still a poignant tale.
2. La Strada (1954) It’s Beauty and the Beast (sort of) and this masterpiece has the most heart wrenching ending I have ever seen.
1. 8½ (1963) Of course, this insurmountable piece of surrealistic cinema about a director who hasn’t anything left to say speaks volumes to most aspiring directors who long to say something with their own voices and visions.
½. City of Women (1980) Early on I realized I’m not a big fan of Fellini’s color films. However, City of Women is a pretty wacky film, though the first half is a bit slow moving, but it picks up visually by the second half. Hence, it takes the ½ spot in the list.
What Fellini film do YOU recommend and why? Leave your comments below!