La Dolce Vita

I thought I’d balance my post about Beowulf by mentioning Fellini’s La Dolce Vita that I also saw recently. This film I absolutely loved!

It’s the story of a journalist (played by Marcello Mastroianni) who’s unhappy with his life, in part because he really wants to be a writer and not a journalist and especially not the kind of journalist that he is. (The film is believed to be the origin of the term ‘papparazzi’.) He has a (rightly) jealous fiancée, mad crushes on film stars and a bored, rich mistress. Over the three hours of the film, we watch him gradually succumb to the shallowness of his existence until he’s basically lost everything, including his own self respect.

As is probably obvious, it’s not a terribly happy film. There are some absolutely hilarious scenes however. Two in particular, I loved as demonstrating how much easier his life would be without the women in it. Firstly, when the dumb, blonde Swedish actress (wonderfully played by Anita Ekberg) that he’s accompanying insists that he go find some milk for a stray kitten that she’s picked up, in the early hours of the morning. His reactions all through this sequence are just fantastic.

My other favourite was a scene between him and his fiancée (Yvonne Furneaux). It opens with the two of them in a car at night in the middle of nowhere arguing. It goes through some wonderful cycles with her getting out of the car and refusing to get back in; her getting into the car and refusing to get back out; while all the time he’s yelling at her to do whatever is the opposite of what she’s currently saying she’s going to do. The climax comes when he gives up and drives off, leaving her in the middle of the road. The next scene is a very short, simple one showing the same scene, only now it’s daylight. His fiancée is still standing in the middle of the road; he drives up and without either of them saying anything, she gets in and they drive off. Absolute genius.

One of the only problems I had with the film was the subtitling. It’s a real shame that when they restored the film, they didn’t get the subtitles re-done as well. Not only do they not manage to translate large portions of what is said (reminiscent of the photo-shoot scene with Bill Murray in Lost in Translation) but much of it isn’t even in correct English, i.e. parts of words are transposed. At times, this really distracted me.

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