Posts Tagged ‘neorealism’

I Vitelloni or the young bulls is the third cinematic essay of Federico Fellini and it was a mature work as far as it reconstructed the trends of neorealism in his own personal idiom. At a time when critics tended to look at films dealing with postwar Italy from a Marxian point of view he was neither conservative nor reactionary. He was far too individualistic to look at social reality with labels. His mature films showed his heart was fully engaged in the creative process whether it dealt with social issues or his interior life. Here I am concerned with pre-felliniesque films.  I dare to think his training as a wandering caricaturist helped him to be objective and go to the essence leaving the claptrap of ideology to pamphlets. He learned what he required more from Chaplin than Rosselini. The social conscience of Chaplin was clothed in melodrama while his characters showed his own. It is pertinent to remember that his films in the early period are more autobiographical than derived from books of others. Between I vitelloni of 1953 and Amarcord of 1973 we can see certain characterisitics that show Fellini at his best. The first is a group caricature of four layabouts in a stifling beach town. It could well be Rimini from where Fellini escaped for Rome in the Thirties. In that sleepy provincial town the social stagnation that enervate I vitelloni has to do much with the economic distress of the post war Italy. Whereas Amarcord traces the rise of fascism in the way of behavior of a few of the town’s inhabitants. Unlike Chaplin who created the Tramp more as a peg to place his genius, Fellini was more in the tradition of a storyteller. His characters are there to delineate themselves and masks they wear are as such we all wear in the growing pains of finding our feet as and when needed. Alberto lives with his mother as Fausto is under the thumb of his feisty father. Alberto( Alberto Sordi) has no qualms of living off his sister but he makes it a point to show he is the man of the house. Fausto (Franco Fabrizi) on the other hand impregnates his friend’s sister and yet finds excuses for not doing the right thing. All these characters are other selves of Fellini who bear the torch lit by his personal vision. Antonia Shanahan, in senses of cinema, July 2002 writes thus, ‘As a veteran of the scripting team responsible for two exemplars of Italian neorealism, Roma città aperta and Paisà (both Roberto Rossellini, 1945 and ’46), Fellini was interested in moving toward a “cinema of Reconstruction.” After Paisà, he redefined his artistic credo to “looking at reality with an honest eye – but any kind of reality; not just social reality, but also spiritual reality, metaphysical reality, anything man has inside him.” ‘(1)( Federico Fellini, “The Road Beyond Neo-Realism, ” in Fellini, “La Strada”: Federico Fellini, Director, ed. Peter Bondanella and Manuela Gieri,-New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1987, p.217.)
Fellini showed his genius in such films as Nights of Cabiria, La Strada and La Dolce Vita.

I Vitelloni follows the lives of five young vitelloni, or layabouts, and when the film opens the tourist season has come to an end with the choosing of the summer’s Miss Sirene. It begins with the end of summer, the “vitelloni” introduced in a long, narrated tracking-shot (clearly the inspiration for a similar scene in Goodfellas, and much emulated since.) In the ensuing excitement of the locals who predict great things for the newly crowned Miss Sirene, Fellini uses her innocence and trustful nature to show how the stifling provincialism has already claimed one victim. She (Leonora Ruffo) is the sister of one of the ‘vitelloni’. Moraldo has none of the qualities that make Fausto seem the undisputed leader of the group. As the film progresses we see the characters change their positions. Fausto’s supposedly leadership is shallow as he is unable to raise to the demands made on him. He is the first to leave for Rome but he comes back without being able to succeed there. While Sandra adores her husband and is blissfully unaware of his philandering nature. A telling scene in the cinema hall reveals to the viewer what she does not see. At the end of the episode we see her afraid and she may not have caught him out but she knows he has already gone astray. Far more serious is the way Fausto loses his secure job. He is able to lull his wife and his friend into believing a lie but we know that he would put his marriage into jeopardy sooner or later. Fausto has fallen from his position of adoration to one who is need of correction. Here we see Sandra and Moraldo show much more mettle in facing upto the reality. Shedding her starry eyed admiration for a feckless husband she is able to transform her credulity into a resolute strength. In the end she is able to make Fausto toe the line and behave responsibly. Meanwhile the would-be playwright Leopoldo (Leopoldo Trieste) continues to work on plays that are unplayable and Alberto (Alberto Sordi) who has taken on himself to keep the family honor in tact is helpless to stop his sister, Olga (Claude Farell), from eloping with her lover. Ultimately Moraldo breaks free from his self-imposed paralysis and moves on, leading to one of the most poignant farewell sequences in film history.
I Vitelloni was a hit in Italy upon its release, and it established his reputation as a filmmaker of world class. By the way the title became a part of Italian vernacular.
Fellini’s alter ego Moraldo we shall see in La Dolce Vita where he is of course called Marcello Rubini. I Vitelloni includes some of his most subtle filmmaking and most personal material. Loosely structured and oddly narrated, I Vitelloni is also an insightful and accurate representation of Italy in the immediate postwar period, full of references to the massive social changes underway. Fifty years after its release it is seen as a seminal film in Italian cinema.
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Ack: brightlights.com-Megan Ratner, all movie- Elbert Ventura
and senses of cinema)

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La strada (English: The Road) (1954) is an Italian neorealist film, directed by Federico Fellini. The movie is a drama about a naive young girl who is sold to a brute in a coastal town in Italy. This  carnival strong man (Anthony Quinn), makes a living by drawing a crowd to a square, expanding his chest to break a chain,and then passing the hat. As Zampanò is physically and emotionally cruel Gelsomina has an ethereal quality of wind,- she has a prophetic ability to predict the weather.
In their interaction Fellini explores the soul’s eternal conflict between the heart and mind. This was made clear by Samuel Beckett in Waiting for Godot. Remember Vladimir and Estragon? One cannot do without the other and what havoc this conflict may sow in us? In such devastating relationships it is always Gelsomina who gets the short end. Gelsomina’s plight is that her heart realizes that Zampanò however abusive he is, is in need of her.
She has a bird-like quality, delicate and strangely beautiful, as well, yet she is the butt of his rage and frustration. She is also an artist despite such simple artless airs she retains throughout. She learns to play the snare drum and trumpet, do a bit of dancing, and play a clown  (superbly played by Fellini’s wife, Giulietta Masina).

Along the road they encounter “Il Matto”/”The Fool” (Richard Basehart), a circus acrobat and clown who teaches Gelsomina that there might be more to life than her servitude to Zampanò. Her mind also tells that he is right.

Despite this, he talks her out of leaving Zampanò. The “Fool” and Zampanò have a long-standing enmity, and when Zampanò kills the “Fool” in a rage, it breaks Gelsomina’s spirit.

When Zampano realizes this, he leaves her on the side of the road. Years later, when he learns of her death in a local village, he experiences remorse for the first time in his life and he breaks down crying uncontrollably on the beach.

As a coda to their doomed and impossible partnership, Nino Rota’s haunting theme strikes one as the signature tune for the soul of the tragic Gelsomina. It first appears in the story line as a melody played by the Fool on a miniature violin, and later by Gelsomina after she teaches herself to play the trumpet. At the end of the movie, the brutish Zampano learns of Gelsomina’s death when he hears a young woman singing this melody in a town he travels through, and he asks her where she learned it. Soul of a simple girl who hovered between optimism and reality of her existence, is deathless: it weaves its own counterpoint to her experience and it is tenuous as the musical notes itself. As such it shall confront the unfeeling strongman in some form or other when it is too late for him.

La strada won an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film in 1956.

Fellini has stated that the idea of the character Zampanò came from his youth in the coastal town of Rimini. A pig castrator lived there who was known as a womanizer: according to Fellini, “This man took all the girls in town to bed with him; once he left a poor idiot girl pregnant and everyone said the baby was the devil’s child.”

In 1992, Fellini told Canadian director Damian Pettigrew that he had conceived the film at the same time as co-writer Tullio Pinelli in a kind of “orgiastic synchronicity. I was directing I vitelloni and Tullio had gone to see his family in Turin. At that time, there was no autostrada between Rome and the north and so you had to drive through the mountains. Along one of the tortuous winding roads, he saw a man pulling a carretta, a sort of cart covered in tarpaulin… A tiny woman was pushing the cart from behind. When he returned to Rome, he told me what he’d seen and his desire to narrate their hard lives on the road. ‘It would make the ideal scenario for your next film,’ he said. It was the same story I’d imagined but with a crucial difference: mine focused on a little traveling circus with a slow-witted young woman named Gelsomina. So we merged my flea-bitten circus characters with his smoky campfire mountain vagabonds. We named Zampanò after the owners of two small circuses in Rome: Zamperla and Saltano.”

Filming locations

The picture was filmed in Bagnoregio, Viterbo, Lazio, Ovindoli, L’Aquila, and Abruzzo; all in Italy.


* Anthony Quinn as Zampanò
* Giulietta Masina as Gelsomina
* Richard Basehart as Il ‘Matto’ – The “Fool”
* Aldo Silvani as Il Signor Giraffa – Mr Giraffe
* Marcella Rovere as La Vedova – The Widow
* Livia Venturini as La Suorina – The Sister


The film premiered at the Venice Film Festival on September 6, 1954 and won the Silver Lion. It opened widely in Italy on September 22, 1954.



* Venice Film Festival: Silver Lion, Federico Fellini; 1954.
* Italian National Syndicate of Film Journalists: Silver Ribbon; Best Director, Federico Fellini; Best Producer, Dino De Laurentiis and Carlo Ponti; 1955.
* New York Film Critics Circle Awards: NYFCC Award Best Foreign Language Film; 1956.
* Bodil Awards: Bodil; Best European Film, Federico Fellini (director); 1956.
* Academy Awards: Oscar; Best Foreign Language Film; 1957.
* Blue Ribbon Awards, Japan: Blue Ribbon Award, Best Foreign Language Film, Federico Fellini; 1958.
* Cinema Writers Circle Awards, Spain: CEC Award, Best Foreign Film, 1958.
* Kinema Junpo Awards, Japan: Kinema Junpo Award, Best Foreign Language Film; 1958.
Similar Movies
Nights of Cabiria  (1957, Federico Fellini)
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Sweet and Lowdown  (1999, Woody Allen)
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Glass Johnny: Looks Like a Beast  (1962, Koreyoshi Kurahara)
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Fellini Satyricon  (1969, Federico Fellini)
Juliet of the Spirits  (1965, Federico Fellini)
Ginger and Fred  (1986, Federico Fellini)
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is related to:      Barabbas  (1962, Richard Fleischer)

Memorable Quotes:
The Fool: What a funny face! Are you a woman, really? Or an artichoke?
The Fool: Maybe he loves you?
Gelsomina: Me?
The Fool: Why not? He is like dogs. A dog looks at you, wants to talk, and only barks.
The Fool: I am ignorant, but I read books. You won’t believe it, everything is useful… this pebble for instance.
Gelsomina: Which one?
The Fool: Anyone. It is useful.
Gelsomina: What for?
The Fool: For… I don’t know. If I knew I’d be the Almighty, who knows all. When you are born and when you die… Who knows? I don’t know for what this pebble is useful but it must be useful. For if its useless, everything is useless. So are the stars!
Gelsomina: The fool is hurt.
Zampanò: [reciting his act by rote before a crowd] Here we have a piece of chain that is a quarter of an inch thick. It is made of crude iron, stronger than steel. With the simple expansion of my pectoral muscles, or chest, that is, I’ll break the hook.
[collecting money from the crowd]
Zampanò: Thank you, thank you. Now, to do this feat, I must fill myself up like a tire. If a blood vessel should break, I would spit blood. For instance, in Milan a man weighing 240 pounds lost his eyesight doing this trick. That is because the optical nerves take a beating, and once you lose your eyes, you are finished. If there’s any delicate person in the audience, I would advise him to look away ’cause there could be blood.
[with seemingly great effort, he breaks the chain]

#  Anthony Quinn said in an interview a few years before his death that he originally accepted a deal that would have paid him a percentage of the profits this film generated instead of an upfront salary. When his agent found out about it, the agent changed the deal and insisted an upfront salary and no percentage. Quinn said that decision cost him several million dollars.

# Won the first ever Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film.
Directed by     Federico Fellini
Produced by     Dino De Laurentiis
Carlo Ponti
Written by     Screenplay:
Federico Fellini
Ennio Flaiano
Tullio Pinelli
Federico Fellini
Tullio Pinelli
Music by     Nino Rota
Cinematography     Otello Martelli
Carlo Carlini
Editing by     Leo Cattozzo
Running time     104 minutes
Country     Italy
Language     Italian

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