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mheu, Historical Museum of the Urban Environment

La Dolce Vita

Federico Fellini

1h 52mins
© Pathé Production - Gray Films - Mediaset

View this work in the Bathing exhibition

The work

La Dolce Vita, made in 1959, is most probably the best-known Italian film of all time. It marked the beginning of a long collaboration between Fellini and Mastroianni, the latter becoming the director's on-screen alter ego (The Temptation of Dr Antonio, 8½, Roma, The City of Women, Ginger & Fred, Intervista).

Marcello Mastroianni plays a society journalist whose job takes him from one Roman jet-set party to the next (the term paparazzi comes from the name of the photographer Paparazzo, who accompanies Mastroianni in the film). At once fascinated and bored by the decadence and debauchery of these people, he participates to an extent, and meets a luscious yet ingenuous American woman (Anita Ekberg).

This harsh satire on the Roman bourgeoisie is Federico Fellini's last "social film": he already incorporates a kind of psychoanalytical questioning characteristic of his later films.

La Dolce Vita, competing with Ben Hur and Antonioni's L'avventura, won the Palme d'Or at Cannes in 1960. It was a huge box-office success thanks to the whiff of scandal fuelled by nit-picking censorship: the threat of ex-communication hanging over Fellini.

The artist

Federico Fellini, an Italian film director, was born into a middle-class family in Rimini in 1920. Drawn to journalism and newspaper cartoons, he moved to Rome in 1939. After the war, he made his cinema debut as a sceenwriter under a number of Neorealist directors including Roberto Rossellini and Alberto Lattuada. He began making his own films in the early 1950s (Variety Lights, The White Sheik, I Vitelloni) and had his first success with La Strada starring his wife Giulietta Masina and Anthony Quinn. Fellini won the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival in 1960 for La Dolce Vita with Marcello Mastroianni (who was to become his actor of choice) and the curvaceous Anita Ekberg. With , he moved away from realist cinema in favor of portrayals of his own memories, fantasies or fantasized memories in dream-like films (Satyricon, Roma, Amarcord, Fellini's Casanova, City of Women, And the Ship Sails On, etc.). In these films, he sets a joyful, provocative style that went against the cinematographic customs of the day: he continued to shoot in the studio (Cinecittà) and took malicious pleasure in demonstrating cinematographic effects in sequences whose excesses became his trademark, to the extent that the word "Fellinian" has entered the language as a way of describing any extravagant character or situation. He died in Rome in 1993 after receiving an Oscar for his lifetime achievement.