Tuesday, July 27, 2004

Movie: La Dolce Vita (1960)

It was the perfect way to end our trip to New York: watching a pristine 35mm print of Fellini’s epic picaresque with a sellout crowd at the Film Forum, and following it up with cappuccino and cannoli at Pasticceria Bruno on Bleeker. (Mention my name if you go there. It won’t help you any, but it’ll do wonders for my reputation.) We would have preferred going to Saturday’s late show, when a dancer who appeared in the film would be in attendance, but there was no way we could have done that and caught our flight home.

There’s little I can add to what’s been said about this movie, rightfully regarded as one of the classics of world cinema. Fellini had the uncanny foresight to capture the moment when society went to hell, when public and private life collapsed into one continuous sideshow, when every event from the arrival of a film star to a possible miracle became fodder for the sensation machine. He foresaw the rise of Paris Hilton and 24-hour cable news 45 years ago. Yet Fellini’s characteristic humanism remains intact; he sees beauty in the shallows and holds out the hope that we’ll turn it all around.

Marcello Mastroianni’s performance as the once-serious writer who may no longer be a serious person never fails to astonish. He’s a purely reactive presence who anchors the movie by communicating a complex inner life. He’s acutely aware of how trivial he has become, but he can’t fathom how to change. It’s heartbreaking.

The sequence with Anita Ekberg as the visiting film star is justly celebrated. It perfectly captures what I always thought it would feel like to be drawn into a celebrity’s orbit: the thoughtless flirtation, the sense of being subsumed in an energy that’s all heat and no light. And as for Ekberg frolicking in that fountain ... mother of God. Rosemarie called her a force of nature. But words fail me.

It was great seeing the American International Pictures logo at the start of the film. From Dr. Phibes to Federico Fellini. High culture and low, brought to you by the same people. Miramax continues in a proud tradition.

Attraction: The American Folk Art Museum

New York’s best kept secret. The vest-pocket sized space is cunningly used, thanks to a design by architect Tod Williams (father of the director of THE DOOR IN THE FLOOR). The current exhibits on quilts and the work of Sister Gertrude Morgan are compelling explorations of the creative impulse.

Magazine: Entertainment Weekly

Having read two issues back-to-back, I can now tell you how to get your letter to the editor published. You can:

1. Gush over the cover, including a reference to how the photograph made you drool or otherwise lose temporary control over your bodily functions, or;
2. Criticize the cover, offering a worthier subject from deep within the recesses of the issue in question.

Coming in a future installment: how to break into the pages of IN STYLE by praising a celebrity’s courage and/or taste in floral wall coverings.