Federico Fellini

15.08.2011 in15:50 in Film director,stage director -->


Federico Fellini, Knight Grand Cross  January 20, 1920 – October 31, 1993), was an Italian film director and scriptwriter. Known for a distinct style that blends fantasy and baroque images, he is considered one of the most influential and widely revered filmmakers of the 20th century.

Fellini was born on January 20, 1920 to middle-class parents in Rimini, then a small town on the Adriatic Sea. His father, Urbano Fellini (1894-1956), born to a family of Romagnol peasants and small landholders from Gambettola, moved to Rome in 1915 as a baker apprenticed to the Pantanella pasta factory. His mother, Ida Barbiani (1896-1984), came from a bourgeois Catholic family of Roman merchants. Despite her family’s vehement disapproval, she eloped with Urbano in 1917 to live at his parents’ home in Gambettola. [3] A civil marriage followed in 1918 with the religious ceremony held at Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome a year later. The couple settled in Rimini where Urbano became a traveling salesman and wholesale vendor. Fellini had two siblings: Riccardo (1921-1991), a documentary director for RAI Television, and Maria Maddalena (m. Fabbri; 1929-2002).

In 1924, Fellini started primary school with the Sisters of Vincenzo in Rimini, attending the Carlo Tonni public school two years later. An attentive student, he spent his leisure time drawing, staging puppet shows, and reading Il corriere dei piccoli, the popular children’s magazine that reproduced traditional American cartoons by Winsor McCay, George McManus and Frederick Burr Opper. (Opper’s Happy Hooligan would provide the visual inspiration for Gelsomina in Fellini’s 1954 film La strada; McCay’s Little Nemo would directly influence his 1980 film City of Women.) [4] In 1926, he discovered the world of Grand Guignol, the circus with Pierino the Clown, and the movies. Guido Brignone’s Maciste all’Inferno (1926), the first film he saw, would mark him in ways linked to Dante and the cinema throughout his entire career. [5]

Enrolled at the Ginnasio Giulio Cesare in 1929, he made friends with Luigi ‘Titta’ Benzi, later a prominent Rimini lawyer (and the model for young Titta in Amarcord (1973)). In Mussolini’s Italy, Fellini and Riccardo became members of the Avanguardista, the compulsory Fascist youth group for males. He visited Rome with his parents for the first time in 1933, the year of the maiden voyage of the transatlantic ocean liner SS Rex (which makes an appearance in Amarcord). The sea creature found on the beach at the end of La Dolce Vita (1960) has its basis in a giant fish marooned on a Rimini beach during a storm in 1934. Although Fellini adapted key events from his childhood and adolescence in films such as I Vitelloni (1953), 8 ½ (1963), and Amarcord (1973), he insisted that such autobiographical memories were inventions: “It is not memory that dominates my films. To say that my films are autobiographical is an overly facile liquidation, a hasty classification. It seems to me that I have invented almost everything: childhood, character, nostalgias, dreams, memories, for the pleasure of being able to recount them. “[ 6]

In 1937, Fellini opened Febo, a portrait shop in Rimini with the painter Demos Bonini. His first humorous article appeared in the “Postcards to Our Readers” section of Rimini’s Domenica del Corriere. Deciding on a career as a caricaturist and gag writer, Fellini travelled to Florence in 1938 where he published his first cartoon in the weekly 420. Failing his military culture exam, he graduated from high school in July 1938 after doubling the exam.
[Edit] Rome (1939)

In September 1939, he enrolled in law school at the University of Rome to please his parents although biographer Hollis Alpert reports that “there is no record of his ever having attended a class”. [7] Installed in a family pensione, he met another lifelong friend, the painter Rinaldo Geleng. Desperately poor, they unsuccessfully joined forces to draw sketches of restaurant and café patrons. Fellini eventually found work as a cub reporter on the dailies Il Piccolo and Il Popolo di Roma but quit after a short stint, bored by the local court news assignments.

Four months after publishing his first article in Marc’Aurelio, the highly influential biweekly humour magazine, he joined the editorial board, achieving success with a regular column titled Will You Listen to What I Have to Say? [8] Described as “the determining moment in Fellini’s life “, [9] he enjoyed steady employment between 1939 and 1942, interacting with writers, gagmen, and scriptwriters that eventually led to opportunities in show business and cinema. Among his collaborators on the magazine’s editorial board were the future director Ettore Scola, Marxist theorist and scriptwriter Cesare Zavattini, and Bernardino Zapponi, a future Fellini screenwriter. Conducting interviews for CineMagazzino also proved congenial: when asked to interview Aldo Fabrizi, Italy’s most popular variety performer, their immediate personal rapport led to professional collaboration. Specializing in humorous monologues, Fabrizi commissioned material from his young protégé. [10]
[Edit] Career and later life
[Edit] Early screenplays (1940-43)

Retained on business in Rimini, Urbano sent wife and family to Rome in 1940 to share an apartment with his son. Fellini and Ruggero Maccari, also on the staff of Marc’Aurelio, began writing radio sketches and gags for films. Not yet twenty and with Fabrizi’s help, Fellini obtained his first screen credit as a comedy writer on Mario Mattoli’s Il pirata sono io (The Pirate’s Dream). Progressing rapidly to numerous collaborations on films at Cinecittà, his circle of professional acquaintances widened to include novelist Vitaliano Brancati and scriptwriter Piero Tellini. In the wake of Mussolini’s declaration of war against France and England on June 10, 1940, he discovered Kafka’s The Metamorphosis, Gogol, John Steinbeck and William Faulkner along with French films by Marcel Carné, René Clair, and Julien Duvivier. [11] In 1941 he published Il mio amico Pasqualino, a 74-page booklet in ten chapters describing the absurd adventures of Pasqualino, an alter ego. [12]

Writing for radio while attempting to avoid the draft, Fellini met his future wife Giulietta Masina in a studio office at the Italian public radio broadcaster EIAR in autumn 1942. Well-paid as the voice of Pallina in Fellini’s radio serial, Cico and Pallina, Masina was also known for her musical-comedy broadcasts which cheered an audience depressed by the war. [13] In November 1942, Fellini was sent to Libya, occupied by Fascist Italy, to work on the screenplay of I cavalieri del deserto (Knights of the Desert, 1942), directed by Osvaldo Valenti and Gino Talamo. Fellini welcomed the assignment as it allowed him “to secure another extension on his draft order”. [14] Responsible for emergency re-writing, he also directed the film’s first scenes. When Tripoli fell under siege by British forces, he and his colleagues made a narrow escape by boarding a German military plane flying to Sicily. His African adventure, later published in Marc’Aurelio as “The First Flight”, marked “the emergence of a new Fellini, no longer just a screenwriter, working and sketching at his desk, but a filmmaker out in the field”. [15 ]

The apolitical Fellini was finally freed of the draft when an Allied air raid over Bologna destroyed his medical records. Fellini and Giulietta hid in her aunt’s apartment until Mussolini’s fall on July 25, 1943. After dating for nine months, the couple were married on October 30, 1943. Several months later, Masina fell down the stairs and suffered a miscarriage. She gave birth to a son, Pierfederico, on March 22, 1944 but the child died of encephalitis three weeks later. The tragedy had enduring emotional and artistic repercussions. [16]
[Edit] Neorealist apprenticeship (1944-1949)

After the Allied liberation of Rome on June 4, 1944, Fellini and Enrico De Seta opened the Funny Face Shop where they survived the postwar recession drawing caricatures of American soldiers. He became involved with Italian Neorealism when Roberto Rossellini, at work on Stories of Yesteryear (later Rome, Open City), met Fellini in his shop proposing he contribute gags and dialogue for the script. Aware of Fellini’s reputation as Aldo Fabrizi’s “creative muse”, [17] Rossellini also requested he try to convince the actor to play the role of Father Giuseppe Morosini, the parish priest executed by the SS on April 4, 1944.

In 1947, Fellini and Sergio Amidei received an Oscar nomination for the screenplay of Rome, Open City.

Working as both screenwriter and assistant director on Rossellini’s Paisà (Paisan) in 1946, Fellini was entrusted to film the Sicilian scenes in Maiori. In February 1948, he was introduced to Marcello Mastroianni, then a young theatre actor appearing in a play with Giulietta Masina. [18] Establishing a close working relationship with Alberto Lattuada, Fellini co-wrote the director’s Senza pietà (Without Pity) and Il mulino del Po (The Mill on the Po). Fellini also worked with Rossellini on the anthology film L’Amore (1948), co-writing the screenplay and in one segment titled, “The Miracle”, acting opposite Anna Magnani. To play the role of a vagabond rogue mistaken by Magnani for a saint, Fellini had to bleach his black hair blond.
[Edit] Early films (1950-53)

In 1950 Fellini co-produced and co-directed with Alberto Lattuada Variety Lights (Luci del varietà), his first feature film. A backstage comedy set among the world of small-time travelling performers, it featured Giulietta Masina and Lattuada’s wife, Carla del Poggio. Its release to poor reviews and limited distribution proved disastrous for all concerned. The production company went bankrupt, leaving both Fellini and Lattuada with debts to pay for over a decade. [19] In February 1950, Paisà received an Oscar nomination for the screenplay by Rossellini, Sergio Amidei, and Fellini.

After travelling to Paris for a script conference with Rossellini on Europa ’51, Fellini began production on The White Sheik in September 1951, his first solo-directed feature. Starring Alberto Sordi in the title role, the film is a revised version of a treatment first written by Michelangelo Antonioni in 1949 and based on the fotoromanzi, the photographed cartoon strip romances popular in Italy at the time. Producer Carlo Ponti commissioned Fellini and Tullio Pinelli to write the script but Antonioni rejected the story they developed. With Ennio Flaiano, they re-worked the material into a light-hearted satire about newlywed couple Ivan and Wanda Cavalli (Leopoldo Trieste, Brunello Bovo) in Rome to visit the Pope. Ivan’s prissy mask of respectability is soon demolished by his wife’s obsession with the White Sheik. Highlighting the music of Nino Rota, the film was selected at Cannes (among the films in competition was Orson Welles’s Othello) and then retracted. Screened at the 13th Venice Film Festival, it was razzed by critics in “the atmosphere of a soccer match”. [20] One reviewer declared that Fellini had “not the slightest aptitude for cinema direction”.

In 1953, I Vitelloni found favour with the critics and public. Winning the Silver Lion Award in Venice, it secured Fellini’s first international distributor.
[Edit] Beyond neorealism (1954-60)

Fellini directed La strada based on a script completed in 1952 with Pinelli and Flaiano. During the last three weeks of shooting, Fellini experienced the first signs of severe clinical depression. [21] Aided by his wife, he undertook a brief period of therapy with Freudian psychoanalyst Emilio Servadio. [21]

Fellini cast American actor Broderick Crawford to interpret the role of an aging swindler in Il Bidone. Based partly on stories told to him by a petty thief during production of La strada, Fellini developed the script into a con man’s slow descent towards a solitary death. To incarnate the role’s “intense, tragic face”, Fellini’s first choice had been Humphrey Bogart [22] but after learning of the actor’s lung cancer, chose Crawford after seeing his face on the theatrical poster of All the King’s Men (1949). The film shoot was wrought with difficulties stemming from Crawford’s alcoholism. [23] Savaged by critics at the 16th Venice Film Festival, the film did miserable box office and did not receive international distribution until 1964.

During the autumn, Fellini researched and developed a treatment based on a film adaptation of Mario Tobino’s novel, The Free Women of Magliano. Located in a mental institution for women, financial backers considered the subject had no potential and the project was abandoned.

While preparing Nights of Cabiria in spring 1956, Fellini learned of his father’s death by cardiac arrest at the age of 62. Produced by Dino De Laurentiis and starring Giulietta Masina, the film took its inspiration from news reports of a woman’s decapitated head retrieved in a lake and stories by Wanda, a shantytown prostitute Fellini met on the set of Il Bidone. [24] Pier Paolo Pasolini was hired to translate Flaiano and Pinelli’s dialogue into Roman dialect and to supervise researches in the vice-afflicted suburbs of Rome. The movie won an Academy Award as Best Foreign Film and brought Masina the Best Actress Award at Cannes for her performance.

With Pinelli, he developed Journey with Anita for Sophia Loren and Gregory Peck. An “invention born out of intimate truth”, the script was based on Fellini’s return to Rimini with a mistress to attend his father’s funeral. [25] Due to Loren’s unavailability, the project was shelved and resurrected twenty-five years later as Lovers and Liars (1981), a comedy directed by Mario Monicelli with Goldie Hawn and Giancarlo Giannini. For Eduardo De Filippo, he co-wrote the script of Fortunella, tailoring the lead role to accommodate Masina’s particular sensibility.

The Hollywood on the Tiber phenomenon of 1958 in which American studios profited from the cheap studio labour available in Rome provided the backdrop for photojournalists to steal shots of celebrities on the via Veneto. The scandal provoked by Turkish dancer Haish Nana’s improvised striptease at a nightclub captured Fellini’s imagination: he decided to end his latest script-in-progress, Moraldo in the City, with an all-night “orgy” at a seaside villa. Pierluigi Praturlon’s photos of Anita Ekberg wading fully dressed in the Trevi Fountain provided further inspiration for Fellini and his scriptwriters. Changing the title of the screenplay to La Dolce Vita, Fellini soon clashed with his producer on casting: the director insisted on the relatively unknown Mastroianni while De Laurentiis wanted Paul Newman as a hedge on his investment. Reaching an impasse, De Laurentiis sold the rights to publishing mogul Angelo Rizzoli. Shooting began on March 16, 1959 with Anita Ekberg climbing the stairs to the cupola of Saint Peter’s in a mammoth décor constructed at Cinecittà. The statue of Christ flown by helicopter over Rome to Saint Peter’s Square was inspired by an actual media event on May 1, 1956, which Fellini had witnessed. The film wrapped August 15 on a deserted beach at Passo Oscuro with a bloated mutant fish designed by Piero Gherardi.

La Dolce Vita broke all box office records. Despite scalpers selling tickets at 1000 lire,  crowds queued in line for hours to see an “immoral movie” before the censors banned it. At an exclusive Milan screening on February 5, 1960, one outraged patron spat on Fellini while others hurled insults. Denounced in parliament by right-wing conservatives, undersecretary Domenico Magrì of the Christian Democrats demanded tolerance for the film’s controversial themes.  The Vatican’s official press organ, l’Osservatore Romano, lobbied for censorship while the Board of Roman Parish Priests and the Genealogical Board of Italian Nobility attacked the film. In one documented instance involving favourable reviews written by the Jesuits of San Fedele, defending La Dolce Vita had severe consequences.  In competition at Cannes alongside Antonioni’s L’Avventura, the film won the Palme d’Or awarded by presiding juror Georges Simenon . The Belgian writer was promptly “hissed at” by the disapproving festival crowd.


“8 1 / 2″ 1963
“BOCCACCIO ’70″ 1962
“CLOWNS, THE” 1971
“IL BIDONE” 1955
“LA STRADA” 1954
“ROMA” 1972