La Dolce Vita


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Current Rating 9.25/10 | 8 Votes

La Dolce Vita defines the word "masterpiece". It's not only the best film Fellini made, but also one of the best single films I've seen. Tragic, comic, entertaining, moving, sweeping, intimate - it's a grand and remarkable experience.

Fellini's direction is at a crossroads between the neo-realism of his earlier work and the fantastical exuberance of his later ones, and La Dolce Vita benefits from both styles - it has the real, convincing, and intimate quality of a work of realism all while being punctuated by moments of a more fantastic style (the scene with Marcello and Sylvia in the fountain, for one). It is also complemented by beautiful black-and-white cinematography that infuses the film's scenes with a romantic quality.

Acting-wise, the film is exemplary. Marcello Mastroianni, as the wandering, direction-less journalist wasting his days -and nights- living a sweet life that brings him no happiness or satisfaction, is magnificent to watch. Ebert mentioned that Mastroianni never was an active actor, preferring instead to project an image of passivity, and this approach works perfectly in La Dolce Vita, making Marcello Rubini almost a shadowy figure, gliding from night to day to night with the bleak abandon of a man addicted to a lifestyle that's destroying him. In supporting roles, Anita Ekberg, Anouk Aimée, Yvonne Furneaux, and Alain Cuny are especially memorable as characters that glide in and out of his life, influencing him.

The true greatness of La Dolce Vita, however, is that it does not only show us the progressive dramatic arc of Marcello's character - it makes us feel it. The film starts out by showing Marcello's life as exciting, full of memorable moments and romanticism, and the audience, intoxicated with it, starts empathising with Marcello, understanding (if not condoning) his actions, and even evnying him. As the story progresses, and the real nature of "the sweet life" is revealed, the audience feels the bleakness and the abandon that infuses Marcello's life, making the final scenes of the film emotionally devastating. Thus, in the end, the film doesn't tell us the truth about the sweet life - it shows it to us.

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