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La Dolce Vita: Criterion Collection DVD Review

La Dolce Vita: Criterion Collection

November 24, 2014

Director: Federico Fellini,
Starring: Marcello Mastroianni, Anita Ekberg, Anouk Aimee, Yvonne Furneaux, Magali Noel, Alain Cuny, Annibale Ninchi, Walter Santesso,

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DVD Review

At the time of its release, Federico Fellini’s La dolce vita (1960) was considered a prescient masterpiece that anticipated our celebrity-obsessed tabloid culture. Looking back now, its subject matter seems rather tame, but after the likes of O.J. Simpson, Paris Hilton and Kim Kardashian how could it not? That being said, the themes it explores – the loss of privacy, the pervasiveness of technology, the amorality of the media, and the desire for fame – are as relevant now if not more so. It only reminds us of just how great this film is. Fellini had worked his way up the ranks of the entertainment industry and had encountered first hand the subjects of La dolce vita and was not afraid to cast a critical eye on them.

Fellini’s film chronicles an eventful week in the life of gossip columnist Marcello Rubini (Mastroianni) as he bounces between his gorgeous, wealthy lover (Aimee) and his grounded fiancée (Furneaux) with a dalliance with a Swedish movie star (Ekberg) thrown in for good measure. We meet Marcello, played with impossibly suave cool by Marcello Mastroianni, skulking around a swanky nightclub with his trust photographer Paparazzo (Santesso) by his side looking for salacious activity he can write about. If his sidekick is being a nuisance in the club then he and his fellow shutterbugs are absolute pests street-side as they swarm Marcello’s attractive companion.

We see the movie star absolutely bask in the glare of the media spotlight and who is more than happy to emerge from her airplane a couple of times so that the photographers can get their pictures. They scramble and jockey for position among each other in the hopes of the perfect snapshot. The interlude with the stunning movie star provides La dolce vita with its most iconic image: the curvaceous Anita Ekberg frolicking in a public fountain with wild abandon.

Marcello Mastroianni takes us past Marcello’s stylish façade to show a spiritual man wracked with the same kind of doubts we all have. Once he becomes the target of the photographers that used to help him he begins to question the very nature of his livelihood. The actor does an excellent job of digging deep and working with Fellini always brought out the best in him.

Over the course of the film, Marcello finds himself becoming part of the world he’s supposed to be reporting on. As a result, La dolce vita acts as a commentary on the decadent lifestyles of Italy’s rich and famous. They drink too much, are self-absorbed and have too much money, and yet Fellini is fascinated by them as are we because they are so colorful even if their lives are ultimately empty and meaningless. Upon its release, the film was condemned by the Vatican and censored because of the satirical elements directed at the Catholic Church. Regardless, it was nominated for four Academy Awards (it won one) and won the prestigious Palme d’Or at the 1960 Cannes Film Festival. Its influence can be seen in later films like L.A. Story (1991), Woody Allen’s Celebrity (1998) and Sofia Coppola’s Lost in Translation (2003), but its most profound impact is how it anticipated our current TMZ saturated pop culture landscape where celebrities are wannabes are hounded day and night in the hopes that they’ll be caught doing or saying something inappropriate. With the invention of technological innovations like the cell phone camera we can all be Paparazzo.

Special Features:

The black and white cinematography on this Blu-Ray transfer is rich and textured, highlighting the filmic nature of La dolce vita. The detail is impressive and a huge upgrade from previous DVD incarnations.

For those that have the 3-disc Collector’s Edition DVD set from Koch Lorber, you might want to hold onto it as it appears that none of the extras from it are included in this new edition. That being said, the ones that are on here are quite substantial.

“Eye of the Beholder” is a visual essay on how Fellini framed given scenes and moved the camera.

Also included is a 1965 interview with Fellini for NBC News. He talks about why he became a director and what it was like to be a journalist prior to that. He also talks about the influence of other filmmakers like Charlie Chaplin had on him.

Film scholar David Forgacs is interviewed and talks about the socio-political aspects of La dolce vita as it pertained to the climate of Italy at the time.

Filmmaker Lina Wertmuller is interviewed. She began her career as an assistant director for Fellini and offers her impressions of the man, his wife, actress Giulietta Masina, and how well he worked with actor Marcello Mastroianni.

Italian journalist Antonello Sarno talks about Italy during the 1950s and 1960s while also discussing Fellini’s relationship with producer Dino De Laurentiis and other key contributors. This is a very informative featurette.

Also included is an archival audio interview with Mastroianni from 1963 where he talks about first meeting Fellini and the various characters he played in the director’s films.

“Felliniana” features a collection of memorabilia pertaining La dolce vita, like posters, lobby cards and press books.

J.D. is a freelance writer who is currently doing research for a book on the films of Michael Mann. He likes reading anything written by Jack Kerouac, James Ellroy, J.D. Salinger, Harlan Ellison or Thomas Pynchon. J.D. is currently addicted to the T.V. series 24 and enjoys drinking a lot of Sprite. This is not a blatant plug for the beverage but if they ever decided to give him a lifetime supply he certainly wouldn’t turn them down.
view all DVD reviews by JD Lafrance

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Rating: 98%

Website: http://www.criterion.com/films/28619-la-dolce-vita

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