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Fall Cinematheque series recounts the work of Italian filmmaker Federico Fellini
Marcello Mastroianni in La Dolce Vita

“La Dolce Vita,” starring Marcello Mastroianni, marked the culmination of filmmaker Federico Fellini’s 1950s work. Watch it for free on Oct. 5 and see other works from Fellini throughout the semester.

The Emory Cinematheque, a weekly series of free film screenings, presents “Federico Fellini: A Centennial Celebration” for its fall 2022 program. 

All screenings are on Wednesdays at 7:30 p.m. in White Hall, Room 208. The series runs from Aug. 31 until Nov. 30 and is free and open to the public. 

The most widely acclaimed Italian filmmaker of the 20th century, Fellini (1920-1993) worked as a writer and director across 40 years; four of his films won the Best Foreign Film Award at the Academy Awards and Fellini himself won a Lifetime Achievement Award in 1993.

“In the decades after World War II, Fellini brought to the cinema a unique sensibility and vision, one that grew out of his fascination with human nature, morality and amorality, despair, love, human desire and human fantasy,” says Matthew H. Bernstein of the Department of Film and Media, who co-curated the series with Angela Porcarelli of the Program in Italian Studies. 

“With accomplished screenwriters, production designers, cinematographers and stars (most notably his wife and muse Giulietta Masina and Marcello Mastroianni), Fellini produced some of the most inventive and moving films of the second half of the 20th century,” Bernstein notes.

“Fellini was one of the most distinctive, celebrated and influential directors of all time,” Porcarelli notes. “His vision and style were so innovative that a new adjective had to be coined: Felliniesque, a word that indicates the unique, baroque and often surreal atmosphere, images and symbols of the director’s fantastic imagination—where life assumes the consistency of dreams. His ability to connect an international audience with his very personal conception of the world was astounding. We are pleased to be showing the best of his films in chronological order so that we can chart his extraordinary development as an artist.” 

Unless otherwise noted, all screenings will be 4k restorations on DCP. Each film will be introduced by curators Bernstein and Porcarelli, with postscreening Q&As.

Emory Cinematheque fall 2022 series 

Aug. 31: “Paisan” (1946) 

Roberto Rossellini’s powerful follow-up to his Neorealist classic “Rome, Open City” relates six episodes (many of them shot on location) charting the northern progression of the Allies’ advance from Sicily to the Po River Valley in the North. Fellini co-scripted the film and directed several shots during the Florence episode. Fellini’s biographer Tullio Kezich tells us that the future director’s experience working on this film “convince[d] him to make his life in cinema.” 35mm print courtesy of the Museum of Modern Art.

Sept. 7: “Lo Sceicco Bianco” (“The White Sheik”) (1952) and “Il Miracolo” (“The Miracle”) (1948) 

Fellini’s first solo outing as director is a farcical tale of a provincial newlywed wife who abandons her husband during their Rome honeymoon to seek out the object of her obsession, The White Sheik, a character in her favorite fumetti, or photographic comic strips. It is Fellini’s first collaboration with the brilliant composer Nino Rota, whose scores perfectly captured Fellini’s sense of whimsy and profound emotion. 

Il Miracolo” is Roberto Rossellini’s highly controversial story of a mountain shepherdess convinced her hobo seducer is St. Joseph and that the birth of her child is the result of an immaculate conception. Written by and co-starring Fellini, “The Miracle” was condemned by the United States Catholic Church; its distributor’s lawsuit led to the granting of First Amendment protection to movies in the celebrated 1952 Supreme Court “Miracle” case.

Sept. 14: “I Vitelloni” (“The Young and the Passionate”) (1953) 

Fellini and his co-writers created this implicitly autobiographical but highly fictional, episodic, comic and melancholy portrait of six 30-something, barely-employed friends (including rising star Alberto Sordi) in a coastal city. This was his first film to achieve critical acclaim and international distribution. It also marks his first collaboration with master cinematographer Otello Martelli. 

Sept. 21: “La Strada” (“The Road”) (1954) 

The innocent, mentally challenged Gelsomina is sold to the brutal strongman Zampano as an assistant, and together they tour mostly rural Italy performing. In their travels, they meet a clownish tightrope walker who changes their lives. Drawing on and transcending Neorealist techniques, Fellini’s fable-like masterwork established his international stature as a major director, featuring his recurring thematic obsessions with the sea, illusion, pageantry and unexpected forms of grace, all accompanied by Nina Rota’s haunting score. Winner of the Academy’s first-ever annual Best Foreign Film award.  

Sept. 28: “La Notti di Cabiria” (“Nights of Cabiria”) (1957)

Giulietta Masina shines in this must-see performance as the poor, put-upon but fiercely independent and proud Roman sex worker Cabiria. Her various encounters with a cross-section of Roman society are alternately comic, devastating and inspiring. Italian intellectual, poet and filmmaker Pier Paolo Pasolini contributed dialogue of the street; the film also marks Fellini’s first collaboration with the brilliant, award-winning set and costume designer Piero Gherardi. Masina won the Best Actress prize at Cannes and, for the second year in a row, the Academy saluted Fellini’s work with another Best Foreign Film award.  

Oct. 5: “La Dolce Vita” (“The Sweet Life”) (1960) 

Condemned by the Catholic Church, the ironically titled “La Dolce Vita” marked the culmination of Fellini’s 1950s work: the most expansive in its scale (including Otello Martelli’s use of the Cinemascope frame), the most fragmented in its narrative structure and the most sustained in its presentation of spectacle. The once idealistic society journalist Marcello both observes and participates in the seemingly endless social whirl of parties among decadent Roman high society in the late 1950s. Full of iconic scenes that juxtapose ancient and modern Rome, and alternating between comic and pensive tones, “La Dolce Vita” constituted a definitive statement on postwar life in Italy and all highly developed nations. Piero Gherardi’s black-and-white costume design won the film an Oscar.

Oct. 12: “Otto e Mezzo” (“8 ½”) (1963) 

Fellini’s next film marked his decisive plunge into the depiction of character subjectivity that would dominate the majority his work going forward. Inspired by his inability to create a follow-up to “La Dolce Vita,” and under the influence of Jungian psychology, Fellini explores with self-mocking humor and clear-eyed perception the creative and emotional crisis that paralyzes the film director Guido Anselmo (Mastroianni again), who tries without success to escape his professional and emotional responsibilities to his co-workers, wife and mistress. Winner of the Best Foreign Film Oscar as well as Best Black and White Costume Design (Piero Gherardi).  

Oct. 19: “Giulietta Degli Spiriti” (“Juliette of the Spirits”) (1965) 

“Juliet of the Spirits” is, in Fellini’s words, a movie created “around Giulietta and for Giulietta,” and yet it reveals more about the director and his imagination than about his wife, Giulietta Massina, the star of the film. She plays a wealthy middle-aged woman stifled by the constraints of her conjugal life and fascinated by the supernatural. Once she discovers her husband’s infidelity, she embarks on a journey of self-discovery and emancipation, all while haunted by spirits, visions and childhood memories. Featuring the virtuosic cinematography of Gianni di Venanzo, Fellini’s first color feature offers a dazzling display of illusionism. 

Oct. 26: “Fellini Satyricon” (1969) 

Loosely based on Petronious’ satirical portrait of ancient Rome, Fellini’s “Satyricon” follows the vicissitudes of two young men as they fight over the love of a young slave boy named Gitone. It is a deliberately designed anti-epic representation of ancient Rome caught in the moment of its decadence and put on display through a gallery of grotesque characters, pagan sexual licentiousness, violence and excess. Fellini described the movie as “science fiction of the past” — a documentary of a dream whose meaning remains fragmentary and incomplete, one that aims to objectify the oneiric vision by lingering on its alien and uncanny nature. Print courtesy of Cinecittà Luce.

Nov. 2: “Fellini Roma” (1970) 

In this impressionistic and kaleidoscopic portrayal of Rome, Fellini intertwines autobiographical memories and pseudo-documentary material, drawing comparisons between the old Rome and the new. There is a young Fellini who leaves his small town and arrives in the big city, and there is the real Fellini who is documenting Rome in his present day, choosing improbable subjects such as an enormous traffic jam at the Colosseum and archeological excavations in the subway tunnel. Rome, which Fellini described as “the most wonderful movie set in the world,” is the stage of sexual adventures, gastronomic pleasures, treasures from the past and contemporary excesses. Print courtesy of Cinecittà Luce.

Nov. 9: “Amarcord” (“I Remember”) (1973) 

In 1967, following a heart attack that almost cost him his life, Fellini began writing down memories of his early life in his hometown of Rimini. He described the city as “an indecipherable scrawl, scary and tender, with, what’s more, the deep breathing sea, that big, open space.” He represented his childhood memories and the city with the same affection in “Amarcord,” a masterpiece beloved and admired by the public and critics that won an Oscar for best foreign-language film. The movie describes the wonders of childhood and adolescence, the rituals and triviality of provincial life, and the farcical ideology of the Catholic Church, all while ridiculing the infantile rhetoric of Fascism and its allure. 

Nov. 16: “Ginger e Fred” (“Ginger and Fred”) (1986) 

Fellini’s last internationally popular work is a hilarious and savage critique of the rise of Italian private television networks that make banal what is extraordinary in our lives. The film takes us behind the scenes to witness the creation of a glittering but meaningless, overstuffed variety show contrasted with the featured reunion of alienated dance partners. Once the most glamorous of stars who are now past their prime, they provide a baseline of meaningful entertainment that is no longer appreciated. Unmistakably Fellini-esque in its profusion of baroque and absurdist spectacle, “Ginger and Fred” is tinged with nostalgia for more genuine performance, not least via its casting of the two actors most central to his work and their marvelous performances. Print courtesy of Cinecittà Luce. 

Nov. 30: “La Grande Bellezza” (“The Great Beauty”) (2013) 

Entering the twilight period of his life, 65-year-old writer and journalist Jep Gambardella finds himself overwhelmed by a sense of void and disenchanted by the inauthenticity that surrounds him. He decides to make one last attempt to find beauty and inspiration. In this Oscar-winning film, the spectator follows the protagonist and his company of eccentric friends through lavish parties, sexual encounters and bizarre art events. In the background lies Rome in all its elusive, timeless and seductive beauty, providing a counterpoint to the vulgarity of contemporary life. Without simply copying its archetypes, the film creatively recalls themes and atmospheres from “La Dolce Vita” and “8 ½,” showing that director Paolo Sorrentino is worthy of the maestro’s legacy.  

Read more about each film on the Emory Cinematheque website. 

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