by Gary Meyer
“Why don’t you make films in color?” Federico Fellini was asked shortly after his 1963 black and white hit 8 ½. He explained that it was not his right to determine for the audience the exact color of, say, a blade of grass or the blue in the sky. I was a teenager with a passionate interest in all kinds of movies, especially the exotic foreign films playing at theaters like Mel Novikoff’s Surf Theatre, Pauline Kael and Ed Landsburg’s Studio & Guild Cinemas and at the San Francisco International Film Festival— this intriguing answer that made sense to me until his next feature came out where he more than broke his rule. Juliet of the Spirits was so overwhelming in its use of color one might have thought it was soon to be banned and he needed to splash every tint and tone across the screen while he could. I loved it in 1965 and can’t wait to see it again on the big screen as part of the Fellini 100 celebration at San Francisco’s Castro Theatre on Saturday, March 7 (it also screens at BAMPFA on May 9).
The Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive is in the midst of their extensive forty program Federico Fellini at 100 salute screening both the obscure and famous works from his career plus a sidebar series of lectures by Russell Merritt, Guy Madden and David Thomson with screenings on Wednesday afternoons called In Focus. It runs through May 17.
All things Fellini can be found at Fellini 2020.
Fellini 100: Homage to Federico Fellini, presented by Istituto Luce Cinecittà and Istituto Italiano Cultura SF under the auspices of Consul General of Italy Lorenzo Ortona and organized by Cinema Italia San Francisco is a one day marathon The one day, Saturday, March 7 Marathon features four films selected by program director Annamaria Di Giorgio. Following Amarcord is “La Magia Di Fellini Party” with three different kind of pastas, prepared by C’Era Una Volta, Poesia and Italian Homemade, along with a giant cake made by Rulli, Gió gelato, Italian wines, and Felliniesque magic. Recipes for selected menu items can be found on our special Feast with Fellini page. Trailers, interviews and much more are in a companion piece.
Also on display at the Castro will be “Food in Federico Fellini’s drawings” consisting of reproductions of 19 works of art produced by the director at different stages of his career. Tickets can be purchased online or at the door.
The Fellini celebrations are happening all over the globe and you don’t have to be in the San Francisco area to enjoy them in North America. Film series are planned for New York, Washington, Toronto, Houston, Los Angeles and in Cambridge at Harvard.
On seeing films
“Going to the cinema is like returning to the womb; you sit there, still and meditative in the darkness, waiting for life to appear on the screen. One should go to the cinema with the innocence of a fetus.”
Fellini movies are made for the big screen and look so great up there. The early black and white films are stunning and hold you with their storytelling power. As he moved into color the narratives were often more surreal with the stunning visuals popping off the screen. But take solace if you can’t see them all in a theater as The Criterion Collection his twelve of the best on DVD and BluRay with fantastic extras. Reviews of the discs are here. Their streaming service, The Criterion Channel has its own celebration online. Criterion’s David Hudson writes about the Fellini works favored by various directors, writers and programmers.
In September you can join a trip to Italy, “In the Steps of Federico Fellini.”
There are thousands of images and hundreds of articles and books written about the director. We have curated some of our favorites and while you are looking and reading, listen to the soundtrack for 8 ½ written by Nino Rota.
“8½’: Federico Fellini’s Daring, Self-Reflexive Masterpiece as a Most Intimate Exploration of Cinema” on Cinephilia & Beyond By Sven Mikulec
“When you live with another person for 50 years, all of your memories are invested in that person, like a bank account of shared memories. It is not that you refer to them constantly. In fact, for people who do not live in the past, you almost never say, Do you remember that night we…? But you don’t have to. That is the best of all. You know that the other person does remember. Thus, the past is part of the present as long as the other person lives. It is better than any scrapbook, because you are both living scrapbooks.”
Felliniana – Ferretti dreams of Fellini is a new immersive permanent exhibition installation in the Cinecittà studios within the historic ‘Palazzina Fellini’. Created by Oscar®-winning production designer Dante Ferretti, the Oscar®-winning production designer and Francesca Lo Schiavo, the exhibition is a real immersion in the Fellini’s imagination, as well as the dreamlike and evocative story of an artistic partnership and friendship. Read about it.
“A Hundred Years of Fellini– Feeding hungrily on the fruits of memory, the director summoned worlds to comply with his imaginings” by Anthony Lane in The New Yorker
in the Italian director’s 1960 film La Dolce Vita.” By Stephen Puddicombe for Little White Lies
“Federico Fellini’s favorite interview technique was to explain while denying he was explaining, or not explaining anything while claiming he was explaining all. The symbolist poet-film director Federico Fellini was a mixture of denial and irony, wile and innocence. Half-truths and half-falsehoods, interwoven with deceptive under-statements, were his terrain” writes Gaither Stewart in CounterPunch in discussing Fellini and interviews as well as I Vitelloni and Amarcord with their connections.
On films and dreams
“Talking about dreams is like talking about movies, since the cinema uses the language of dreams; years can pass in a second and you can hop from one place to another. It’s a language made of image. And in the real cinema, every object and every light means something as in a dream.”
“To people of my generation, the picture show was really another dimension – sensual, whimsical. No uniforms or collective rites, but a place where little boys like me could laugh and feel free.”