Che Strano chiamarsi Federico (2013) Cinema Made in Italy 5-9 March 2014

February 15th, 2014
Author: Meredith Taylor


Dir.: Ettore Scola; Cast:Tomaso Lazotti, Vittorio Viviani, Sergio Pierattini, Antonella Attili; Italy 2013, 93 min.

This celebration of the life of Fellini (1920-1993) is put together in an atmospheric collage by his best friend, the director Ettore Scola. The two not only shared a passion for life and film, but also a friendship and regular collaboration with the actor Marcello Mastroiani, who joined them in their nightly excursions of Rome – Fellini being an extreme insomniac. It is no accident that the only feature film Fellini starred in was Scola’s aptly titled WE ALL LOVE EACH OTHER SO MUCH (1974), the story of a friendship, mainly shot on the road. Fellini also acted in Rossellini’s short The Miracle opposite Anna Magnani.

Frederico Fellini came to Rome from his hometown of Rimini in 1939, promising to attend university to please his parents – but no record of attendance has ever been found. Instead the future director earned his living with sketches and short texts for the theatre, before joining the satirical magazine “Marc’ Aurelio” in the early forties, when the magazine was controlled by the Fascist censors. Scola, still at High School, would join Fellini there a decade later. In Scola’s film much fun is made about life under Mussolini, but for the outspoken Fellini it could not have been easy despite his political disinterest  After the liberation he started script writing for Rosselini (ROME, OPEN CITY/1945 and PAISAN/1946) as well as other established directors like Alberto Lattuada (FLESH WILL SURRENDER/1947) and Pietro Germi (THE PAST OF HOPE/1950). In the same year he directed his feature debut LIGHTS OF VARIETY (1950), followed by THE WHITE SHEIKH (1952) and his first masterpiece I VITELLONI 1953). Whilst one could easily call these films neo-realistic, Fellini already tries his own take on reality: away from social realism to a more personal approach of the oppressed. LA STRADA (1954) starring his wife Giulietta Masina (who acted in seven of his films), was a kind of summing up of his first five years as a director, it won him the first of five “Oscars”. LA DOLCE VITA (1960) which made Mastroiani into a star, was the turning point: even though the city of Rome was the real star of the film, Fellini achieved his artistic dream of life as theatre captured on film. Or as he put it “Life is a party”. From FELLINI SATYRICON (1969), via CASANOVA (1976) to the LA CITTA DELLE DONNE (1980) he celebrated this maxim, “never becoming a good little boy” as Scola remarked.

HOW STRANGE TO BE CALLED FEDERICO is centred around the car rides of the trio (both Fellini and Scola hated any physical exercise) in Rome, picking up painters and prostitutes alike, always on the outlook for ideas for their films. In one scene, Mastroiani’s mother complains bitterly to Scola “you always show the ugly side of my son in your films, but Fellini only shows his beauty”. And there is always Fellini, in his coat and long scarf, getting away from reality into his dream world – even after his funeral, eluding the soldiers who stood at the side of his coffin, running through the streets of his beloved Rome, sitting down in a car on a carousel, where extracts of his films close this beautiful homage of a friend and fellow artist for the man who called himself “a born liar”, but who only used lies to make reality colourful and exciting with playfulness and passion. AS


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