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The Stuff That Dreams Are Made Of

Sunday, January 23, 2000
La Dolce Vita
Federico Fellini Italy, 1960

(The Sweet Life). A helicopter is seen flying over Rome carrying a gigantic statue of Christ. "Oh, look," remarks a woman sunbathing below, "there's Jesus. Where's he going?" Fellini creates a rich, intricate tapestry of "Rome, the Babylon of my dreams" in La Dolce Vita, a film in which juxtaposition and composition are finely tuned to exude an air of randomness. The episodic narrative follows a jaded journalist, Marcello (Mastroianni), on an odyssey in search of himself amid the decadent, dehumanized beauties of Rome's glitterati, the sunglasses-at-night crowd. Former journalist Fellini was cunning indeed in casting His Handsomeness to portray his alter-ego, but Mastroianni was cannier still: his Marcello is a shabby soul, chasing miracles he knows to be false, and delivering them as truth. In Italy, Catholics were forbidden to see La Dolce Vita, but there are more miracles of quick and real pathos than there are orgies in the world on which Fellini files his report. (JB)

• Written by Fellini, Ennio Flaiano, Tullio Pinelli, Brunello Rondi. Photographed by Otello Martelli. With Marcello Mastroianni, Yvonne Furneaux, Anouk Aimée, Anita Ekberg. (175 mins, In Italian with English subtitles, B&W, 35mm, Permission Paramount Pictures)