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The Stuff That Dreams Are Made Of

Saturday, February 5, 2000
Ginger and Fred
Federico Fellini Italy, 1986

(Ginger e Fred). The last precious pearl in Fellini's necklace of show business films, Ginger and Fred is at once a fond tribute to vaudeville and a withering assault on the meaningless opulence of commercial television. Masina and Mastroianni play a dance duo whose act of forty years ago imitated Astaire and Rogers. These were modest artistes who, if not brilliant, at least shared an honest living contact with their audiences. They are brought out of retirement to perform on a Christmas TV special called "This Is For You." The show is a glitzy monstrosity, an eerie Italian counterpart of the worst aspects of the Ed Sullivan, Johnny Carson, and Oprah Winfrey shows. As "Fred" puts it, the TV giant has feet of clay. The notion of "variety," so meaningful in the popular theater of Fellini's youth, has been transformed by television into an insane mish-mash...so sleazy that Masina and Mastroianni, however clumsy their dancing, look dignified, even charming by comparison.-Seymour Chatman

• Written by Fellini, Tullio Pinelli, Tonino Guerra. Photographed by Tonino Delli Colli, Ennio Guarnieri. With Giulietta Masina, Marcello Mastroianni, Franco Fabrizi, Frederick Ledebur. (126 mins, In Italian with English subtitles, Color, 35mm, Permission Warner Bros. Classics)