Federico Fellini, the legendary Italian filmmaker and screenwriter known for cinema masterpieces such as “The White Sheik” (1952), “I Vitelloni” (1953), “La Strada” (1954), “Nights of Cabiria” (1957),”La Dolce Vita” (1960), “8 1/2” (1963), etc.
Fellini’s films are known for capturing ethereal storylines, fantasy that binges on desire and his films are among those that have tested viewers but also has provided many cineaste with visual delight from the films that are from his oeuvre. His influence has inspired Woody Allen, Martin Scorsese, David Lynch, Tim Burton, Pedro Almodovar to name a few and while many think of “La Dolce Vita”, “8 1/2”, “I Vitelloni” as the top of Fellini’s career, there are many who feel that “Amarcord” is one of his most personal. “Amarcord” is also the third film for Fellini that won an Oscar for “Best Foreign Film” but also won multiple awards throughout the world and is perhaps one of his most accessible film for cinema fans worldwide.
While not an autobiography, the film mirrors Fellini’s life as a child and teenager growing up in Rimini, Italy (a seaside town in the province of Emilia-Romagna) during the time of Fascist Italy.
“Amarcord” is not the easiest film to describe because it’s one of those films that must be experienced. The film can be seen as a coming-of-age film but also a film that has your typical villagers that everyone knows their name because of their actions or their body. The carnivalesque film focuses on various people of the village throughout the year during the 1930’s and the various episodes that transpire within a year’s time.
“Amarcord” is a film that has so many moments, memories and each of these scenes are full of humor that the film is well-crafted and is able to escape from the contrived, mediocrity or the banality of modern films.
There are so many Fellini films that I have watched in my lifetime and thanks to the Criterion Collection, for us in America, we are fortunate to have access to a good number of his films. But among his masterpieces, there are a few of his films that I tend to rewatch many times and “Amarcord” is one of them.
“Amarcord” is a film that captures everything beautiful, everything ugly, everything about life and what people see day-to-day. And I can imagine for Fellini, although “Amarcord” is not an exact autobiography nor was it intended to be, it is paying homage to what he experienced throughout his younger years and the people he came in contact with.
What makes “Amarcord” so intriguing, and so fun without the cinema banality that one would be used to seeing, is that we are given a taste of episodes of these villagers and the way its put together, you find yourself as a voyeur of these moments in the lives of these individuals that live in a small village. There is no real plot line, but it’s a film that features so many of the fun moments that life has to offer that makes “Amarcord” so delightful.
From moments when the Biondi family goes to pick up their Uncle Teo from the mental hospital and the uncle runs up to the tree not wanting to get down and starts screaming of how he wants a woman. Anyone who dares to get him down is pelted with fruit. Another scene features Titta and his friends at a parade and celebration for Benito Mussolini aka “Il Duce” and each have their own daydreams of being with a woman. Or a scene where we watch as Gradisca tries to prepare for a romantic night with a man or when Titta goes to the cinema to pull some of his moves on Gradisca and to see what happens. Or possibly one of the most memorable scenes is when Titta goes to the big but very busty tobacco saleswoman and manages to experience a woman’s breast, it’s just how its featured on screen, you can’t help but laugh as the young character is not sure what to do and all the woman can tell him “Suck, no blow!”.
But what also works is how the art direction of the film helps to give us that feeling of carnivalesque characters. Danilo Donati’s awesome costume and production design, Giorgio Giovannini’s surrealistic art direction is fantastic and of course, the cinematography by Giuseppe Rotunno is magnificent. While the writing is not overly polemic, Fellini and Tonino Guerra did a great job of interjecting the sex and politics that are a strong part of the enjoyment of this film.
All the primary characters and supporting characters also add to the enjoyment of the film. To sum it up, “Amarcord” is a true masterpiece from Fellini!
And I can go on and on about the positives of this film but still not be able to describe it because frankly, I don’t want to spoil anything for the viewer. Also, as mentioned earlier, this is not one of those films that I can easily describe. It’s probably best to say that it’s various episodes that happen in a village over a year’s time and keep it at
I’m constantly asked if it’s like “8 1/2″ or “La Strada” and the only thing that I can tell people is forget about those films. Just enjoy this one and experience it!
Overall, “Amarcord” is a vibrant, beautiful, hilarious and marvelous masterpiece from Federico Fellini.