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Retrospective on Italian film master Federico Fellini

Roma, films, “81/2”, “The Sweet Life (La Dolce vita)”... Italian film maestro Federico Fellini was not only one of the most influential and widely revered film directors, to tourists he was also an icon in the cultural map of Italy. He did not belong to Neorealism nor the left wing of the next generation. He was always ahead of his time. When the world was modern, he had already been post-modern. Yet when one looks back at him in the post-modern age, his work is eternally modern.

A unique combination of memory, dreams, fantasy, and desire, Fellini’s films were deeply personal perception of society, and often portrayed people at their most bizarre in colourful profusion. Moving from circus, vaudeville, comedy, comic strip, broadcasting, and finally to film, Fellini’s fascination for circus was often reflected in his films as he once said “I believe the film world must be analogous to the world of the circus...”

Presented by the Film Programmes Office of the Leisure and Cultural Services Department and supported by Consulate General of Italy in Hong Kong, the film programme “Federico Fellini”, curated by Mr Law Waiming is the last series of the “Repertory Cinema 2007”. Fifteen film classics will be screened at the Cinema of Hong Kong Film Archive, the Lecture Halls of Hong Kong Science Museum and Hong Kong Space Museum from December 7 to 29.

Many of his films were widely-acclaimed and won various prestigious international awards. The films shown in the programme include his spectacular masterpiece “81/2”, the charming backstage comedy “Variety Lights”, directional debut “The White Sheik”, award-winning films “The Road”, “Nights of Cabiria”, “The Young and the Passionate”, “The Swindlers”, “Fellini’s Roma”, his most controversial work “The Sweet Life”, films probing inner world of women “Juliet of the Spirits”, “City of Women”, autobiographic films “I Remember”, “Interview”, the sensuous “Fellini Satyricon” and the touching “Ginger and Fred”.

To accompany the screenings, a seminar “The Spirit of Fellini”, to be conducted in Cantonese, is scheduled for December 23 at 4.15 pm at the Lecture Hall of Hong Kong Science Museum.

Born in 1920 into an ordinary family in Rimini, a seaside resort in Italy, Fellini was the son of a salesman and a traditional Catholic mother who raised her children the hard way. As rebellious as other kids, Fellini loved loitering around the streets and hanging out in cinemas. Visitors and performance troupes especially circuses and clowns at Rimini had tremendous impact on Fellini and he used to believe that clownage would be his career.

He was once enrolled in the law school but left before graduation. He had worked as a magazine reporter, a caricaturist, wrote scripts for radio shows and movies as well as numerous gags for well known actors like Aldo Fabrizi. A gifted caricaturist, Fellini produced satirical drawings in pencil and watercolours and while making his films, he often produced stimulating drawings for décor, costumes and set designs.

Italy’s economy recovered rapidly after the Second World War. It was then he encountered Roberto Rossellini, the teacher who introduced him to the world of film. Starting with Neorealism, Fellini managed to keep with the time and led another new wave especially on his exploration of Carl Jung’s seminal ideas in some of his classics.

In 1950, Fellini and his friend Alberto Lattuada co-directed the exhilarating “Variety Lights” which put both of them in debt. His first personal film “The White Sheik” was released two years later. “The Young and the Passionate” in 1953 won him worldwide fame. What made him scale new heights were “The Road” and “Nights of Cabiria” which won various international awards. “The Sweet Life” and “81/2” were considered as his turning points and pinnacle works.

Among the Italian film masters, Fellini was the only one who had never really left Rome for shooting films. In 1992 he received the Honarary Award at the Academy Awards “in recognition of his cinematic accomplishments that had thrilled and entertained audiences worldwide”. In 1993, he died of a heart attack, aged 73.

The opening film “81/2” (1963), a masterpiece that influenced many contemporary filmmakers, is filled with spectacular scenes of dreams, memories and desires. Fellini’s somniloquous narration interwoven with the autobiographic storyline to form a film with surrealistic colour was held in great esteem by the film psychology school. The film won the Best Foreign Language Film at the Academy Awards in 1963 and the Special Jury Prize at the Berlin International Film Festival in 1964.

Considered the turning point of Fellini's earlier works, the Academy Award winner “The Road” (1954) explores the inner worlds of characters. With the lightness of a phantom, a dream, an idea, Fellini’s wife Giulietta Masina shows the obsession of woman's love being tortured by the cruelty of male's world. “Nights of Cabiria” (1957) was tailor-made for Masina for her comic sense shown in "The Road". With Fellini’s re-interpretation of Charlie Chaplin’s tragicomedy, Masina shone brightly in the film and won Best Actress in the Cannes Film Festival, making Fellini an up-and-coming star.

In “The Young and the Passionate” (1953), Fellini used Neorealist narration to depict the emptiness and loneliness of young people living in small towns after the war, their yearning for a bustling city life, and the impact of capitalist popular culture on them. A continuation of the stories of the young village scoundrels, “The Swindlers” (1955) narrates the gang's alienated daily lives under materialism, individual difficulties and burdens. The former was awarded Silver Lion at the Venice Film Festival and the latter was nominated for Golden Lion.

Fellini’s most controversial work “The Sweet Life” (1960), was a scandalous success and a worldwide box-office hit, that had been criticised unsparingly by people defending traditional moral principles., It won support from the new leftists and French film critics for its exposure of capitalism’s ugliness. The film features a tabloid reporter who witnesses the sensual pleasures behind the silver screen and he eventually comes to crave them. It won the Golden Palm at the Cannes Film Festival 1960.

Fellini’s first feminist film, “Juliet of the Spirits” (1965) which was also his first film in colour, analyses the identity crisis of a middle-aged Italian housewife played by Masina with a brilliant performance. It won the Best Foreign Film-Foreign Language at the Golden Globes 1966. His later film “City of Women” (1980) probes deeper into the female world with a story of a male professor having 1,000 lovers. The film won the Silver Ribbon at the Italian National Syndicate of Film Journalists 1980.

Both “I Remember” (1973) and “Interview” (1987) are autobiographic films of Fellini. Abounding with his childhood memories, “I Remember” portrays the lives of a group of adolescents who never stop to pursue their own happy and youthful dreams under the iron-handed reign of Mussolini. The film won the Best Director and Best Foreign Language Film at the New York Film Critics Circle Awards 1974.

In the film “Interview”, other than the footage showing Fellini shooting a new film, there is also the young reporter Fellini seeking interviews in Cinecitta, the huge movie studio in Rome where he spent most of his filmmaking life. The film won the 40th Anniversary Prize at the Cannes Film Festival 1987.

Co-directed by Fellini and Alberto Lattuada, his earliest film “Variety Lights” (1950) depicted the circus life and Fellini's mixed feelings of grief and joy. He set out to explore and conquer the film world with this graduation certificate, and made history. Bringing Neorealism into his directional debut “The White Sheik” (1952), Fellini allowed the world to peep into the female mind of primitive eroticism. On the first day a newly married couple arrives in Rome, the wife is already infatuated with a handsome movie star and the husband is mesmerised by a street call!

Not to be missed are Fellini’s most post-modern work “Fellini’s Roma” (1972), Roman Empire writings adapted work “Fellini Satyricon” (1969), singing and dancing movie with Masina and Marcello Mastroianni “Ginger and Fred” (1985).

All Films are in Italian with English subtitles. “I Remember” is classified as Category III and only aged 18 and above ticket holders will be admitted.

Tickets priced at $50 are available at all URBTIX outlets. Half-priced concessionary tickets are available for senior citizens, people with disabilities, full-time students and Comprehensive Social Security Assistance (CSSA) recipients. There will be a 10% discount for each purchase of six to 10 tickets and a 20% for each purchase of 11 or more tickets.

For programme information, call 2734 2900 or visit . Reservation can be made at 2734 9009 or on the Internet at

Ends/Monday, November 19, 2007
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