Fellini’s Amarcord

Amarcord poster

Janus Films recently struck new 35mm prints of Federico Fellini’s Amarcord (1973) and these are currently making the rounds nation-wide. Here in Colorado we had our screening last week and I’m still basking in its memory, which is an apt tribute to a film whose title (if not entirely invented) supposedly means “I remember” in Romagnese dialect. (Or, put another way, in the dialect of Rimini – the small coastal town in Italy on the Adriatic Sea where Fellini was born on January 20th, 1920.) Amarcord is a semi-biographical (or completely fantastical) look back at Fellini’s youth through the prism of his imagination. It takes on an epic quality because in tackling a specific place, time, and people, it tells us the story of a tribe. And because it’s Fellini’s tribe, their story is peppered with moments of visual splendor that can still make an audience gasp with wonder.  The illusion of grandeur.

At the time of its release, Variety reported on how Amarcord was in production for almost a year and cost around $3.5 million to make, also adding that “Fellini’s traditionally generous dosage of fantasy and poetry are subordinated to the grotesque, the macabre, (and) the sentimental.” Elsewhere it was greeted with far more effusive acclaim. It is now widely considered one of his best works, clearly showing the director at the peak of his powers. It was also to be Fellini’s last big box-office hit.

The film takes place over one year and opens and closes with the floating thistledown that marks the beginning of spring. We see Fellini’s provincial town bustle with life as we follow multiple narrations (none entirely reliable) through the four seasons. It is populated, to use Tom Dawson’s words from his BBC review, with “libidinous grandfathers, crazy uncles, hysterical mothers, constantly bickering families, and dwarf nuns.”

And let’s not forget the horny teenagers and huge-breasted women! Andrew O’Hehir at Salon credits the latter for a “legendary topless scene that brings Titta (Bruno Zanin) up close and personal with the bodacious town tobacconist (Maria Antonietta Beluzzi), a Russ Meyer-worthy moment that no doubt helped propel Amarcord to international hit status – and to a 1974 Oscar for best foreign film.” I think O’Hehir might be overstating his point here as even he later adds that “Amarcord is a lot more than a sweet-natured erotic fantasia about bucolic existence in a bygone era. That era, after all, was the Fascist dictatorship of the 1930′s, which Fellini depicts as a willfully stupid exercise in group think that swept up the entire population and was only beginning to show its sinister underbelly.” This is not to say that the international community or the people at the Academy do not like boobs (their voting record shows quite the contrary), but I’d like to think Fellini got his accolades for hitting the high marks, rather than the low ones.

But that’s the beauty of Amarcord, because while it casts a wide net, digging deep into the gutter of bawdy humor (which makes it accessible) it also reaches high to the heavens and dares to capture something transcendental and sublime. Part of me can’t help but wonder if, perhaps, it is precisely because Amarcord traffics “in a parallel universe of fart jokes and free associations” (Lance Goldenberg, Village Voice) that is also succeeds in delivering high art without being pretentious.

A maze of snow banks.

Fellini is one of the great masters of spectacle. No wonder Terry Gilliam loves him so. I sat in the front row receptive to it all. Toward the end, when the screen was white with snow and slowly a beautiful and colorful bird fans open its dazzling tail-feathers and reveals itself as a majestic peacock, I felt the chill of cinematic ecstasy run straight from screen to eyeball to brain to body. With interest in repertory programming on the wane it can’t be said that Amarcord is getting anywhere near the audience attention now as it once did. But with me it’s still a huge hit – and not because of the boobs, but because of that one bird.

Unexpected beauty unfolding in the snow.

For pending playdates see:

http://www.janusfilms.com/amarcord/dates.html


0 Response Fellini’s Amarcord
Posted By medusamorlock : October 18, 2009 8:18 pm

If, as you probably accurately report, interest in repertory film programs is waning, hopefully posts like this can motivate folks to at least check it out for themselves at home. Not the same as seeing it in your theatre, but certainly better than not seeing it at all.

I enjoyed this lively post, boobs, peacocks and all!

Posted By medusamorlock : October 18, 2009 8:18 pm

If, as you probably accurately report, interest in repertory film programs is waning, hopefully posts like this can motivate folks to at least check it out for themselves at home. Not the same as seeing it in your theatre, but certainly better than not seeing it at all.

I enjoyed this lively post, boobs, peacocks and all!

Posted By ElizabethJ : October 19, 2009 12:05 am

When he reviewed Amarcord on TV, the late film critic Gene Siskel called the peacock scene a perfect Fellini moment. Indeed it is.

Posted By ElizabethJ : October 19, 2009 12:05 am

When he reviewed Amarcord on TV, the late film critic Gene Siskel called the peacock scene a perfect Fellini moment. Indeed it is.

Posted By ZZMike : October 21, 2009 5:25 pm

It’s a pity that it’ll only be shown in those 8 theaters. Our loss.

We have a theater that does “Classic Films” one day a week. Recently, they’ve done “The Goonies”, “The Maltese Falcon”, “2001″, “The Great Escape”, … The showings are usually well-attended.

Posted By ZZMike : October 21, 2009 5:25 pm

It’s a pity that it’ll only be shown in those 8 theaters. Our loss.

We have a theater that does “Classic Films” one day a week. Recently, they’ve done “The Goonies”, “The Maltese Falcon”, “2001″, “The Great Escape”, … The showings are usually well-attended.

Posted By Celtmaidn : October 21, 2009 7:15 pm

I have such a hard time relating to movies like “The Goonies” as a “Classic Film” LOL I guess it just shows my age! To me, “Classics” are films like “Creature From The Black Lagoon”, “Singin’ In The Rain”, “Maltese Falcon” and such. But, I do realize that the “new” movies are indeed Classics. Many new films are well made, well acted, well scripted and the special effects are very well done. I just need to open my mind a bit more to the fact that the new films are indeed classics. Thanks for giving me the correct perspective!

Posted By Celtmaidn : October 21, 2009 7:15 pm

I have such a hard time relating to movies like “The Goonies” as a “Classic Film” LOL I guess it just shows my age! To me, “Classics” are films like “Creature From The Black Lagoon”, “Singin’ In The Rain”, “Maltese Falcon” and such. But, I do realize that the “new” movies are indeed Classics. Many new films are well made, well acted, well scripted and the special effects are very well done. I just need to open my mind a bit more to the fact that the new films are indeed classics. Thanks for giving me the correct perspective!

Posted By ZZMike : October 22, 2009 12:00 pm

I ought to clarify: it’s more a “retro” film series than a classic. They ran “Firefly” a week or so ago. It’s neither retro nor a classic. (It’s a good movie, just not a great one.)

I figure a “classic” is none that’s been around a while – like “Casablanca” – and has a good story, well told.

Posted By ZZMike : October 22, 2009 12:00 pm

I ought to clarify: it’s more a “retro” film series than a classic. They ran “Firefly” a week or so ago. It’s neither retro nor a classic. (It’s a good movie, just not a great one.)

I figure a “classic” is none that’s been around a while – like “Casablanca” – and has a good story, well told.

Leave a Reply

Current ye@r *

MovieMorlocks.com is the official blog for TCM. No topic is too obscure or niche to be excluded from our film discussions. And we welcome your comments on our blogs and bloggers.
See more: facebook.com/tcmtv
See more: twitter.com/tcm
3-D  Action Films  Actors  Actors' Endorsements  Actresses  animal stars  Animation  Anime  Anthology Films  Art in Movies  Australian CInema  Autobiography  Avant-Garde  Aviation  Awards  B-movies  Beer in Film  Behind the Scenes  Best of the Year lists  Biography  Biopics  Blu-Ray  Books on Film  Boxing films  British Cinema  Canadian Cinema  Character Actors  Chicago Film History  Cinematography  Classic Films  College Life on Film  Comedy  Comic Book Movies  Crime  Czech Film  Dance on Film  Digital Cinema  Directors  Disaster Films  Documentary  Drama  DVD  Early Talkies  Editing  Educational Films  European Influence on American Cinema  Experimental  Exploitation  Fairy Tales on Film  Faith or Christian-based Films  Family Films  Film Composers  Film Criticism  film festivals  Film History in Florida  Film Noir  Film Scholars  Film titles  Filmmaking Techniques  Films of the 1960s  Films of the 1980s  Food in Film  Foreign Film  French Film  Gangster films  Genre  Genre spoofs  HD & Blu-Ray  Holiday Movies  Hollywood history  Hollywood lifestyles  Horror  Horror Movies  Icons  independent film  Italian Film  Japanese Film  Korean Film  Literary Adaptations  Martial Arts  Melodramas  Method Acting  Mexican Cinema  Moguls  Monster Movies  Movie Books  Movie Costumes  movie flops  Movie locations  Movie lovers  Movie Reviewers  Movie settings  Movie Stars  Movie titles  Movies about movies  Music in Film  Musicals  Outdoor Cinema  Paranoid Thrillers  Parenting on film  Pirate movies  Polish film industry  political thrillers  Politics in Film  Pornography  Pre-Code  Producers  Race in American Film  Remakes  Revenge  Road Movies  Romance  Romantic Comedies  Satire  Scandals  Science Fiction  Screenwriters  Semi-documentaries  Serials  Short Films  Silent Film  silent films  Social Problem Film  Sports  Sports on Film  Stereotypes  Straight-to-DVD  Studio Politics  Stunts and stuntmen  Suspense thriller  Swashbucklers  TCM Classic Film Festival  TCM Underground  Television  The British in Hollywood  The Germans in Hollywood  The Hungarians in Hollywood  The Irish in Hollywood  Theaters  Thriller  Trains in movies  Underground Cinema  VOD  War film  Westerns  Women in the Film Industry  Women's Weepies