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Creator / Federico Fellini

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Fellini and his wife, Giulietta Masina, his sometimes leading lady

"There is no end. There is no beginning. There is only the infinite passion of life."
Federico Fellini (1920-1993)

"The Imagination of a man like Fellini is so extraordinary that it seems more real than reality itself".
Tullio Kezich, author of Federico Fellini: His Life and Work in the documentary Fellini's Homecoming
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Federico Fellini (20 January 1920 – 31 October 1993) was a famous Italian filmmaker. Today, he's most likely known for his "Felliniesque" style, that is, magical realism, but not enough to qualify. Surreal, but not too surreal. Strange, and yet highly sedate.

But above all, it is generally considered that Fellini is one of the more important filmmakers to come out of the neorealist movement, eventually abandoning those roots and moving into the world of movie artifice. Or rather he returned to his roots. Before his career in movies, Fellini worked as a cartoonist, a writer for Italian photo-novels (called fumetti), which were comic-books with professionally shot photographs with models instead of panels. He also owned a gag shop in Rome which allowed him to befriend many famous comedians such as Alberto Sordi. When Roberto Rossellini cast Sordi against type in his serious film, Rome, Open City, he hired Fellini as a dialogue writer. Fellini worked with Rossellini on many major films, such as Paisan, and even acted in the controversial short film, The Miracle. Eventually Fellini started directing films himself. His earlier films were more sober and realistic — Nights of Cabiria and La Strada — both starring his wife even recieved nominations for Oscars for Foreign Films. His career really took off with La Dolce Vita a worldwide box-office hit.

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After he switched to color in the mid-60's, Fellini stopped suppressing his imagination and made a bunch of "What on Earth is going on right now?" movies. At the time, most of them were dismissed by critics and several fans, his universally-loved semi-autobiographical masterpiece Amarcord being the exception. Many of his fans, however, heartily and readily agree that his color films are important; in recent times, some such as Juliet of the Spirits, Satyricon, Rome, his version of Casanova, And the Ship Sails On, and Intervista are gaining stature as being the most mature works. There are a very high number of movie critics and historians who would argue that his "weird" period is the best of his career.

While his films are what make the artist, his life was equally fascinating, living through the time of the fascists, becoming a journalist and cartoonist, writing scripts with the neo-realists, becoming a celebrity in Italy by creating the morally "indecent" La Dolce Vita (where the term paparazzi comes from), supposedly having many affairs (including one with his actress Sandra Milo), taking a bit of experimental LSD under supervision by Doctors and remarking that he was "unimpressed" with the experience, surrounding himself with clairvoyants and mystics, adopting the principles of Carl Jung, improvising large chunks of a movie even when there was a script, mistreating Donald Sutherland on the set of Casanova (apparently, he claimed to have gained rights to film the story by having a seance with the spirit of the great lover himself), and shooting a movie on a cruise boat with almost no water where the ocean was made of plastic and characters remark that the sun looks so beautiful it must have been painted on the wall.

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The city of Rimini, his birthplace, has named its airport after him.

Films directed by Fellini include:

  • Variety Lights (Luci del Varietà, 1950) (co-credited with Alberto Lattuada)
  • The White Sheik (Lo Sceicco Bianco, 1952)
  • I Vitelloni (1953)
  • La Strada (1954)
  • Il Bidone (1955)
  • Nights of Cabiria (Le Notti di Cabiria, 1957)
  • La Dolce Vita (1960)
  • (1963)
  • Juliet of the Spirits (Giulietta degli Spiriti, 1965)
  • Spirits of the Dead (1968) (segment "Toby Dammit")
  • Fellini: A Director's Notebook (1969)
  • Satyricon (1969)
  • I Clowns (1970)
  • Roma (1972)
  • Amarcord (1973)
  • Il Casanova di Federico Fellini (1976)
  • Orchestra Rehearsal (Prova d'orchestra, 1978)
  • City of Women (La Città delle Donne, 1980)
  • And the Ship Sails on (E la Nave Va, 1983)
  • Ginger and Fred (Ginger e Fred, 1986)
  • Intervista (1987)
  • The Voice of the Moon (La Voce della Luna, 1990)

Tropes in Fellini's movies include:

  • All Just a Dream (Within a dream, even).
  • Author Appeal: Fellini once said: "If if I would make a movie about life itself, it would still be about me in the end."
  • Bad Liar: To Fellini lies and truth were almost the same.
  • Big Beautiful Woman: A trademark of many of his films. Usually they're even so imposing that they become frightening.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: Happens occasionally.
  • The Casanova: Fellini directed a film about him.
  • Corrupt Church: Whenever priests and nuns appear it's comical and with no respect for their authority.
  • Cult Soundtrack: Nino Rota's music turned every Fellini film into this.
  • Daydream Surprise: Dreams are an important trademark of Fellini's work.
  • Ear Worm: Nino Rota's melodies will never leave your head again.
  • Everyone Comes Back Fantasy Party Ending: Sometimes.
  • Gainax Ending
  • Grotesque Gallery: Many people in his movies were cast because of how eccentric or bizarre they looked. Fellini himself was a cartoonist, so that might explain it a bit.
  • Hong Kong Dub: His early films were shot without sound for later dubbing (which was standard for the Italian film industry at the time), and he wasn't all that concerned with how well the dubbing matched the lip movements. In fact, he often wouldn't even have the actors recite their lines on-set. Instead, he'd just have them count out loud, based on the number of lines they had in a scene (usually at a double rate. For example, if you had four lines, Fellini had you count to eight). Then with his later films, sometimes they were very badly dubbed, mostly because Fellini thought up new dialogues for the actors to say even after every scene was already shot.
  • Imagine Spot: To the point that it's difficult to separate dream from reality.
  • Large Ham: Some of the acting in his later films borders to this.
  • Monster Clown: Fellini had a love-hate relationship with clowns. They recurr often in his work. One of his film, "I Clowns", is a documentary about them.
  • Mr. Imagination: Fellini himself.
  • Neologism: The word "paparazzo" was derived from his film La Dolce Vita.
  • Nuns Are Spooky: In his films they are.
  • Postmodernism: "8 1/2"
  • Rome: Fellini adored Rome so much that he dedicated an entire movie to it: Roma. The city also returns in most of his other movies.
  • Scenery Porn: Most of the locations count as this.
  • Shout-Out: Shout-outs to classic 1930s movie icons like Mae West, Laurel and Hardy and The Marx Brothers are not uncommon.
  • Surreal Humor: One of his trademarks, especially from on forward.

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