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Film / Amarcord

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"Fellini brought to maturity this conviction. That in order to extract profound truth from the reality of the phenomenal world that appears before us, you must reinvent that reality"
Vittorio Boarini, Director of the Fellini Foundation

How does one go about describing such a movie? This is surely among Federico Fellini's best movies, exquisitely filmed and with a haunting soundtrack by Nino Rota that might follow you for the rest of your life. It is also a movie so fantastically nostalgic, filled with wondrous, larger-than-life characters, with an almost universal appeal. It's probably one of those movies that's best experienced.

The plot itself is largely autobiographical, from Fellini's own memories as a child growing up in Fascist Italy. It can be said to be the story of that an small Italian town of Borgo during the Benito Mussolini dictatorship. It mostly focuses on a 'typical' Italian family and their numerous mishaps, but there are many, many side-characters and side-stories...

It was widely praised at the time of its release, being exceptionally well received by critics (some even calling it a instant classic) and winning the Oscar for best foreign language film, and to this day it tends to appear in 'best of all time' lists, with merit.


Also notable as the first film given the Letterbox treatment in a home video release (the 1984 CED edition).

This movie has examples of:

  • Age-Inappropriate Dress: Titta, who's well into his teens, wears short pants and a childish cap.
  • Bedsheet Ladder: Pimple-faced Biscein climbs one to get to the Sultan's twenty-eight women.
  • Big Beautiful Woman: The tobacconist. She tries to seduce Titta, who is overwhelmed by her bulk.
  • Black Shirt: The originals. They lead a dumb-looking fascist parade; later they torture and humiliate Titta's father for perceived anti-fascist sympathies.
  • Blind Musician: The accordionist, who has a foul mouth.
  • Blowing Smoke Rings: A history teacher is maybe not completely engaged while quizzing a student on Roman Empire history.
  • Bookends: The "puffballs" (floating seed pods) that serve as the first sign of spring.
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  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: Constantly. People keep addressing the camera, commenting on their town and its history.
  • Bumbling Dad: Titta's father, who yells ineffectually at his family a lot.
  • Burn the Witch!: Not a real one! The traditional spring ceremony involves building a huge bonfire in the town square and topping the pile of wood off with an effigy of a witch.
  • Close on Title: Both the opening credits and the film itself (it doesn't have end credits).
  • Coming-of-Age Story: Titta seems reluctant to grow up. Near the end his mother tells him to start acting more like a man.
  • A Date with Rosie Palms: Four of the kids combine it with Auto Erotica, in a deeply weird scene where four of them get together in a car and have a mutual jerkfest in which they call out the names of the girls they're thinking about. (One is fantasizing about Jean Harlow.)
  • Dirty Old Man: Titta's grandfather. He keeps pinching Gina the curvaceous maid's butt.
  • Don't Make Me Take My Belt Off!: Titta's father chases him him with a belt because Titta had urinated on a fellow movie patron's hat.
  • Dumb Blonde: Volpina. She seems like she might be mentally challenged.
  • Eek, a Mouse!!: Some teen boy named Gigliozzi brings a toad to the class picture and freaks out a girl by showing it to her.
  • Heroes Want Redheads: Most of the town's male population has an understandable crush on Gradisca. A whole squad of teen boys watches her bottom move as she walks down the sidewalk in a tight dress.
  • Huge Holographic Head: Though it's not holographic, but made of flowers. And it's Mussolini's.
  • Imagine Spot: Titta imagining himself to be a famous racer, adored by a group of female fans.
  • Little People Are Surreal: Just to make the town that much wackier, one of the nuns at Uncle Teo's asylum is a dwarf.
  • Manchild: Titta's uncle, who has developmental problems and lives in an institution out in the country.
  • Marshmallow Hell: Titta gets pressed against the huge breasts of the buxom tobacconist after betting he could lift her. She encourages him to suck on them, but he ends up complaining he can't breathe.
  • Mood Whiplash:
    • The unexpected illness and death of Titta's mother interrupts the slapstick.
    • This also happens when Titta's father is dragged in for questioning by the Black Shirts and forced to drink castor oil. The mood changes abruptly again when the father is being bathed by his wife after soiling himself and Titta laughs and asks why he stinks (presumably not realizing what had happened).
  • No Indoor Voice: Everyone. Lots of yelling.
  • Nostalgia Ain't Like It Used to Be: Starts out looking like a fond (if a bit irreverent) recollection of the past, but as it goes on it makes clear that small town Italy in the 30s wasn't a fun place to live at all. Mussolini and his policies were popular, the Catholic Church maintained a tight grip on social life, gender roles were rigid, and even the adults behaved like adolescents.
  • Nuns Are Spooky: A dwarf nun at that!
  • Only Sane Man: Titta's mother Miranda is the only one who displays much common sense.
  • Postmodernism: Lots of surrealistic imagery, like the dreamlike portrayal of Gradisca's attempt to seduce a prince, or the scene where the five young goofballs that make up Gradisca's gang start to—dance, without partners, for no reason.
  • Quirky Town: A horny fat tobacconist lady, a blind musician, a dwarf nun...
  • Random Events Plot: The film is extremely episodic as it simply recounts a single year in a Quirky Town.
  • Really Gets Around: Volpina is apparently the town bicycle. At one point she goes to a construction crew looking for sex, only for the foreman to chase her away.
    "I bet you dip some cock in your morning coffee."
  • Spiritual Successor: To I Vitelloni, particularly the first quarter of the film. After that, Amarcord spins off in its own unique direction.
  • Slice of Life: More or less random events over a year in a little Fascist Italy town.
  • Toilet Humor: Has more fart, urination and masturbation jokes than your typical respected classic of world cinema.
  • Untranslated Title: "Amarcord" is a Romagnol neologism for "I Remember" (with connotations of the Italian words for "heart, "love" and "bitter" as well).
  • Urine Trouble: In the middle of a class, done by some kid, in a very ingenious way. Namely, he rigs up a long paper tube from his desk in the back, angled down towards the front of the classroom, and pees through it, so that the boy at the front of the class gets blamed.
  • Weather Dissonance: The blizzard, which The Lawyer explains is a once-in-a-lifetime event on that part of the Adriatic Coast.
  • Working-Class People Are Morons: Seriously; almost all the town is shown as a bunch of ignorant buffoons. As an ingenious Take That!, one woman proudly declares that almost all the town is a member of the Fascist Party. Think about it. They also all go out in boats to see the big cruise ship SS Rex go by, only to be swamped in its wake.