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Now this ghastly critic says. I told you once before that you are a sponge about Fellini and this is a perceptive friend. You were spying is that absorbs everything and then squeezes it out again but then when it comes out it is pure Fellini. It is this that I should read. So I think your method is to describe yourself as a critic and Philly's as I can imagine him grounding these out how can you say what my method is wrong. You are listening to Dwight MacDonald on film. The topic for this programme is the film since 1950 park 1 Federico Fellini and now once again here is Dwight McDonald now Fellini I think the day I'll probably film directors of all time. I mean right now you know next year well one might think something different. Feeling he was born in Riemannian his father was a wholesale grocer.
He went to approach old school and stuff but the usual thing especially sexual matters but. About religion too which was because he was brought up in a very strict Catholic environment. And you can see this across in Fellini's films quite easily and also very middle class home which he revolted against He put school at 12. Joined a travelling circus as an apprentice clown. Then he came back again of course a few months later but then he funny really did leave with a lot of troop when he was 17. It's interesting cause how the from the very beginning he got in as kind of a class of exploitative showbusiness and. He had a talent for cartooning and during the early pre-war period he made a living by pirating American comic strips which were banned by the Muslim regime. He avoided the draft. And during the war he made a living especially at the
liberation of Rummy made a living by drawing quick sketches caught Tillman's eyes and other people with money as you buy them something in vom on them and they thought he was really them hand to mouth and he also bought a few radio skits and then it matters why you let him out see that was a costly one of the spirits he matter about this time they've been married about 20 years or so and she was an actress in his skits. He really got into the movies who was about to make open city which was a face in realist film about a neo realist films. Right after the war and he did the script with Vaseline in for open city. And he also discussed pies on which in some ways is an even better movie than open city also with Russell and he and I got an Oscar for autism out of it. So then he became a screenwriter. This was around 1945 46 his first movie was variety lights in 1950
the second was the right cheek 52 foot which Antonioni did the screen play and it was really based on a documentary Antonioni had made you see the same thing here that you have this peculiar conjunction of people in the movies that help each other and only when you have a kind of a small community here you have an Antonioni and Fellini long before they became famous both collaborating on this movie that fully directed called a white Sheik which is about these calls as a peculiar kind of Italian comic books which instead of having drawings you have photographs of these various scenes. With captions at the bottom. Tonight and I get in this country but it's a spoof on a girl who was so much involved in how the whole world has been completely remade by these for Maddie and she thinks she's living in one and that's the point of the movie. The next film in 53 was even allowed and then with La Strada in the next year and 54 was the time the
phrase became famous outside of Italy. I think is not such a great picture as many people think the same reason that people praise it because it is so much like Chaplin and Howard Langdon I think is one of the top as well. Now the trouble is that one of his main weakness is a tendency toward sentimentality and I think less so and he goes pretty far in not direction and then Downey in 1955 which I haven't seen Knights of to bury in 57 which I think is perhaps his second best film two and a half. About a prostitute and show biz life the kind of life that he really feels and knows about and then beat of course in 1960 which for the first time made some money for as described by Playboy. An Epicurean smorgasbord out of despair and degeneracy. And I fell
in fees for millions of scandal hungry moviegoers including the readers of Playboy. I think. It's funny how these riders Volga and they don't realize that of course they're really. Talking about themselves half time but to be found a playboy there was a very good interview in fact those Playboy interviews were often quite good as you probably know there was a very good one with Fellini. I just want to read you a few of his answers. These times I'm just a storyteller and the cinema happens to be my medium. I like it because it recreates life and movement and lodges it enhances it distills it. Is not just an art form it's actually a new form of life with its own rhythms cadences perspectives and transparency and the interviewer says most critics agree that your technique is uniquely compelling. But I disagree on the model and meaning of your films does this concern you do the critics have to understand my film. Playboy films intended primarily as an attachment that's a cause typically stupid question to be asked.
Or is that box office appeal is secondary to philosophic intent. So it's really nice as I'm not concerned with popularity and his point is to speak of philosophical intent. After each picture I often don't recall what my intentions were. My word can't be anything other than a testimony of what I am looking for in life it is a mirror of my session and for what. For myself freed from first to last I have struggled to free myself from the past from the education laid upon me as a child that is what I am seeking to different characters and changing temple images. I became great in childhood with useless baggage that I now want off my back I want to educate myself. If I can do that I won't be lost in a collective hall that fits nobody because it's made to fit everybody. Wherever I go I see young people moving in groups like schools of fish he says this is the route for many isn't as old as I am but he is about. Well and must be pushing 50. Anyway he says. Young people moved in groups like schools of fish when I was young
and we all moved in separate directions. People always think that when they were young I think that it was. Removed in step with the reactions I would develop in a society like ants and blocks and colonies This is one of the things I fear more than anything else. I love pivoting man's greatness and nobility consistence down in fear of the masses how he acts against him self from it is his own personal problems private struggle that is what my films describe. On the famous ending of the half I want to read you something here from an interview which has not been published which I had specially transcribed. From the Italian typed and translated by John Arrowsmith as a matter of fact and the most of it is unusable because the damned interview was exactly like the collaborative but the intellectual collaborator script writer who keeps telling them how lousy the movie is all through the movie remember and then to the end the Thank God you've given up that movie and so on. And this is one of the strange things about for these movies that they often seem to be
sort of prophetic really because here this critic is name is cast out I never heard of Julius Caesar. But this critic talks about three quarters of the time he doesn't give poor Fellini a chance to answer most of the time. Anyway here's one of the few times of the many broke free of this critic who was terribly intellectual and looking for symbols and trying to convict me of being inconsistent and so on. So any says you were trying to translate into scientific rational precise times. A completely irrational perception which is probably the time when privately humanly physiologically. By a series of tensions of passions and fear is the examination of these things the attempt to see them objectively. Can I think the time of the type of perception. Now you would like me to put it all in proper philosophical terms are words she would like me to come to a scientific conceptualization like that or worse. But it seems to me that you thereby negate the film and for yourself the very possibility of swallowing everything over the very soul of a
mysterious change in attitude. The film is just this just such an attempt you see he wants to always break free. And of course the way that he makes a film is very interesting because he refuses to be bound by the script and he really changes things on the set that drives the actors and everybody absolutely crazy. But he insists on doing this and I can see what he is trying to get at. Whether or not it has succeeded I cannot say but I think it has. People I've talked to tell me the things that have made you angry or irritated in your position as a critic were just those things that have released something and then. And one of the main things is this famous and innovating half. And on the ending he describes the ending he says in the dusky gaieties still poisoned with depression with the sky still stormy things still aren't completely resolved. It is only a suggestion of a change of a state of mind. In which all accounted in the story had become evil destroyers who were eating dto alive. Suddenly they show that positive side not because they became so positive but because of the state of
mind who suddenly sees them as a kind of richness. And for this they have accepted even those who have hurt him badly in the sense that they are the evidence of his voice inside himself. In other ways he's able to accept them and as I pointed out myself before I read this actually the end seems to me to mean that nothing is going to be Gerri's really it's only going to be changed because he has accepted reality as it is and seen a certain richness and virtue in the lousy way that's life is lousy but it's also interesting and very sort of an antichrist. You really. Now this ghastly critic says. I told you once before that you are a sponge about Fellini and this is about a perceptive for him. You were a sponge that absorbs everything and then squeezes it out again but that when it comes out it is pure Fellini. It is just a nice show. So I think your method is to describe yourself says the critic and Felice as I can imagine him ground and he said how can you say what my method is.
And the critic says I don't both talk at once. I say it as a critic. What an argument but statistically I say it as I believe he finds out how kind of course and then he gets a little bit. I'm listening with a certain amount of sympathy but for me this doesn't get to the heart of it. Not talking about you but in general when a critic tries to time and even the most friendly Why should follow it always seems to me. And then the damn critic comes in and interrupt and we never get back to what he's going to say. Critic says of course it's obvious why and so on and so on and so on. Well finally for leaning on his big cue you're kind of well two things. One of them is his dislike of the all over the intellectual kind of in type with asian of movies I want to dwell on this aspect if only because it's something that I feel mildly sympathetic to and I've said this before. That one of the main problems with a lot of film criticism today especially in these highbrow serious film qualities is
this endless type of attention I think you should look at what goes on on the screen and enjoy that with us sending us to and literature courses and literature when they talk about you know the symbolism of the whale in Moby Dick and myth and all this business I think it's a big bore. But anyway I believe he was asked to give to Italian television just five minutes to four minutes of his forthcoming film just out of the spirit and so we supplied them with our legs to be a clip from it. And it was an extraordinary comic opera scene starring the elephantine whore from the one that dances on the beach. Dressed as docking on feathers Velvets boots and blond mustache is surrounded by a chorus of nuns clowns and gypsies all cavorting about to the tune of a blaring Neapolitan. And the critics when I saw this on television we did that with lighter than type Italians over the significance or lack of
it. But then they finally discovered after all isn't going on that actually the thing that bring up the whole thing as a point on the thing is not in the film we had no idea put into the film. He just made something absolutely dickless makes movies you know. Actually a lot of the see what these intellectuals would say about it I said plenty. As I've said plenty about Ralf. Now the other thing and this really applies to this kind of prism in looking at Eve It allows. Perhaps somebody who remembers this thing in which the seducer has to marry the girl and as a senator rather station and what she's going away in his honeymoon you probably remember the scene. But does anybody remember the shadow that was cast by the little very small rabbit station they have still about him a man standing here with us. I was station and then a shot of going across it. Did anybody remember that as being physically significant if anything will cause you couldn't possibly. And neither could I but anyway here's a
moment in many ways as quite intelligent in the recent issue of film quietly by something that is critical on Fellini. And his point is which is a very good one he says. One of the difficulties that Fellini's films pose to rational minds is that he is too callous about to save his credibility of his films and he talks about following his conventions who said that not all straying into the language of painting which been eaten out of safe was of his films and the image of the most frequently employs in other ways what this critic is saying is that Fellini's film is not even alone which is the most easy to understand of his film. But many of his other films. Its really the image that is the point and not the superficial plot. Business and so on that he gets a kind of a subliminal AFACT as often you get in painting good. But then he gives an example he says if we look at an image from Eva to Loney just after the poncho around a pregnant sister on a shotgun honeymoon if we are responding to the
impact of the images in the film and not just waiting for the next point of characterization to develop. We might be affected in the same way as by a certain tiny He's talked about and which you do have a shadow. Cast by a mountain which does have an ominous point to it. But anyway he actually makes this shadow from his route was station into this enormous thing. Now I've read this before I saw the movie and so I was looking for the shadow and it's true that it is a shadow but good heavens there are shadows you know all through the film and why this one but that Lee and I'm afraid this is an example of that kind of rot a desperate effort to type good and to also to make movies like more respectable that. I mean did anybody notice is that I guess not. Now even it allowed me I was rather disappointed in it who like to even allow me did anybody like it particularly. And why
did you like it would you say with somebody who didn't like it. And I haven't. It does I mean all the rest of you are sort of indifferent. That's even worse. Well anyway I felt to some extent it was what I would call a style of heightened realism but I'm not so sure that it was heightened enough at least not from my things. And I find it difficult to see this as one of the really great films. Although I know this has this reputation but anyway that this is a movie about four or five young men in a small Italian seaside town called reman where as a matter of fact Fellini I'm self spent his life between about the ages of 17 and 20 or so and most who consider this his best movie except for him. I've seen it before and I didn't but I thought well if something is lacking in me
I can see why that people do like it in comparison to let the Hollywood film because it's it's a modest and through little film it's now bigger than it should be and it's real realism and not that kind of hopped up will isn't well I don't like to talk about the pawnbroker all the time but that's sort of Hollywood realism offer that not a Maccie one is another example of where you have everything of value by Hamlet and whereas here I thought that was quite under play really. I think one of the troubles with it is that there's a radical defect in the plot. And you know I think that plots are important in movies. I know it's sort of squared aside now because they always talk as if the movie was like a piece of music abstract and so on but I do think that plot has to be a certain rationalism about a plot and a talk with this plot I think is that it veers between it hesitates between being about this one man that you were talking about the one main character that's presented and about the whole
four of these young men. I think that really really amounted to be about the whole four and managed to be a general comment on these four people who represent different types of aimless frustrated young men in a small Italian town. I think that's what he meant but I think he got sort of diverted onto this one follow and the result is that you doubt that he had enough to make this one fellow entirely real. And yet you have so much of him that you don't have the other people developed and I think this is a radical. The fact of it and I agree that I couldn't physically Adana file with him whereas I could identify with most of the characters in Bradman's naked night. The acting was I thought actually that was one of the best things about it because Italian films always seem to have extremely good actors if you notice everyone in Italy is a natural actor. And feels completely at home in some way in some other kind. In fact even a very small plots in Italian movies are very well taken. Whereas in our movies or in English movies
Francis They tend to be taken by obvious professional actors but in Italian movies it's extraordinary the sense of simple unforced reality you get from their acting. One of the things about the Fellini's whole style of making a movie that this movie has not enough Actually it is much more and to be area or a half is this peculiar sense of the bizarre that comes in when I'll bet one of the four people he's very much appalled by is just you know becoming involved with this rather unfairly who just has some money but isn't the fact of it all and is just a fine decides to run away with them and escape from this town and that's the time when I'll bet you and I was in Dragon female costume because he's been at this big con of all. And there's a very heartbreaking scene when he yells out to his sister goodbye and Dungarvan
Cylon and she goes off in the car with this man that he doesn't approve of at all and he's in this female costume I don't remember that but that's a typical Fellini touch. The music was extremely banal I thought. The fact they swelled up to the big climaxes and tried to. Make up for a lack of expression on a screen by having the movie one of the good things about it was the use of a commentator to get a sight in aesthetic distance in the movie and the commentator was really necessary I wish in fact he carried that out more because the commentary did give a general meaning to the film precisely by the fact that he wasn't one of the characters and was simply talking about them. And so you have this distancing which I think is necessary for aesthetic effect. This is much the most objective and realistic of really nice films and yet oddly enough it's also the most directly about his own life. In fact this is the city of town city where he was a young man.
And he did indeed leave me many. Like who was the one in the film that at the end you remember he goes off to the city and this is obvious to be Fellini because Morales I was the one that observes things doesn't like any part of the action is very sensitive. And actually projected a sequel which he never made to this called in the city which morale it becomes as bullying did a professional Katanas to the city of a mending of the town of Rainman is really a kind of a playpen for these grown up boys and one of the most subtle and interesting little scenes is that scene at the beach when they're all sort of milling around wanting what to do and somebody says let's go watch those fellows fishing you know that whole idea is let's go watch somebody do something else they don't know what to do with himself at all. Well now on Judy out of the spirit and roughly I think it's a great
come down from eight in the half. I think it's a kind of a famine eyes version of eight and a half it's really the same situation except instead of having a man the difference is that instead of having a male audience who has both the artistic and mouth old emotional problems. You have middle and married woman who merely has told motional problems and her problem is a very simple one which is that she's discovered that our husband is unfaithful to her and she's afraid that her husband is leaving her. Now this problem in itself might seem to be privately able to produce a serious work of art in fact I don't see why it couldn't. It sounds like a synopsis of seitan really quite good novels. But for some reason or other it didn't and I think the reason it didn't was essentially because. It didn't appeal to Fellini's imagination. And I think it didn't appeal to his
imagination. Well partly because half is actually Fellini it actually is a mad man of a certain age was worried about getting old who's worried about the fact he can't be faithful to his wife. And while worried about his relations with other women and also worried about his creative powers. So there you have a complete The benefit cation and for Fellini's kind of movie making. I think that's why that I would say that this is his best film. But in this case this requires a certain effort of objective imagination that for me does not seem to be able to Mike. And an essential witness in the film. It seems to me that in order to make up for a sort of a boredom or a lack of real penetrating understanding of the problem of Giulietta who has played as you know by his wife father in a resting point. But anyway what Fellini does is to go into all kinds of fantastic
photography tricks. In fact he brings the whole world of the Alethea and fantasy into the picture. Now I don't know half these two worlds are first of all quite clearly defined as you know when you're in one and when you're on the other and they really work to each other's benefit. The fantastic world the world of memories and the world of wishful dreams that ghetto highs and riches that his real life and also his will I feel brings down to earth makes more meaningful his memories and his dreams. But here the contrary happens. The world of illusion invades the world of reality so that throughout the film you really are in about the same position that poor Juliet is in. At any moment. Unreality can invade reality and you can't be quite sure. Exactly where you want therefore you don't get the effect of contrast and
therefore you have a kind of a self-indulgent film in which anything going to happen at any moment which to me anyway guarantees absolute boredom after a while. For instance the interesting question as to whether that sandal played the part the fantastic nymphomaniac rich woman that lives next door to Julie and her husband. Now is this isn't it. She's not my wife. Absolutely with this in that she wasn't. I mean that it was unreal this was part of jewel that is imagining. Well actually there is a saying at the beginning of the film it was a very prosaic doctor was on the beach with Julie Atta and they see this fantastic procession coming down the bay. And the doctor sees it also. So therefore she is intended to be real because you can't have that. The doctor wouldn't have seen it if she
was just part of Giuliani's imagination but the fact that there can be confusion on a point like this would seem to me to indicate something wrong with the film. Another trouble with the film is that if you have a real subject and a real milieu you have them then of making a movie it's a real world. And you have a real subject which is the real problem of the frustrated artist. Whereas here there is no reality to the boys my world that shown has been as opposed to being some kind of a publisher he mad and they're supposed to be living and I sometimes sort of like an Italian version of Scarsdale or something I have two servants they have a television set they have modern furniture. And it's all just regular. Madison Avenue suburban kind of life well actually their friends all of them just about as fantastic as the showbiz people there. And this from the very beginning Dan introduces a completely inauthentic note. And the
reason for this is because again Fellini seem to feel that it was necessary to sort of pop up this subject. Now you see when he's dealing with the real world that he really now is an empathizes with as an event a loney. Which is the world of provincial young men who are frustrated in a provincial town. When he dealing with this world. He's very good and he really understands it and he's ready. But that's it and I have realistic so in this way. But he somehow doesn't have any feeling for the kind of a world that's in between. I mean the kind of a respectable world that he's trying to show here he has no feeling for this at all. And as I say therefore he tries to make it into a kind of a not a show biz kind of a world. And the general effect of the film on me anyway was to make me feel very much as if I'd eaten. Well I think that this is his simile in the New York Review of Books see that he felt as if he'd eaten that privately and Norma's meal
consisting of nothing but various kinds of absolutely delicious many colleges. And I scream you know I was bemoaning the fact he called it the mony and Fellini or something like that. And I thought that I felt after that that he had nothing there but that you have been listening to Dwight McDonald on film in this program Mr. McDonald has discussed the film since 1950. Part one. Federico Fellini. This series was produced by communication center the University of Texas for national educational radio producer for the series. Bill Jordan Bill Moyers speaking. This is NPR National Educational Radio Network.
Dwight Macdonald on film
The Film since 1950: Fellini
Producing Organization
University of Texas
KUT (Radio station : Austin, Tex.)
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University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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Episode Description
The Film Since 1950: Fellini, Giulietta of the Spirits, I Vitalone
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Series of lectures by Dwight Macdonald on film: its makers, its history, its future.
Film and Television
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Announcer: Miller, Phil
Producer: Jordan, Bill
Producing Organization: University of Texas
Producing Organization: KUT (Radio station : Austin, Tex.)
Speaker: Macdonald, Dwight
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University of Maryland
Identifier: 67-16-10 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:30:17
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Chicago: “Dwight Macdonald on film; The Film since 1950: Fellini,” 1967-05-15, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed April 25, 2024,
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