Reviews and notes
It is with I VITELLONI
) the next year and La Strada
in 1954 that Fellini really arrived at full maturity and mastery of his medium.
remains, superficially at least, his most realistic film; also, one of his most directly autobiographical. Vitelloni
are drifters, layabouts and the group of young men whose life in a small provincial town is so vividly, lovingly evoked are precisely that. None of them really settles to anything; they lead a life of dreams, fantasies, childish jokes and for the most part bored inactivity. But only one of them, Moraldo (whom we may take to be the closest representative of Fellini's own position), decides to do anything about it, to make a decisive move by leaving at the end for Rome.
Each of the others has some kind of confrontation with reality in the course of the film, and each turns away: one from marriage, a job and settled responsibility; one, a would-be poet, when he discovers that an actor with a visiting company (more tatty underside of show business gleefully captured on film) who seems to be interested in his work is really only interested in him sexually; one when his beloved sister leaves town with her lover at the end of one of Fellini's intricate party scenes, in this case a fancy-dress ball.
Fellini's attitude to his vitelloni
is complex and ambiguous. He obviously recognizes the futility of their lives and the necessity of escape, but at the same time they seem, viewed at this distance of time in Fellini's own life. to live bathed in a strange sort of tender innocence; there is nostalgia as well as criticism in the picture. And this goes over into the way the story is treated. At first glance the film may seem the closest to Neo-Realism of all his work, but the spirit is not realistic at all. The whole thing is highly subjective, and the time scale of happenings in the film is extremely variable.
This is, indeed, a characteristic of nearly all Fellini's films: time is appreciated as something within the characters' or the maker's head, which may speed by in a swirl and swagger of baroque effect or slow almost to a stop, entirely depending on mood and the emotional structure of the film. Sometimes the life of the vitelloni
rushes by, sometimes we are made palpably aware of its grinding, agonizing emptiness and boredom. Consequently, the collection of precisely noted details of smalltown reality which makes up the film's surface is somehow transmuted into something richer and stranger, seen in the distorting, hallucinatory glow of Fellini's private fantasy world.
-John Russell Taylor, Cinema - A Critical Dictionary (ed. Richard Roud), Secker & Warburg, 1980.
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