City of Women
(La città delle donne)
With Marcello Mastroianni, Anna Prucnal, Bernice Stegers.
Italy/France, 1980, DCP, color, 140 min.
Italian with English subtitles.
DCP source: Luce Cinecittà, Cineteca di Bologna and Cineteca Nazionale
“What kind of film is this?” asks Snàporaz (an aging but still debonair Marcello Mastroianni) somewhere near the middle of City of Women. He’s found himself on the receiving end of a string of debasements at the hands of the opposite sex after pursuing a potential hookup on a cross-country train ride, and that’s not normally how things go in Fellini films starring a dapper lead such as Mastroianni—who plays much the same character here as he does in 8 ½, only facing a much different world around him. Feminism has reached Italian shores, and courting behavior that was once at best charming and at worst begrudgingly accepted is now received with scrutiny and dismissal by the crusading women of the modern world, many of whom have inexplicably convened at a hotel in the middle of the woods. It’s here where Snàporaz undergoes a berating-cum-reeducation through a series of increasingly delirious scenarios that test the boundaries of his complacency as a philanderer. Simultaneously an indulgence in and challenge to unrepentant male horniness, City of Women quickly uncoils from its paper-thin plot to become a self-referential hall of mirrors, an admirably overblown experiment by Fellini in exposing and evaluating his own id.