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I vitelloni

Directed by Federico Fellini.
With Alberto Sordi, Franco Fabrizi, Franco Interlenghi.
Italy/France, 1953, DCP, black & white, 108 min.
Italian with English subtitles.
DCP source: Luce Cinecittà, Cineteca di Bologna and Cineteca Nazionale

Opening with an end-of-summer beauty pageant that’s interrupted by a thunderstorm, I vitelloni carries that same sense of faded splendor through the rest of its year-long narrative timeline, which charts the trajectory of a quartet of wastrels as they shirk adult responsibility in the modest seaside town of their childhood. Introduced in a voiceover narration that only sporadically returns for wistful summarization, the discontented bunch includes the youthful lush Alberto (Alberto Sordi), the doomed poet Leopoldo (Leopoldo Trieste), the stoic and restless Moraldo (Franco Interlenghi), and the unrepentant womanizer Fausto (Franco Fabrizi), whose nightly whims become the gravitational center holding together a loose cluster of subplots. The provincial setting, adjacent to the Adriatic, marks I vitelloni as the first of Fellini’s transparently autobiographical projects, and, as such, it is a film saturated in nostalgia and tenderness—for the charming town rituals, for the pool hall and movie palace, for the windswept tranquility of the streets after last call, and, above all, for the lost innocence. Consequently, the film’s overarching compassion for its subjects lets Fausto off the hook for his worst excesses, but, in the end, it is Moraldo who emerges as Fellini’s soulful surrogate.

PRECEDED BY

  • Marriage Agency (Agenzia matrimoniale)

    Directed by Federico Fellini.
    With Antonio Cifariello, Livia Venturini, Ilario Malaschini.
    Italy, 1953, DCP, black & white, 20 min.
    Italian with English subtitles.

Fellini participated in the omnibus Love in the City (L’amore in città), a film featuring documentary-esque vignettes of the title subject with both actors and non-actors. Made between I vitelloni and La strada, the director’s little slice of neorealism includes dreamlike, otherworldly touches and ambivalences that contribute some doubt to the possibly unconscious intentions of the narrator, a journalist ostensibly investigating “marriage agencies.” He makes up a fantastic scenario of a wealthy man with a significant flaw looking for a wife, and his first surprise is how quickly they produce an applicant. But the man’s irreverent cynicism is no match for the desperate reality that greets him, bringing his experiment to a quietly heartbreaking close. – BG

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