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Il bidone

Directed by Federico Fellini.
With Broderick Crawford, Richard Basehart, Giulietta Masina.
Italy/France, 1955, DCP, black & white, 113 min.
Italian, Latin and English with English subtitles.

Fellini’s lyrical take on the crime film trades guns for scams, trench coats for priest robes and cynical fatalism for a tender grasp towards spiritual redemption. Importing grizzled American character actor Broderick Crawford to play aging conman Augusto, Il bidone follows its troubled hero as he leads a pair of younger criminals, Roberto (Franco Fabrizi) and Bruno (Richard Baseheart), through a series of lootings on the outskirts of Rome, their signature act a twofold process: first posing as men of the cloth, then swindling peasants out of their paltry savings. Diabolical as these schemes are, Fellini finds equal interest in the luxury the men are able to indulge as a result of their malpractice, with the film swerving between the sunbaked landscapes the thieves visit by day and the ritzy revelries they crash by night. As is often the case in Fellini’s early work, family obligations quell the appetite for reckless behavior, and as Augusto and Bruno are torn by the needs of an estranged daughter (Irene Cefaro) and a thankless wife (Giulietta Masina), respectively, the grift that sustains them gradually loses steam—though not without consequences.

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