The fulcrum of Fellini’s neorealist early period and the extravagance into which his style would evolve, La Dolce Vita dramatizes “the sweet life” of its title with a mix of glee and cynicism. Through its delirious portrait of a paparazzo journalist named Marcello (Marcello Mastroianni), the film examines a soul in conflict: seduced by the glittering luxuries of Roman nightlife, yet constantly left adrift by their hollow promises of spiritual succor. Swanky cabarets, aristocratic parties, the public fanfare around an alleged sighting of the Virgin Mary, the arrival in Rome of an American Venus (Anita Ekberg)—Marcello plays witness to all these happenings but rarely ascends beyond bemused outsider status, much as he tries in vain to ingratiate himself into the rarefied worlds of sophisticates like Steiner (Alain Cuny). Meanwhile, he’s haunted by the protests of his neglected fiancée (Magali Noël) as well as the provocations of the unreachable Maddalena (Anouk Aimée), whose heart he can’t manage to win. Shot in pristine monochrome widescreen, the film evokes the modernism of Michelangelo Antonioni in its use of landscape and negative space while also hinting at the more intricate blocking of Fellini’s later style.