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Variety Lights

Directed by Federico Fellini and Alberto Lattuada.
With Peppino De Filippo, Carla Del Poggio, Giulietta Masina.
Italy, 1950, DCP, black & white, 97 min.
Italian, English and Russian with English subtitles.
DCP source: Luce Cinecittà, Cineteca di Bologna and Cineteca Nazionale

Co-directed with Alberto Lattuada, for whom Fellini wrote two early screenplays, Variety Lights offers a trial run for many of the themes and ideas on display in later films like La strada and La Dolce Vita. Fellini and Lattuada’s protagonist is Checco (Peppino De Filippo), the driven but delusional manager/director of a foundering variety act whose singers and dancers exude more heart than actual talent. Central within the troupe is Checco’s fiancée Melina Amour (Giulietta Masina, in her second role for Lattuada but first for her husband), whose primacy is threatened by her partner’s recruitment of a beautiful ingenue, Liliana (Carla Del Poggio), as a featured performer. Jealousy mounts as Checco sees both career growth and the possibility for romance with Liliana, and before long the unit has splintered off on separate paths, leading Checco to a self-reckoning. Despite echoing aspects of Twentieth Century (1934) and All About Eve, which came out the same year, Variety Lights doesn’t stress the venality of show business. Rather, Fellini and Lattuado’s sensibilities combine to deliver a full-hearted paean to the lowly romantics who treat the stage as a natural extension of life’s wondrous variety.

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