Thursday, September 16, 2010

#50: And the Ship Sails On

(Federico Fellini, 1984)

Languishing in a non-anamorphic, sub-par transfer with almost literally no extra material (not even an essay, as this space is taken up by an exerpt from a book-length Fellini interview) is Fellini's final film in the Criterion collection, chronologically speaking. And the Ship Sails On is irritatingly absurd, a rambling and bizarre intellectual investigation into the idea of cinema (in its guise of society) as illusion. With a structure that is consistently detrimental to the impression of its characters, the film becomes entirely dull and impenetrable. I had a hard time making it all the way through.

Similar to his fellow masters Kurosawa and Truffaut, Fellini returns to many of the themes he had explored in his previous films with this 80s work. Fellini finally makes the silent film he has been wanting to make his whole career with the first ten minutes of the film, and the characters here are perhaps the most bizarrely deformed and visually macabre. But unlike The Last Metro, and certainly Ran, And the Ship Sails On cannot compare to earlier Fellini films, which all rested primarily if not exclusively on emotions deep within the human experience. And the Ship Sails On instead relies on ideas, and not very many of them.

The final moments of the film reminded me of the final moments of Taste of Cherry, though as the director of that film explained, his choice was meant to have an impact on our emotional reaction to the film. By the time the artifice of And the Ship Sails On is revealed, there isn't anything left to expose as artificial.

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