Wednesday, February 24, 2016

#747: Fellini Satyricon

(Federico Fellini, 1969)

When I watched Amarcord, I thought it was an enjoyable distillation of Fellini's unmistakeable style, the concept of "Felliniesque" taken to its logical conclusion. One of the reasons I didn't truly love the film was that I thought his excesses of style and aesthetics were taken to such an extreme that the movie lost its grounded intentions amidst the surreal and flamboyant visuals. I assumed Fellini would be well-served (as he had been in his masterpieces from the late 50s and early 60s) by taking it down a notch.

Little did I know that Amarcord had already come down a substantial notch from the pinnacle of Fellini's Felliniesque period two films earlier. In fact, Fellini Satyricon likely represents a stratosphere several notches above Amarcord, at a height where only Fellini would dare to Fellini. I said in my post on Juliet of the Spirits (a film I have come to regard very highly since my mixed initial response) that that may be the most Fellini movie Fellini ever made. I was deeply, deeply mistaken. Here is Fellini in all his Fellini glory, when a director has produced so many masterpieces and establish such an identifiable style that he becomes a brand, applicable to whichever genre he deems Felliniable.

How you feel about Fellini Satyricon will largely depend on how nice of a TV you have. Ideally, you don't own a TV but have a really great repertory theater near you that will play whatever you want; get them to run this one through their projector. Fellini Satyricon is a visually awesome experience. The sets, production design, and cinematography are gorgeous and surreal. They reminded me strongly of Jodorowsky's work of the same era both in terms of basic beauty and surreal depth (though El Topo is probably one of the few films I've seen that would make this movie seem downright commercial).

The story of Fellini Satyricon is less exciting. As a serial, I found it fairly uneven, with a success rate of about 40% and no strong connection to carry me through the stories that were less compelling. I think seeing this movie in a theater would improve its value tremendously, but I don't know if even this extra effort would propel the movie, as style-heavy as it is, into the upper tier of Fellini's work.

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