Doodad Kind of Town

A Happy Afternoon with "Amarcord"
September 8, 2008, 2:46 pm
Filed under: 70s Films Revisited, Frederico Fellini

You’d never know it by the looks of this blog, but I’ve been watching a LOT of movies lately.

Trouble is, I seldom feel motivated to write about them.

An overload of movies – even though many of them are quite good – has somehow made me blase rather than enthusiastic. If I were to start writing, I fear I’d turn into the Peggy Lee of movie bloggers, adding one movie-inspired verse after another to my signature hit (“Is that all there is to ‘Tropic Thunder’? … to ‘The Last Mistress’? … to ‘The Fountainhead’? … to ‘The Saddest Music in the World’?” And so on and so on.)

It took the the work of a master to break through this fog and remind me of why I loved movies in the first place. I spent a very happy couple of hours this weekend with Fellini’s “Amarcord,” a joyous, raucous, funny remembrance of life in an Italian village in the 1930s. From the very first scenes, when the ‘puffballs’ come in on the breeze, signifying the end of winter, the film itself springs to exuberant life, bursting with joy and randy good humor.

The lively opening sequence shows the villagers gathering in the town square for the ritual burning of “The Old Witch of Winter” (an effigy on a pole), dancing hand in hand around the bonfire in a scene that distinctly recalls the finale of “8 1/2.” These introductory scenes have the feeling of a big, opening production number in a stage musical. We meet all the players as Fellini’s camera sweeps along the main street, accompanied by Nino Rota’s lively, sensual theme music. There’s “the Lawyer,” the elegant gentleman who will provide intermittent anecdotal narration about the town’s background and legends. There is Grabisca, the town’s aging beauty who longs for love and family and spends solitary afternoons at the cinema watching her screen crush, Gary Cooper. There’s Volpina, the shamelessly randy town prostitute. And most importantly, there is Titta, the adolescent protagonist, whose circle of school chums (lusting endlessly after the girls and women of the village) and family (arguing endlessly at their kitchen table) will be at the center of the film.

“Amarcord” unfolds over the next two hours as a series of vignettes, capturing one year in the life of the village. Hearts will be broken, there will be marriages and deaths, celebrations and disappointments, love both requited and requited. And there will always, always be sex. Even Titta’s slow-witted uncle Teo, while out on a day trip from the country hospital where he resides, climbs a tree to profess his one greatest desire (in this scene): “Voglia una donna! (I want a woman!)”

I didn’t just want “Amarcord” to go on forever, I actually wanted to live in that village. I can’t remember the last time a movie made me feel like that.


4 Comments so far
Leave a comment

God, I love Fellini. And “Amarcord” is where it all started for me. Gradisca, Vulpina, all the characters, how wonderful they all are.Thanks for the memories!

Comment by Rick Olson

Rick -I can see where this movie would make anyone fall in love with Fellini’s work. My first Fellini was not memorable – “Juliet of the Spirits,” which I saw in my college Introduction to Film class, and slept through much of.It wasn’t until years later when I first saw “8 1/2” than I realized what a genius he was.

Comment by Pat

I like “Juliet,” though it is kind of an acquired taste.

Comment by Rick Olson

I love Amarcord! My favorite Fellini of them all. Thank you for the memories, Pat.

Comment by Alexander Coleman

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