Motorway To Times Past

FELLINI’S ROMADirected by Federico Fellini. Starring Peter Gonzales, Fiona Florence. Distributed by United Artists. Cert ‘X’

As with The Clowns, Fellini continues his mock documentary technique with his latest full length film, Fellini’s Roma. And as he did with , he uses his extraordinary visionary and stylistic skills to replace what can only be called a fantastic travelogue.

Rome – the city of illusions is, when seen through Fellini’s eyes, both timeless and immediate. The scenes of his early childhood and his growing obsession with Rome open the film which moves on to his arrival in that city at the beginning of Italy’s involvement in World War 2. This is the Rome of Mussolini and the Fascists, but by using ingenious intercutting, makes one notice that the swaggering fascists are not so very different from the brutal, mindless police who set upon a crowd of hippies in modern-day Rome later on in the Film.

The intercutting of scenes from both the past and present is continuous throughout the movie, from Fellini’s first memories and reactions to the city, up to his impressions of encroaching technology and its destructive/horrific effects and impersonality. Fellini’s swirling series of memory images is more than just a’reconstruction of events. The people – the Romans – are shown as we possibly have never seen them before. At all times they are boisterous, alive people, displaying an openness and awareness that is only limited by the ever-dominating power and influence of the Roman church.

Fellini, as usual, displays his hilarious sense of humour to the utmost. The centrepiece of the film is the high society Ecclesiastical Fashion Show – a nostalgic fantasy of an old world-weary princess, who manically craves for the high protocol and exclusive glittering customs of the past. This spectacular sequence has to be seen to be believed. The models show off the latest creations for priests, nuns and the rest of the Roman Church’s hierarchy by walking, swaying, hopping, cycling, roller-skating, etc around a horseshoe shaped platform. The rest of the fashions and the opulent, magnificent final scene of this sequence are better left for movie-goers to discover for themselves.

Fellini also creates a traffic jam, which is equal to anything previously staged in either Jacques Tati’s Traffic or Godard’s Weekend.

Other sequences which immediately spring to the mind of this reviewer, who has had his senses battered and dazed in the way he comes to expect with a Fellini film, are the showing of subway excavators unearthing beautiful, ancient frescoes which soon evaporate through contact with air; the reconstuction of Roman music-hall, and the bizarre meetings of the sexes in both seedy and luxurious whore-houses. And the Romans’ passion for constantly eating is displayed as funny and very human.

Peter Gonzales excellently plays the part of the young Fellini when he first arrives in Rome. Whilst the music of Nino Rota, once again, provides the perfect accompaniment to the moods and events portrayed.

Fellini’s Roma is more than just an enjoyable and successful film – it is a statement of Super Realism*, “where beauty and ugliness exist as absolute forms, without flaws.” It is also a chance for audiences to share the expanding and perceptive visions of an artist, through a mosaic of memory, actuality and imagination.

* John Calendo, Andy Warhol’s Interview, November 1972.

Denis Lemon

Denis Lemon

1945-1994. Denis was one of the founders of Gay News and was perhaps most famous for being sued by Mary Whitehouse when, as editor, he published a poem in 1976 by James Kirkup that she felt was 'blasphemous'. He was fined £500 and sentenced to 9 months in prison suspended for 8 months. The Court of Appeal later quashed the sentence. He died of complications from AIDS in 1994 and was survived by his partner Nick Purshouse.
Denis Lemon

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Author: Denis Lemon

1945-1994. Denis was one of the founders of Gay News and was perhaps most famous for being sued by Mary Whitehouse when, as editor, he published a poem in 1976 by James Kirkup that she felt was ‘blasphemous’. He was fined £500 and sentenced to 9 months in prison suspended for 8 months. The Court of Appeal later quashed the sentence. He died of complications from AIDS in 1994 and was survived by his partner Nick Purshouse.

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