I have very recently begun exploring Italian movies, and Fellini is a revered name of this genre. Sometime back I watched Otto e Mezzo (8 1/2) by this movie-maker, and was rather impressed by the work. The movie is a depiction of a director’s brain-work as he struggles through a director’s block, exhausted of any original and artistic ideas. During this period, he delves into memories, fantasies, dreams and nightmares, mostly absurd and illogical. However, the viewer is always kept confused between the mind-work and reality, as both of them overlap with a persistence. It is a well known fact that it was an autobiographical movie, and after watching Amarcord, it appears that Fellini likes to put in an autobiographical element to his works.
Amarcord is far removed from the serious and a rather hopeless tone of Otto e Mezzo, and is a rough and risque comedy. It is Fellini’s recollection of his rustic hometown of Rimini, as he takes us through an year of this town’s life. It’s a town which enjoys its silly rituals, lusts after women and has a bunch of bored school boys indulging in fantasies that they hide from their prohibitive church. It is a rather conservative and retrograde town, rejoicing in simple entertainments like cheering the passage of a very large ship (Rex), and tumbles into chaotic activity on arrival of the Fascist leader Mussolini.
Though the movie is largely told from the perspective of young Titta, who is actually a cinematic version of Fellini’s own youth, it is actually a collage of different stories featuring different people. Though the scene with the tobacconist features in almost all discussions that I read of the film, I thought there were other sequences which deserved better attention – for example the sequence of church confession which depicted the un-accommodating and unrealistic nature of the church, the sequence about the uselessness of school education and the hilarious scene with uncle Teo!
This film has been described in many places as a ‘Coming of age’ film, though frankly, the ‘growing up’ part was not too visible to me. In fact I thought that the end scene where the town’s femme fatale gets married to a Fascist officer, almost eliminates from the story Titta and what happens to him at the year’s end.
Overall, I think this movie was a well done tribute from Fellini to his hometown, and it was apparent that he was looking back at this small place fondly and without reproach for all its misgivings.