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Federico Fellini

Federico Fellini: Contemporary Perspectives

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  • Book Info
    Federico Fellini
    Book Description:

    This collection of essays brings Fellini criticism up to date, employing a range of recent critical filters, including semiotic, psychoanalytical, feminist and deconstructionist.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-7483-7
    Subjects: Film Studies

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Preface
    (pp. vii-x)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. Chronology
    (pp. xiii-xvi)
  6. Illustrations
    (pp. xvii-2)
  7. Introduction
    (pp. 3-25)

    If one were to search for an analogy, however inadequate, for Federico Felliniʹs distinctive way of deploying the cinematic image, one might come close with the recent cyber-novelty, virtual on-screen creatures called ʹArtificial Life.ʹ³ These little electronic beings, ʹlivingʹ out their ʹlivesʹ in cyberspace, have the power to challenge the very foundations of our philosophical beliefs. They are invented in the sense that they are computer generated; yet their programmers cannot foretell, nor can they control, the outcome of their programming. The programmer merely sets the stage, on which the properties of the AL program then emerge. AL has attracted...

  8. 1 Federico Fellini: Reality/Representation/Signification
    (pp. 26-46)

    To put my title in perspective, let me briefly hypothesize, somewhat after both Fredric Jameson and Jean Baudrillard, a continuum from reality to representation to signification, using notions now commonplace in poststructural semiotic critique. Traditional aesthetics has tended to place art and language in direct relation to the real, via concepts such as mimesis and representation. Traditional language theory, along with aesthetics, has posited a relationship based on reference, in which the word/artwork is the sign and the real its referent. Within a referential relationship, the word/artwork represents the real. In the past several decades, notions of the real and...

  9. 2 Subtle Wasted Traces: Fellini and the Circus
    (pp. 47-64)

    Even until very recently, critical assessments of Felliniʹs films have been couched in terms of old-style auteur criticism. Felliniʹs status as a remarkable ʹʺartistʺ of the cinema whose ʺpersonalʺ cinema contains a strong autobiographical elementʹ⁵ and whose preoccupations are consistently ʹexpressedʹ in his films is confirmed through readings that search out the traces of a distinct narrative and visual ʹmannerʹ across his work and through elevating comparisons to ʹa short story writer or a lyric poet.ʹ⁶ However, in beginning this discussion with these quotations from him about the circus and the cinema, I do not wish to consolidate this approach....

  10. 3 Fellini and Lacan: The Hollow Phallus, the Male Womb, and the Retying of the Umbilical
    (pp. 65-91)

    In the early years of the last century, Sigmund Freud formulated his theories regarding human sexuality. Later generations have faulted the Freudian Oedipal paradigm for both its male specificity and its heterocentricity. During the middle years of the last century, French psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan extended the Freudian Oedipal paradigm into the field of semiotics, the study of sign systems. Lacan describes an originary situation of illusory undifferentiated wholeness or plenitude based on mother–infant symbiosis. The phallus intrudes into this situation, diacritically splitting wholeness into differentiated elements and the ungendered symbiosis of the mother–infant unit into ʹsexed partial beingsʹ...

  11. 4 When in Rome Do As the Romans Do? Federico Felliniʹs Problematization of Femininity (The White Sheik)
    (pp. 92-106)

    Throughout Federico Felliniʹs 1952 filmLo sceicco bianco(The White Sheik), the heroine Wanda engages in performances of femininity that cleverly encapsulate a conventional narrative of womanhood. As both responsible wife and impassioned harem girl she fulfils roles advanced in 1950s Italy as ʹnaturalʹ and ʹinstinctiveʹ to women. Her entry into these roles is facilitated by socialization into femininity, which has prepared her to understand the expectations associated with them in social intercourse. The heroineʹs two roles, however, are typically represented as occupying the opposite ends of the spectrum of sexual identities permissible to women. Wandaʹs performance thus unmasks a...

  12. 5 Whose Dolce vita Is This, Anyway? The Language of Felliniʹs Cinema
    (pp. 107-120)

    These comments by Italian film director Federico Fellini concerning the relationship between his filmmaking and memory call attention to an issue in the semiotics of cinema that complicates any notion of the usefulness of film as a locus for certain kinds of historical and cultural analysis. I will argue that a film like Felliniʹs 1959 release,La dolce vita, though highly relevant to investigations of autobiographical and historical discourse, makes good on Felliniʹs suggestion that his project does not stand in any hierarchical, mimetic relation to memory. Instead, this film – not unlike the films of the earlyNouvelle Vague...

  13. 6 ʹToby Dammit,ʹ Intertext, and the End of Humanism
    (pp. 121-136)

    Federico Fellini has long been identified as a humanist on a journey of self-discovery, pursuing meaning on a perilous ʹroadʹ¹ and creating melancholic heroes stifled by introspection in the manner of the Renaissance humanist self or subject.² I will argue that while it is indeed difficult (perhaps even pointless) to separate Fellini from an essentially humanist world view, his project since the 1960s entails a negative dialectic involved in a debunking not only of the contemporary milieu and mediascape, but of much cultural tradition and the artist him/herself. As such, his work is implicated in rather than adversarial to the...

  14. 7 Felliniʹs Amarcord: Variations on the Libidinal Limbo of Adolescence
    (pp. 137-154)

    Revealing the bond that ties Felliniʹs lifetimeoffilms to his lifetimeinfilm, Felliniʹs own caveat constitutes a paradoxical point of departure when consideringAmarcord(1973), a film whose premise – as the very title implies (Amarcordmeans ʹI rememberʹ) – is an act of narrative recollection predicating the substantiality of a recollected object and the existence of a recollecting ʹI.ʹ Under such circumstances we could, as Frank Burke does, argue thatAmarcordis ʹa film which emphasizes the mere mechanisms of representation by asserting ʺI rememberʺ but providing no ʺIʺ who remembers – thus defeating referenceʹ (ʹFrom Representation...

  15. 8 Memory, Dialect, Politics: Linguistic Strategies in Felliniʹs Amarcord
    (pp. 155-168)

    Fellini made special use of verbal signs throughout his filmmaking career, and it is somewhat surprising that scholars have paid so little attention to the linguistic structure of his works. Over the years, Fellini moved away from a neorealist approach to spoken sounds as social descriptors,² toward a more elaborate use of language as symbol. Fellini fused the realistic, the symbolic, and the fantastic in his later films, and employed language as both tool and object of representation. In this essay I explore the linguistic strategies ofAmarcord(1973), Felliniʹs film about his hometown of Rimini. I also discuss the...

  16. 9 Felliniʹs Ginger and Fred: Postmodern Simulation Meets Hollywood Romance
    (pp. 169-187)

    Ginger and Fred(1985) has been commonly read as two films in one: the bittersweet romance of a pair of aged vaudeville dancers brought together after a thirty-year separation to perform their imitation of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers on the special Christmas installment of the TV show ʹEd Ecco a Voiʹ and the satire of postmodern image culture typified by mind-numbing media spectacles and ubiquitous messages to consume.¹ Much of the filmʹs critical reception has hinged on the perceived compatibility or imbalance between its two rival parts. Thus Cattielli faultsGinger and Fredfor its ʹdisequilibrium,ʹ² While Kezich argues...

  17. 10 Cinecittà and America: Fellini Interviews Kafka (Intervista)
    (pp. 188-208)

    In therépublique des lettres, all artistic sympathies have equal dignity, but some seem warmer than others. It is hardly surprising to see with what love Francesco Rosi, a southern European to a fault, is attracted to the southern heritage that inspired his rendition ofCarmenand of García MárquezʹsChronicle of a Death Foretold. Likewise, the artistic affinity that led Luchino Visconti to go beyond the borders of Italian culture and to delve into the inner struggles of the ʹpoor folkʹ who are the protagonists of DostoevskyʹsWhite Nightsrequires little hermeneutic effort, nor does his magnificently personal version...

  18. 11 Interview with the Vamp: Deconstructing Femininity in Felliniʹs Final Films (Intervista, La voce della luna)
    (pp. 209-232)

    From the 1960s onwards, as Fellini moved away from the comic realism of his earlier films toward the carnivalesque excesses that characterize his later style, spectacular configurations of the feminine grew increasingly visible in his work. This variegated parade of female bodies ultimately became one of the most memorable features of his authorial signature. Yet there has been surprisingly little feminist analysis of the Fellinian feminine, and the handful of feminist critics who have engaged with his work have voiced sharply divergent assessments. On the one hand the director has been criticized for his misogynistic deployment of the feminine (de...

  19. Selected Bibliography
    (pp. 233-234)
  20. Filmography
    (pp. 235-236)
  21. Contributors
    (pp. 237-239)