Top 5 films of Federico Fellini – where to start?

 

The current film program at the Australian Cinémathèque in GOMA is a complete retrospective of all the films made by Italian master filmmaker Federico Fellini. It’s a tough choice for which films to see, where do you start? There are some Fellini films that just cry out to be seen on the big screen, here’s my top 5 Fellini films not to be missed.

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1 La Dolce Vita

The seductive yet damning La Dolce Vita 1960 follows journalist Marcello (played by the infinitely cool Marcello Mastroianni) as he drifts across Rome on assignment and through complicated romantic entanglements. The film stars some of Fellini’s most notable acting collaborators including Mastroianni, Anouk Aimée and Anita Ekberg playing film star Sylvia Rank, who famously wades into the Trevi fountain in a ballgown, coaxing Marcello after her.

Production still from La Dolce Vita 1960 / Director: Federico Fellini / Image courtesy: Janus Films

2 Nights of Cabiria

Actress Giulietta Masina, and wife of Federico Fellini, delivers an exquisitely expressive and layered portrayal of Cabiria, a sex worker in the back alleys of Rome. Through betrayal and disappointment Cabiria’s resilience and good heart shines. Masina won the Best Actress prize at the 1957 Cannes Film Festival and Nights of Cabiria won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film the same year. 

Production still from Nights of Cabiria 1955 / Director: Federico Fellini / Image courtesy: Studio Canal

3 La Strada

One of Fellini’s most highly influential and acclaimed films, La Strada 1954 follows a small travelling circus in this poetic tale that meditates on the possibilities of sweetness or cruelty in life. Celebrated actress Giulietta Masina is a revelation as Gelsomina, the innocent and melancholy clown sold into servitude to the travelling strongman, Zampanò, played by Anthony Quinn.

Production still from La Strada 1954 / Director: Federico Fellini / Image courtesy: Umbrella Entertainment

4 Fellini’s Satyricon

Fellini’s Satyricon 1969 is based on the collection of stories by Petronius (one of Emperor Nero’s advisors) and is the director’s interpretation of ancient Rome through the lens of what he termed ‘science fiction’. The scale of Fellini’s cinematic vision, achieved with elaborate production design and costuming, is staggering. Brimming with sexual liberation and experimentation — orgiastic banquets, gilded bodies, minotaurs — the film’s extravagance and decadence is both a magnetic spectacle and a damming critique of excess.

Production still from Fellini Satyricon 1969 / Director: Federico Fellini / Image courtesy: Park Circus

5

The iconic 8 ½, made in 1963, is Fellini’s masterpiece. An exploration of filmmaking and the creative spark, it examines the terror of a director out of ideas, with a team of film professionals waiting on him for a project to commence. Marcello Mastroianni brilliantly acts as Fellini’s alter ego, Guido, in a turmoil of romantic confusion, bombarded by intrusive memories and outrageous fantasy sequences.

Production still from 8 ½ 1963 / Director: Federico Fellini / Image courtesy: Umbrella Entertainment

RELATED: More 5 film suggestions to watch 

6 (Our wild card) Juliet of the Spirits

Can you imagine making a film — the premise of which is about your innermost thoughts, draws from your own dreamscapes, you’re being directed by your husband (a famous filmmaker) and the story is primarily about your husband’s adulterous nature? This is what the phenomenal actress Giulietta Masina did. Juliet of the Spirits 1965 is a lavish and wild film in hyper-colour that was written specifically for Masina which does actually draw from her own dreams and memories. Juliet of the Spirits is a deeply brave undertaking by a radiant and strong Masina. 

Production still from Juliet of the Spirits 1965 / Director: Federico Fellini / Image courtesy: Janus Films

The films of Federico Fellini

View the program

Luci Del Varietà (Variety Lights) 1950
Lo Sceicco Bianco (The White Sheik) 1952
I Vitelloni
1953
Agenzia Matrimoniale (A Marriage Agency) 1953
La Strada 1954
Il Bidone (The Swindle) 1955
Le Notti Di Cabiria (Nights Of Cabiria) 1957
La Dolce Vita 1960
Le Tentazioni del Dottor Antonio (The Temptations of Doctor Antonio) 1962
8 ½ 1963
Giulietta Degli Spiriti (Juliet of the Spirits) 1965
Toby Dammit 1968
Fellini Satyricon 1969
Fellini: A Director’s Notebook 1969
I Clowns (The Clowns) 1970
Roma 1972
Amarcord 1973
Casanova 1976
Prova D’orchestra (Orchestra Rehearsal) 1978
La Città Delle Donne (City of Women) 1980
E La Nave Va (And The Ship Sails On) 1983
Ginger E Fred (Ginger and Fred) 1986
Intervista (Interview) 1987
La Voce Della Luna (The Voice of The Moon) 1990

Rosie Hays is Associate Curator, Australian Cinémathèque, QAGOMA

‘The Films of Federico Fellini’ is at the Australian Cinémathèque, GOMA from 16 August until 2 October 2022.

QAGOMA is the only Australian art gallery with purpose-built facilities dedicated to film and the moving image. The Australian Cinémathèque at the Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA) provides an ongoing program of film and video that you’re unlikely to see elsewhere, offering a rich and diverse experience of the moving image, showcasing the work of influential filmmakers and international cinema, rare 35mm prints, recent restorations and silent films with live musical accompaniment on the Gallery’s Wurlitzer organ originally installed in Brisbane’s Regent Theatre in November 1929.

Featured image: Production still from La Strada 1954 / Director: Federico Fellini / Image courtesy: Umbrella Entertainment
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