Nostalgia, Sexuality, Politics And Fellini


Fellini & Bruno Zanin on the set of Amarcord in 1973

To help promote Satyricon in the United States, Fellini flew to Los Angeles in January 1970 for interviews with Dick Cavett and David Frost. He also met with film director Paul Mazursky who wanted to star him alongside Donald Sutherland in his new film, Alex in Wonderland. In February, Fellini scouted locations in Paris for The Clowns, a docufiction both for cinema and television, based on his childhood memories of the circus and a "coherent theory of clowning." As he saw it, the clown "was always the caricature of a well-established, ordered, peaceful society. But today all is temporary, disordered, grotesque. Who can still laugh at clowns?... All the world plays a clown now."


In March 1971, Fellini began production on Roma, a seemingly random collection of episodes informed by the director's memories and impressions of Rome. The "diverse sequences," writes Fellini scholar Peter Bondanella, "are held together only by the fact that they all ultimately originate from the director’s fertile imagination." The film's opening scene anticipates Amarcord while its most surreal sequence involves an ecclesiastical fashion show in which nuns and priests roller skate past shipwrecks of cobwebbed skeletons.


Over a period of six months between January and June 1973, Fellini shot the Oscar-winning Amarcord. Loosely based on the director's 1968 autobiographical essay My Rimini, the film depicts the adolescent Titta and his friends working out their sexual frustrations against the religious and Fascist backdrop of a provincial town in Italy during the 1930s. Produced by Franco Cristaldi, the seriocomic movie became Fellini's second biggest commercial success after La Dolce Vita. Circular in form, Amarcord avoids plot and linear narrative in a way similar to The Clowns and Roma. The director's overriding concern with developing a poetic form of cinema was first outlined in a 1965 interview he gave to The New Yorker journalist Lillian Ross: "I am trying to free my work from certain constrictions – a story with a beginning, a development, an ending. It should be more like a poem with metre and cadence."


Fellini died in Rome on 31 October 1993 at the age of 73 after a heart attack he suffered a few weeks earlier, a day after his 50th wedding anniversary. The memorial service, in Studio 5 at Cinecittà, was attended by an estimated 70,000 people. At Giulietta Masina's request, trumpeter Mauro Maur played Nino Rota's "Improvviso dell'Angelo" during the ceremony.


Five months later, on 23 March 1994, Masina died of lung cancer. Fellini, Masina and their son, Pierfederico, are buried in a bronze sepulchre sculpted by Arnaldo Pomodoro. Designed as a ship's prow, the tomb is at the main entrance to the Cemetery of Rimini. The Federico Fellini Airport in Rimini is named in his honour.


While Fellini was for the most part indifferent to politics, he had a general dislike of authoritarian institutions, and is interpreted by Bondanella as believing in "the dignity and even the nobility of the individual human being". In a 1966 interview, he said, "I make it a point to see if certain ideologies or political attitudes threaten the private freedom of the individual. But for the rest, I am not prepared nor do I plan to become interested in politics."


Despite various famous Italian actors favouring the Communists, Fellini was not left-wing. It is rumored that he supported Christian Democracy (DC). Bondanella writes that DC "was far too aligned with an extremely conservative and even reactionary pre-Vatican II church to suit Fellini's tastes", but Fellini opposed the '68 Movement and befriended Giulio Andreotti.


Apart from satirizing Silvio Berlusconi and mainstream television in Ginger and Fred, Fellini rarely expressed political views in public and never directed an overtly political film. He directed two electoral television spots during the 1990s: one for DC and another for the Italian Republican Party (PRI). His slogan "Non si interrompe un'emozione" (Don't interrupt an emotion) was directed against the excessive use of TV advertisements. The Democratic Party of the Left also used the slogan in the referendums of 1995.