|Federico Fellini (1920 - 1993)
Born: January 20, 1920, Rimini, Italy Died: October 31, 1993, Rome, Italy.
Italian humanist director Federico Fellini was among the most intensely autobiographical film directors the cinema has known. "If I were to make a film about the life of a soul," said Fellini, "it would end up being about me." Born in Rimini, a resort city on the Adriatic, Fellini was fascinated by the circuses and vaudeville performers that his town attracted. His education in Catholic schools also profoundly affected his later work, which, while critical of the Church, is infused with a strong spiritual dimension. After jobs as a crime reporter and artist specializing in caricature, Fellini began his film career as a gag writer for actor Aldo Fabrizi. In 1943, Fellini met and married actress Giulietta Masina, who appeared in several of his films and whom Fellini called the greatest influence on his work. In 1945, he got his first important break in film, when he was invited to collaborate on the script of OPEN CITY, Roberto Rossellini's seminal work of the neorealist movement. In 1948, Rossellini directed WAYS OF LOVE/L' AMORE, one part of which was based on Fellini's original story "Il Miracolo/ The Miracle" about a peasant woman (Anna Magnani) who thinks that the tramp (played by Fellini) who has impregnated her is St. Joseph and that she is about to give birth to Christ. VARIETY LIGHTS (1950), detailing the intrigues of a group of travelling entertainers, was Fellini's directorial debut, in collaboration with the established Alberto Lattuada. THE WHITE SHEIK (1951) and I VITELLONI (1953) followed; the former was a comedy about a woman's affair with a comic strip hero, the latter a comedy-drama about the aimless lives of a group of young men. Though Fellini's earliest films were clearly in the neorealist tradition, from the start his interest in and sympathy for characters' eccentricities and his penchant for absurdist, sometimes clownish humor, makes them distinguished. Fellini's international breakthrough came with LA STRADA (1954). One of the most memorable and moving films of world cinema, it is the story of an innocent, simple young woman (Masina) who is sold by her family to a brutish strongman in a traveling circus. Because Fellini infused his film with surreal scenes, he was accused of violating the precepts of neorealism. Ultimately, LA STRADA, Fellini's first unquestioned masterpiece, is a poetic and expressive parable of two unlikely souls journeying toward salvation. The film's impact is bolstered immeasurably by Nino Rota's unforgettable music, marking the beginning of a collaboration between the two men that would end only with Rota's death in 1979. A luminous performance by Masina, and the moving Jungian imagery of earth, air, fire and water, are also memorable elements of LA STRADA. After two strong but relatively minor works- THE SWINDLE (1955)/IL BIDONE and NIGHTS OF CABIRIA (1957), the latter providing Masina with a hallmark role as the hapless prostitute-Fellini directed his two most influential masterworks: LA DOLCE VITA (1960) and 81 (1963).
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