Federico Fellini

Peter Bondanella

in Cinema and Media Studies

ISBN: 9780199791286
Published online May 2012 | | DOI:
Federico Fellini

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Federico Fellini (20 January 1920–31 October 1993) was not only the most famous Italian director of the 20th century, but also an accomplished scriptwriter, humorist, and cartoonist. After moving from the provincial town of Rimini to Rome, Fellini began to make regular contributions to Italy’s most important humor magazine—Marc’Aurelio—writing gags and humorous essays and contributing cartoons and sketches. Through his work on this magazine, Fellini met a number of scriptwriters, and he proceeded to make major contributions to films associated with postwar Italian neo-realism. His contribution to the script of Roberto Rossellini’s Open City (1945) won for him what would be the first of twenty-three eventual Academy Award nominations during his career. Fellini helped to move the direction of Italian cinema beyond a fixation on postwar realism with his early works, particularly La Strada (1954) and The Nights of Cabiria (1957), both of which launched his international renown and for which he received Oscars for best foreign film. This “road beyond neo-realism” phase of his career moved into a high modernist phase during which Fellini’s name became synonymous with the concept of the European art film and the director as auteur notably with the record-breaking box-office hit La Dolce Vita (1960)—awarded the jury prize at the Cannes Film Festival—and 8½, a masterpiece for which he garnered his third Oscar for best foreign film. After his last commercial hit, Amarcord (1973), received a fourth Oscar for best foreign film, a third and commercially unsuccessful period ensued. Nevertheless, this phase of his career included some postmodernist works of great distinction, especially Interview (1987), and some outstanding television commercials, including one made for Barilla, another for Campari, and three for the Banco di Roma (the last films he shot). Shortly before his death, Fellini received a fifth Oscar in tribute to his entire career. Besides this continuous recognition in the United States, Fellini’s work received dozens of major film festival awards in France, Japan, Britain, and Germany (not to mention special awards at the Venice Film Festival and elsewhere in Italy). Not only did the director frequently receive such honors, but also his close collaborators (scriptwriters, directors of photography, set designers, make-up artists, musicians, and costume designers) shared his ability to garner such awards for the outstanding level of their contributions to his cinema. The general direction of critical work on Fellini has followed the trajectory of his career: an early focus upon his move beyond neo-realism; a second emphasis on Fellini as modernist auteur; a more recent consideration of postmodernist elements in Fellini’s last films; and finally, new attention to archival discoveries from the treasure trove of unpublished materials Fellini left behind that have yet to be assimilated into a new analytical synthesis of his contributions to the art of the cinema and to the history of Italian culture. To date, little evidence exists that his critical or popular reputation has been eroded by the passage of time or by the recent lack of interest in auteur studies in general among film critics and historians. He has been a major influence on directors such as Martin Scorsese, Woody Allen, François Truffaut, Peter Greenaway, Bob Fosse, Francis Ford Coppola, Giuseppe Tornatore, Lina Wertmüller, and Spike Jonze. In many film cultures, Fellini’s name remains a synonym for the fantasy of the moving pictures in the contemporary world.

Article.  7013 words. 

Subjects: Media Studies ; Film ; Radio ; Television

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