I’ll start with this: You don’t have to know anything about movies to know, after just a few minutes of watching this film, that Fellini is a master director. The photography is wonderful, with scenes in school, church, the town square, and the coast, that are all marvelously shot. You can see his influence over the art: The scenery often reminded me of 1990’s winner Cinema Paradiso, 2013 winner The Great Beauty, and 1998’s Life is Beautiful. Francis Ford Coppola must have also been influenced by Fellini, as one scene in the country brought a couple different The Godfather locations to my mind, though that great film was made two years earlier than Amarcord. (The fact that Nino Rota, frequent Fellini collaborator, did the score for both Amarcord and The Godfather probably had something to do with it as well.)
|Titta (right) with his father and grandfather|
I start with all that stuff about the scenery in part because there isn’t much of a linear plot here. This is more like a snapshot of small town, pre-World War II north-central Italy. Mussolini is in power and fascism has its clutches around Italy, but these small-town people have their lives to lead. There is a vast cast of eccentric characters, but the focus is mostly on teenage boy Titta, presumably based on Fellini himself, and his family. Titta’s dad is especially blustery and funny, looking remarkably like the guy who used to wake up early to make the Dunkin Donuts. He always seems to be angry, either at Titta, or at his freeloading brother-in-law, or at his half-witted brother who won’t come down from a tree he’s climbed.
|Looking for something?|
Armacord as a whole can be taken as a critique of an Italy that allowed a fascist’s rise to power. Some of the more serious scenes involve the struggle for these townspeople to deal with the choice they had with fascism—go with it or get run over by it. It strikes me, though, that Fellini is presenting rural life much more lovingly and nostalgically than that. Yes, the Catholic priests are tone deaf to the needs of the people; yes, the boys spend all their time thinking of girls; and yes, there are few weirdos who are part of the fabric of the place. But it seems like this was a simpler time, and I think given how colorfully and brilliantly the movie is shot, it would be difficult to not like this small Italian town.
|Time to make the donuts!|
Best Picture that year: The Godfather, Part II
Rating: I must say I was a little confused by this once I finished it: What was the story? What did it mean? But it was a film that was enjoyable to watch from start to finish, and it stuck with me a little after I was done, which I believe to be the mark of a great film.