Sunday, June 17

Fellini: His Life and Work

I finally completed Tullio Kezich's Federico Fellini: His Life and Work. I'm not big into biographies. I believe the only ones I have read as an adult are David Maraniss's Clemente (the definitive work on the great Pittsburgh Pirates right fielder) and Terry Teachout's The Skeptic: A Life of H.L. Mencken (as I think I have said before on this blog, I find it more interesting to read about Mencken than to read Mencken). Even though I inched through this book at a snails pace I really did enjoy it.

The book is written in a casual style and it is obvious from the start that Kezich, an Italian film critic and close friend of Fellini's, adored his subject. While such adoration can be problematic from a credibility standpoint, I found the loving tribute appropriate given Fellini's standing in Italy, his ebullient personality and the fact that he was a cartoonist and filmmaker, not a head of state or labor organizer or guerrilla rebel, or some other position in the world where sympathy regarding private dealings could actually have important ramifications. Here the biggest show of sympathy for the subject comes in the form of Kezich's disinterest in ever exploring the many, many, many affairs of Federico Fellini. Really, too many to count. We gracefully dance around his extramaritals and I, for one, was thankful for that. Which is not to say that I wish to remain entirely ignorant about his infidelities, but rather that an extended examination of those antics would not be germane to discussion of Fellini's movies, which, as it is penned by a film critic, is the book's raison d'ĂȘtre

In discussing Fellini's professional life, which is the real meat of the book, Kezich is less cautious. One comes away with the impression that Fellini was a pain in the ass for his producers and no less tiresome for his cast members. We see a Fellini who is constantly behind schedule, constantly over budget and constantly altering the shape and scope of his films.

But the real joy for me were the anecdotes that only a close friend of Fellini's could provide. I encountered in-depth discussion of Fellini's Jungian analysis, authoritative talk regarding who some his characters were based on, and confirmation that, yes, in fact much of Fellini's work was far more autobiographical than he was ever willing to admit. Much of the book is spent on the pre-production and production of Fellini's films, far less (but still enough to satisfy) on the content and artistic merits of the finished products (a move I appreciated as there is an abundance of scholarly work and criticism that covers Fellini's entire filmography). After all, Fellini's work is available for all to see but the anecdotes regarding the constant delays and derailments with the production of his films are more elusive and that is an area where Kezich's friendship with the director allows us unique insight.

Gore Vidal in Fellini's Roma

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