I watched a digital restored version of Federico Fellini’s “La Dolce Vita” (1960) recently. I thought I might have a different impression than when I first viewed the film in the 70’s. Unsurprisingly I did, but not in the manner I expected.
What I hoped to find, a better comprehension of what Fellini was trying to say. It has been critiqued by many as a seminal work. Condemned by the Catholic church as a “public sinner”, it’s a completely tame film by today’s standards. What may seem as sinful or self indulgent then, compared to something like, Fifty Shades of Grey, it’s totally innocuous.
Fellini was a celebrated Italian director, most noted for films beginning in the 1950s through the early 80’s. La Strada (1954) got him a lot of attention, and later films such as 8½ (Otto e Mezzo, 1963) and Amarcord (1974), brought International acclaim.
I’ve also viewed an online film, probably not well known, For Lovers Only. I see a similar theme between these two films, even though this later film was most often compared to a 60’s film, A Man and a Woman.
Stana Katic plays Sofia, a journalist and former model, while Mark Polish plays Yves, a former fashion photographer. Each of them start out as depressed and bored people, who while seemingly live well, seek something more in their daily lives. They have family, significant other connections where they live, but now find themselves in a journey of soul searching while visiting France.
As fate or serendipity would have it, these two accidentally meet each other in Paris. It seems they were once star crossed lovers and their passion for each other, along with care free abandon, become the central theme in the film.
Their travels range from Paris, Normandy to St. Tropez. Shot with next to no budget, in Black & White, using a a digital still photography camera, Canon EOS 5D Mark II, with video capability owned by the other brother, Michael. Lighting was done using an iPhone and the sound, clearly the weakest part of the film, by a single boom microphone. Both Stana and Mark chose to take no salary and relied on any profits if the film was a success. It has been a very successful word of mouth film and has garnered a profit. It has become one of the Top 100 in all independent movies in downloads and rentals on iTunes.
The connection between these two films as I see it, examines the lives of people who are fascinated with living in the moment, don’t seem to have a plan, or a clue as to how to extend this into long term happiness. In some ways, they are as small children, reaching for the candy on the counter but finding only temporarily satisfaction. Fellini wanted to comment on the emptiness of the lives of many young Italians after WWII. The Polish brothers were more interested in making a film fashioned in the French New Wave of the 50’s and 60’s.
As an independent film, it of course suffers technically, but the actors manage to work through that with a commitment and palpable emotion that reaches beyond the camera lens.
Stana was an unknown to me prior to the hit TV series originating in the US, Castle. She has an ability to have the right inflection, expression and tone for each scene. Yes, she has a stunning appearance, but her acting prowess extends past her looks. As long as she has good material, this is probably someone that will be compelling well into her advanced years.
It’s the acting combination of Mark and Stana which make this film work. Combined with several good musical selections, I think an auteur should take the time to watch this film. It is a film with a strong sexual theme with some nudity, so perhaps those who wish to avoid watching this, may give it a pass.
Each of these movies show life requires more than temporary escape and simple pleasures. The viewer doesn’t know what will ultimately become of them, but they can see the choices each have made have come full circle. Marcello, Yves, and Sofia, are not happier but maybe they can look back at those moments and consider them part of, “the sweet life”.