Wednesday, December 1, 2010

I Vitelloni (1953)

Title: I Vitelloni (1953)

Director: Federico Fellini


There comes a time in life when the teenage years have been left behind and the mid twenties start to roll in. Somewhere along this time the inevitable question must be made: "what am I going to do with my life?" College years have passed and you’ve done your fair share of hanging out with your buddies and partying. But the party has to end at some point! Life is not only made up of bar hopping and pool tables. One must take responsibility for ones own life at some point. And if you are an intelligent person, you will undoubtedly come to the conclusion that you must take some sort of path that will lead you to becoming a self reliant human being in this world. You can’t live in your parent’s basement all your life now can you? And if you are to get married, you need a way to support yourself and your family. And so the existential conundrum arises. What am I here for? What am I to do with my life? Should I follow my dreams? Get a job? Get married? Have kids? These are the questions and themes addressed in Federico Fellini’s I Vitelloni.

The Vitellonis wondering what awaits them out there in the world

I Vitelloni is about a group of friends who have grown up together in the same Italian town since they were little. The Italian town of Rimini. They all know and support each other. They go everywhere together and together they go through happiness and tragedy. They are a bunch of slackers actually. Not one of them has a job! They are all talented in their own ways, but none of them has a steady job. One is a singer, one is a writer, one is a womanizer…speaking of the womanizer, his name is Fausto and because of his actions the unity of the group is suddenly threatened when he realizes he has gotten a young girl pregnant. Should Fausto run away, ignoring his responsibilities? Or should he marry this girl, get a job and become a father? Will any of the Vitelloni’s ever do something with their lives?

Chilling out after a hard night of partying!

I enjoyed this movie because it reminded me of my friends, during those years when we all used to hang out till 5 in the morning roaming the streets of San Juan, searching for the next big adventure. We were a tight group, and we still keep in touch, but I guess just like in Fellini’s I Vitelloni, the group must always break up. Some follow their new loves, some follow their dreams, some get jobs, some get married and become parents. I’m guessing that anyone can watch this movie and see him or herself in any of the characters on this film. I saw myself in the writer, always looking for a way to “make it big” with his next script or play. I guess that was the character that represented Fellini the most as well. But in all honesty, I think all these characters have a little bit of Fellini in them. This movie was his personal favorite, and it mirrored a lot of his own personal experiences growing up in the 50’s in Italy.

Listening to the latest hip tune

Like many of Fellini’s films (including 8 ½ and La Dolce Vita) we have a character who is a womanizer, always looking for the next girl he can get intimate with. On 8 ½ we had Guido struggling to juggle all the romances in his life. The question in that one was the same as in I Vitelloni, should you keep screwing around with every girl that strikes your fancy? Or should you settle down with that girl that really loves you? Those amazing scenes of Guido battling with all the women in his life on 8 ½ come to mind. And a similar situation happens in this film as well, where Fausto cant stop screwing around with every girl that strikes his fancy. He even goes after his boss’s wife! I loved how the movie explores the negative results of living this kind of lifestyle.

Fausto, a womanizer to the very end

But while womanizing is seen in a negative light on this film, marriage isn’t shown to be the happiest thing either. In I Vitelloni, Fausto is forced into marriage with Sandra because he has gotten her pregnant. He isn’t exactly thrilled with the idea of marriage, but does it out of respect to his father and the girl he is marrying. This is a theme that pops up in a lot of Fellini’s movies as well, the terror of living the married life. If we are to deduce what Fellini thought of marriage by what we see in his films, then being married was the same as being a prisoner in chains to Fellini. I Vitelloni is ambiguous when it comes to the theme of marriage because while marriage is seen as something frightening, at the same time the sweet love Fausto feels for his wife is also explored; that tenderness that can only come from the true love in his life, the love that a one night stand cannot give you. Like many of Fellini’s films, this movie has some truly tender moments where we feel real emotion and love emanating from the characters on screen. Fausto, for all his womanizing really does love Sandra, and it shows when he sees her crying and he just can’t take it. He immediately comforts her and tells her how much he hates to see her cry. A truly emotional moment! Only Fellini could do a scene as heartfelt as that one!

To drunk to walk after a night at the masquerade ball

One pivotal scene in the film takes place during a masquerade ball. This is one scene in which Fellini really out did himself. Hundreds of extras, the art direction grand and superb, confetti falling through the whole sequence as people sing and dance the night away. This is another type of scene that Fellini loved including in his films, life bursting in every square inch of the screen. People talking, dancing, drinking, laughing, partying…life happening. These guys may be slackers, but they sure find a way to enjoy life and be happy none the less! After the big ball, one of the characters called Alberto gets a little bit too drunk, almost to the point where he can’t even walk to his own home. So some friends accompany him on his way. During this walk, Alberto is obsessed with talking about how they are nobodies. And who are they? Once again, the film addresses its main themes. Who are we, and why aren’t we somebody in the world?

Strangely enough, even though the five main characters are slackers who prefer a game of pool to getting a dead end salesman job, we end up liking them anyways. After all, they are all in that strange place in life we all arrive in at some point. The proverbial crossroads, where our lives will ultimately take a change for the better or the worse, presumably for the best. We all try and “make it” and eventually have to cut from the safety that a group like the Vitelloni’s can provide. In the film, one of the guys actually does leave the small town of Rimini, but the question remains in the air: will you be happy where you are going? Weren’t you happy here? Will you be happy by simply changing your surroundings? Or is it up to us to be happy, no matter where we are? Truth is, no matter how much your life changes or what turns it takes, that “gang” of friends always remains a special memory in our lives. Fellini did a good job of capturing that, and thanks to him, we can remember what it was like hanging out with our own respective Vitelloni’s.

Rating: 5 out of 5

I Vitelloni - Criterion Collection8 1/2 - Criterion CollectionLa Dolce Vita (2-Disc Collector's Edition)


odenat said...

Rimini is not a fictional town lol. Great post man, thx for bringing this jewel

Franco Macabro said...

Fixed the typo, sorry bout that, I read somewhere that it was fictionalized, serves me right for believing everything I read. Sorry! Glad you liked the post though!

Neil Fulwood said...

Fellini really nails that adolescence/adulthood hinterland in this movie. The "morning after" scenes remind me of the stupid amount of drinking I did at that age. That sense of wondering how you made it home, not remembering bits of the previous evening. That feeling of disassociation from things. Fellini captures the atmosphere perfectly.

Franco Macabro said...

Totally agree Neil, there's a lot of scenes where the guys are just walking around the empty streets of the town late at night, never wanting to give up their party lifestyle.

I agree, thats essentially what "hanging out" is all about, forgetting the troubles of the world for a couple of hours. Sometimes, you want to stay in that state so long that the hours extend till morning!

There is this scene I really found authentic, its the scene in which Fausto's father gets really upset that when finds Fausto trying to run away, after he knows he has gotten Sandra pregnant. And the father starts hitting him and screaming at him "you will marry that girl if its the last thing you do!" And the father cries, and its one big emotional drama.

And then when Fausto goes out to the streets and the guys are waiting for him, they all laugh it up, as if it was all one big joke. Apparently, everything is one big joke for them. It might have been a tragedy for Fausto, but the group wouldnt let that sadness penetrate their happiness, its all reduced to a fit of laughter. As if saying "nothing is going to destroy our party lifestyle, not even you getting Sandra pregnant!"

I also loved those scenes of the guys just staring at the ocean in silence...with the wind blowing. By the way, the wind blowing is such a Fellniesque thing. I see it reocurring in all his movies!


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