PALME D’OR – “La Dolce Vita”, the poetry of excess –

Copyright Pathé Distribution

The Cannes Film Festival will not take place. In any case, not in May. And not in the form we know. The editorial staff offers you a non-exhaustive selection of Palmes d’or which have marked the history of the festival since its creation. In 1960, Federico Fellini caused a sensation with The good life, an unflattering portrait of a decadent Italian elite.

With The good life, Federico Fellini affirms a strikingly modern aesthetic and surrounds himself for this with big names in French and Italian cinema. Among the stars, Marcello Mastroianni, an alter-ego that we will find frequently in the rest of his filmography. But also Anita Ekberg, Anouk Aimée or Magali Noël. However, Fellini does not give up his fundamentals, in particular his precious collaboration with Nino Rota. He owes the composer the score of the majority of his films.

In this fresco of nearly three hours, the filmmaker operates a new shift. The neorealist to whom we owe La Strada and Cabiria Nights chooses a fragmentary and disordered narration where exuberance occupies a central place.

Anouk Aimee in The good life (1960) Copyright Pathé Distribution

Italian human comedy

Marcello Rubini (Marcello Mastroianni), columnist for a sensationalist newspaper, vogue from one social evening to another. Far from his native province, he tirelessly goes on romantic dates. Their names are Emma (Yvonne Furneaux), a mistress sick with jealousy, Maddalena (Anouk Aimée) or even Sylvia (Anita Ekberg), a star fresh from Hollywood. Marcello lets himself be carried away by the moment. In the highest circles of cultural Rome, excess is a way of life.

From the prologue, the tone is set, while a helicopter transports a statue of Christ above Rome, Marcello delays the transfer by trying to seduce young women in bikinis despite the noise of the aircraft. There follows a series of paintings, sometimes comic, sometimes pathetic, marked by contrast. Emptiness is followed by overflow, cacophony by silence. Equal to himself, the young columnist accumulates romantic relationships, regardless of the context. Marcello wanders in Rome, through him, we understand that Fellini’s revulsion for the city is matched only by his love of the capital.

Federico Fellini is inspired by the golden age of Cinecittà, an Italian Hollywood that saw many international stars in the 1950s. The filmmaker captures an era: that of the clash between a mass culture that is announced and a national tradition on the decline. Marcello is a character in reaction. He is the catalyst of a small world that Fellini knows too well. His friend Paparazzo, camera in hand, drifts from scandal to scandal without moral consideration. We also owe this symptomatic character the democratization of the term “paparazzi.” »

Marcello Mastroianni in The good life (1960) Copyright Pathé Distribution

Decadence, and after?

The disillusioned look of a more charismatic than ever Mastroianni takes nothing away from the violence of his character’s excesses. When the young columnist strips a cushion from a dead drunken young woman, the very one he has just (literally) just straddled, the absurd is pushed so far that we no longer want to laugh.

Many critics have called the film a portrait of modern decadence. Worse, that he denounced her. Yet there is beauty in The good life. That of the staging first. After many films molded by Italian neorealism, Fellini deviates from reality. When Marcello finds Silvia in the middle of a midnight bath in the Trevi fountain, the young journalist repeats to himself that she is right, that the others have understood nothing. When there is so much poetry in the absurd, one can only lighten the picture that one lends to The good life.

Not without humour, Fellini gives candor all its power. A sad clown exchanges a look with Marcello and suddenly the chronicler seems much deeper to us. As if suddenly the emptiness of his way of life jumped out at him. In this sudden melancholy, however, we manage to laugh. The number snatches at least a few smiles from us, the same as those of Fanny (Magali Noël), the young French dancer who accompanies Marcello and his father. And this is Fellini’s tour de force: to condense much more tenderness than cynicism in a film with a title that is nevertheless very ironic.

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PALME D’OR – “La Dolce Vita”, the poetry of excess –