You know, I thought I had seen “La Dolce Vita” many years ago, but got it from Netflix anyway thinking, hey, it’s a classic and can’t hurt to see it again. Turns out I never saw it–or at least never got past the first part of it.
Why? It’s really a vehicle Federico Fellini created for feeding male fantasties–definitely not high on my list of favorite ways to be entertained. The protagonist (I don’t call him a hero because he’s pretty much a rich lowlife with nothing on his mind but having sex with as many women as possible, despite the fact that he lives with a very beautiful woman who loves him) , played by a handsome young Marcello Mastroianni, wanders through the movie seducing and being seduced by women of every stripe–rich, bored heiresses, to older women, to 15-year-old girls. However, it all happens in opulent surroundings, with fancy cars (for the times), with people wearing beautiful clothes behaving in wanton ways throughout the two-and-three-quarters hours of the film, so it looks seductively attractive.
Marcello makes a bow to morality by asking his older friend who’s settled–that is, married with two children he clearly loves deeply–if he shouldn’t do this himself, isn’t it healther? But, no, the calm and settled guy says don’t let appearances fool you. Every day he regrets that he doesn’t have a wider life with more options. Marcello returns to his playboy path. And just to drive the point home, Fellini has the calm and settled friend commit suicide later in the movie. Oh, yeah, and Marcello’s live-in lover finally commits suicide, too.
There’s an amazing sequence in the movie where two children are supposed to have seen an apparition of the Madonna–wild to see the gullibility of the masses. Reminds me of how easily human beings can be sucked into doing ridiculous–or hateful–things.
The movie’s pretty depressing in its depiction of the various women as sluts, crazy, and so madly in love they give their own lives up. I was gratified on viewing the critic’s comments of the DVD that he said this movie is not even considered one of Fellini’s best. So guess I know now the reason why it’s had such a long and popular life.