Country: Italy, France
Genre: Comedy, Drama
Director: Federico Fellini
Music: Nino Rota
Cinematography: Giuseppe Rotunno
Peter Gonzales Falcon
Pia De Doses
Feodor Chaliapin Jr.
Fellini’s ROMA imposingly alternates between two paralleled narratives in Rome, his salad days during the WWII and the beginning of 1970s, when he is an eminent filmmaker making a new film about the city, erratically charts its local customs and folk culture to pay homage to an ancient and great city. Structurally, the film doesn’t stick to a linear one, instead it disguises with a pseudo-documentary style, in fact, most of the scenes were re-constructed in Cinecittà, however, Fellini stuns audience again with his majestic undertaking which significantly blurs the line between fiction and non-fiction.
The film is not just an ode to the city, more prominently, it is the clashes between past and present that reverberate strongly today. His young self (played by Falcon), a doe-eyed townie arrives in Rome for college, enjoys a boisterous dinner in the street trattoria with the entire neighbourhood, watches a shoddy variety show with crude spectators which would be interrupted by an air raid, flirts with the brothel for the first time; when time leaps forward to the 1970s, the flower-child generation is consuming with alienation and torpidity, a poetic episode of the underground metro construction team encounters an undiscovered catacomb, where fresh air breaches into the isolated space and ruins all its frescoes in a jiffy. A superlative conceit encapsulates the dilemma between modern civilisation and ancient heritage.
There is no absence of Fellini-esque extravaganza, the brothels during wartime are quintessentially embellished with crazed peculiarity and vulgarity for its zeitgeist and national spirit, where sex can be simply traded as commodity without any emotional investment. The most striking one, is the flamboyant fashion-show of church accoutrements organised by Princess Domitilla (De Doses) for Cardinal Ottaviani (Giovannoli), consummated in an overblown resurrection of the deceased Pope, it is sacrilege in its most diverting form, only Fellini can shape it with such grand appeal and laugh about it.
Two notable celebrity cameos, Gore Vidal, expresses his love of the city from an expatriate slant, and more poignant one is from Anna Magnani, her final screen presence – Ciao, buonanotte! – a sounding farewell for this fiery cinema icon. The epilogue, riding with a band of motorists, visiting landmarks in the night, Fellini’s ROMA breezily captures this city’s breath of life, sentimental to its distinguished history, meanwhile vivacious even farcical in celebrating its ever-progressing motions, a charming knockout!