Title: I Vitelloni
Genre: Comedy, Drama
Director: Federico Fellini
Writers: Federico Fellini, Ennio Flaiano, Tullio Pinelli
Music: Nino Rota
Cinematography: Carlo Carlini, Otello Martelli, Luciano Trasatti
Federico Fellini’s third feature, the one that significantly puts his name on the international map, I VITELLONI, the title can be roughly translated as “the slackers”, emanates a pungent autobiographical liking which tells the pedestrian life of a quintet of 20-something callow male youth living in an Adriatic coastal town, who are on the cusp of reconciling themselves to the reality of adulthood.
The five “vitelloni” are Fausto (Fabrizi), the oldest and a one-track mind womanizer, Alberto (Sordi), the layabout, Leopoldo (Trieste), a wanna-be playwright, Riccardo (Fellini, Federico’s brother), a singer, and Moraldo (Interlenghi), the youngest one, a more reticent and meditative type (the proxy of a young Fellini). After the opening shots introducing audience the quintet with kinetic fluidity, Fellini invokes a downpour rightly raining on their parade, just when Moraldo’s young sister Sandra (Ruffo) is crowned “Miss Siren of 1953”, a bombshell crops up, she is pregnant with Fausto’s child.
It is Fausto’s second nature to shirk any responsibility, he doesn’t scruple to even coax Moraldo into skipping town with him, before his father Francesco (Brochard) nips that plan in the bud, a shotgun marriage follows, but Fausto’s chronic infidelity puts a taxing strain on their fragile matrimony, a stable job cannot hold his horse to wander, and pilferage is not above him when he tries to exact his grudge, eventually it is a good lash from his father that manages to beat some sense into his vacuous noggin. Fellini deploys coruscating snippets of Fausto’s flagrant two-timing proclivity with eloquence and a down-home simplicity, his approach runs to neither frivolous nor preachy, but a honest (if comedic) take on a human foible that is unable to be consonant with monogamy, still, a rude awakening shows up Fellini’s humanistic sensibility which is ebulliently saturating the film.
The rest of the cohort is given less screen time to fiddle around, still, Sordi splendidly blends Alberto’s “empty vessels make the most noise” comic spontaneity with a whiff of melancholic dolor in his light relief duty; and Leopoldo has a horrendous brush with an aging theater actor (Majeroni) who dares to make a pass on him; finally, it is Moraldo, becomes ever disillusioned of this suffocating dysphoria, chooses to embark on a journey of his own, and a sympathetic Interlenghi instills a touching sensitivity to elicit our compassion aplenty, particularly in the plaintive coda (his departure superimposed with montage of other four sleeping in their beds).
The film cleaves to the tenets of Neorealismo by and large, nonetheless Fellini’s predilection of panoply and razzle-dazzle unmistakably oozes out in the jollification scenery, which actually reminds this reviewer of Paul Thomas Anderson’s PHANTOM THREAD (2017), in which a Carnivalesque New Year party is divided into a similar present-and-after dichotomy, or one might appositely refers as Fellini-esque with veneration, since after I VITELLONI, that neologism would categorically be here to stay.