Amarcord (Photo: Janus Films)
★★★★ (out of four)
DIRECTED BY Federico Fellini
STARS Bruno Zanin, Magali Noel
La Dolce Vita and 8½ are the acknowledged masterpieces in the Federico Fellini canon, but his 1973 effort Amarcord will always hold a special place in my mind and in my heart. Decades ago, it was one of the four films — along with Vittorio De Sica’s 1948 The Bicycle Thief, Ingmar Bergman’s 1957 The Seventh Seal and Akira Kurosawa’s 1985 Ran — that introduced me to the best of international cinema, in effect opening my eyes to a whole new world.
In fashioning his childhood memories as a surrealistic jaunt through the circus of life, Fellini offered sights and sensations the likes of which I had never experienced before. At once sentimental, crude, sexy, comical and romantic, Amarcord (translated as “I remember”) sets its sights on a provincial town in 1930s Italy. To try to break this down in a narrative sense is a pointless exercise, since the film skips between numerous townspeople, some (like the Fellini surrogate, a teenage boy played by Bruno Zanin) popping up at regular intervals and others (such as the town nymph, portrayed by Josiane Tanzilli) disappearing completely from the picture after a pair of brief interludes.
Nino Rota’s score is exquisite, while Giuseppe Rotunno’s camerawork captures images not easily forgotten, from the majestic (the peacock blooming in the snow) to the monstrous (a parade showcasing an enormous Mussolini head).
Amarcord deservedly earned the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film, with Fellini receiving nominations for Best Director and Best Original Screenplay (shared with Tonino Guerra).