Of the many monoliths of Cinema one can count Citizen Kane, Vertigo, 2001: A Space Odyssey, La règle du jeu, Tokyo Story, Seven Samurai, The Godfather (see Sight and Sound’s 2002 Top 10 http://www.bfi.org.uk/sightandsound/polls/topten/) one can easily add Federico Fellini’s masterpiece La dolce vita. 1960 was such a great year that I just can’t pass over mentioning Psycho, The Apartment, Spartacus, Les yeux sans visage, À bout de souffle, Peeping Tom, L’Avventura. The later film, directed by Michelangelo Antonioni was his big break and I read somewhere that La dolce vita was the film that Fellini made after he encountered the Italian Neo-Realist Antonioni. That it was his attempt to make a film like his Italian peer and that it restrained the best of him. This is partially right because Fellini’s films changed a bit in the 1960’s to get a new layer of reading and become more concentrated on contemporary issues.
La dolce vita is the story of Marcello (Marcello Mastroianni) who’s empty life is punctuated by his encounters as a journalist “paparazzo”. The term of paparazzi actually became famous with the movie itself. Marcello suffers from not knowing his purpose in life and like many Fellini characters he will have to face his destiny and make a choice. This is a breaking point in the director’s career with the self-consciousness of the characters and the more grounded emotions and less caricatural presences. It is also a far example of free narrative and moment centered scenes with the long party sequence, the almost allegorical depiction of women, and the wandering of Marcello. His presence as a man who is looking for sense in his life and his personal search for himself translates the sickness of the contemporary world. He is a man who has everything, women, car, money, even if he isn’t that much wealthy the material fulfilment of his universe makes him emptier. The drama of Marcello is a satyr on how society has brought us everything we want but not what we really need. It is why the quest of this journalist or paparazzo who wants to live the life of the stars he encounters and try to “suck” their joy and happiness by reflection brings him in front of a dead sea monster who represents how dead of feelings and happiness Marcello really is.