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Fraser R. Stowe
- Published on Amazon.com
One might expect 200 pages of Fellini interviews to be just for the cinephile who has seen all his films-twice, but this intriguing and delightfully readable collection is a great appetizer about one of cinema's most influential and challenging directors-even for latent fans of film.
The great advantage in this book is Costanzo Constantini's unique perspective as a journalist who interviewed Fellini regularly over 40 years. Constantini has been let into Fellini's life; they became friends, and this relationship often allows very relaxed, informal and sometimes revealing responses from Fellini.
Even in interviews this man is a great storyteller, but Fellini confesses that some of the tales may be very tall. Without apology Fellini admits, "We change our accounts of events continually so as not to bore ourselves" (55). So, this non-fiction assembly of interviews soon becomes a bit of a mystery novel as one realizes s/he must sieve truth from fiction. Somehow this tendency of his isn't too distressing. One chalks it up to his innate cinematic flair or the love of, and talent for, a great story. There is no judging him harshly for this, since it makes for such delightful reading, and the truth is in there somewhere; it's just colorized, embellished and exaggerated for our enjoyment as well as his own. Even Constantini's first-hand account of a "marital-professional skirmish" between Fellini and Giuletta before a screening sounds almost scripted, a joust and good show for the audience. This climate of fibbing lends an almost comic slant to Constantini's section in which he asks this self-confessed exaggerator many, "Is it true that she said...?" and "Did you really say...?" kinds of questions. This may be Constantini's dry, playful intent, much like Fellini's sense of humor which is revealed throughout.
The film student will enjoy Fellini's thoughts on Neorealism, and Catholicism. And of course there are his perspectives on his actors, collaborators, his films and the various circulating interpretations, but less of this than one might expect. The many tasty Fellini quotes on broad ranges of topics that Constantini serves become the highlights here. It's truly wonderful to behold his talent for succinctly capturing very ethereal ideas. On the special charm of cinema that's been robbed by TV's inundation: "The cinematographic image is deprived of its most profound meaning, its magical, dreamlike, mysterious quality. It is deprived of its secret charm, which takes its nourishment from the obscure relationship that each of us has with the unconscious" (132). Further revealing another angle of his genius, is the way he beautifully and effortlessly expresses the rare, rejuvenating sanctuary and exhilaration of creativity and returning to one's element, "Once, I arrived on the set with a galloping fever, but as soon as I looked through the lens it went away. When you're filming you feel like yourself again, a director without age, outside of time, without infirmities, invulnerable" (137). Switching disciplines again, he discusses his long-held interest in psychology and states his bold views on the subject, "It's ridiculous not to believe in psychoanalysis. It's like not believing in chemistry or mathematics" (195-196).
The favorites are those in which his dry, ironic sense of humor beams through. Concerning his filmmaking offers from Iran and Saudi Arabia, "Perhaps they wanted me to make a film on the religious and mystical feelings engendered by petroleum" (98). A high point for this reader is certainly this quote with a nod to the greatness of his own influence. He was speaking about how he wished he was allowed more time when accepting his Lifetime Achievement Oscar in 1993, "Had my time not been so rigorously rationed, maybe I could have made a speech that was intelligent, spirited, pleasant, detached and emotional-Felliniesque, in a word" (171).
Though a Fellini filmography is included at the end, knowing the dates of each interview might help those less familiar with its chronology. Otherwise, one needn't worry too much about how many Fellini films s/he has seen. Sure it would help to be a fan of some of his films, but the most enjoyable insights are the rich, intimate portraits of: a man; his creativity, vision and processes; his playfulness and sense of humor; and be they perfectly truthful or not, his stories well told.