At three brief hours, Fellini's cynical, engrossing social commentary, La Dolce Vita
, stands as his timeless masterpiece. A rich, detailed panorama of Rome's modern decadence and sophisticated immorality, the film is episodic in structure but held tightly in focus by the wandering protagonist through whom we witness the sordid action. Marcello Rubini is a tabloid reporter trapped in a shallow high-society existence, as extraordinarily played by Marcello Mastroianni, a man of paradoxical, emotional juxtapositions: cool but tortured, sexy but impotent. He dreams about writing something important but remains seduced by the money and prestige that accompany his shallow position. He romanticises about finding true love but acts unfazed upon finding that his girlfriend has taken an overdose of sleeping pills. Instead, he engages in a ménage à trois, then frolics in a fountain with a giggling American starlet (bombshell Anita Ekberg), and in the film's unforgettably inspired finale, attends a wild orgy that ends, symbolically with its participants finding a rotting sea animal while wandering the beach at dawn.
Fellini saw his film as life affirming (thus its title, "The Sweet Life"), but it's impossible to take him seriously. While Mastroianni drifts from one worldly pleasure to another, be it sex, drink, glamorous parties or rich foods, they are presented, through his detached eyes, as merely momentary distractions. His existence, an endless series of wild evenings and lonely mornings, is ultimately soulless and facile. Because he lacks the courage to change, Mastroianni is left with no alternative but to wearily accept and enjoy this "sweet" life. --Dave McCoy, Amazon.com
Federico Fellini's epic tale of Roman decadence circa 1960 focuses on the adventures of gossip columnist Marcello (Marcello Mastroianni) as he runs with the jet set. Following him as he interviews a young starlet (Anita Ekberg), rushes a girlfriend (Yvonne Furneaux) to hospital after a suicide attempt, and attends a variety of more-or-less wild parties, it shows how he is both drawn to and repelled by the rich lifestyle that provides his living, and details the crisis in which he finds himself torn between an easy enjoyment of the ephemeral and a desire for a more productive life like that of his intellectual friend (Alain Cuny). The film features a host of famous scenes, including Anita Ekberg's dance in the Trevi fountain, the statue of Christ lifted by helicopter over the city, and the exhausted striptease of the final moments, as well as early performances from Anouk Aimee and future Velvet Underground singer Nico.