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4.4 out of 5 stars
I Vitelloni [DVD] [1953]
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on 17 January 2018
An acknowledged classic, in all the books, which is why I put off watching it for years (when things are recommended, it puts me off). I finally bought it and yes, I can see why it made such a splash when first released, it was definitely a ground breaker in its story telling and the way it was filmed. But its like all truly ground breaking art - books, film, music - its been copied so much, its now impossible to capture its first impact (e.g. Scorsese's "Mean Streets" is just one of its acknowledged successors).

But its still a very enjoyable film, although it now seems a bit conventional and soapy in some aspects.

(and the wife of the owner of the religious knick-knack shop that one of the main protagonists, who ends up working there, tries to get off with, is played by the Austrian actress who was famously Goebbels mistress in the 1930's - banished by Hitler; an interesting sidelight! And very lucky to survive)
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on 5 June 2015
Classic Fellini and one of his best films in my view. I was interested to read in the comments on a review of this film on Amazon that there is an autobiographical element to this film, in the sense that there is a 6th Vitelloni in shot at the beach, unnamed, and that is the narrator. Fellini came from a seaside town like that in the film himself. The editing by Ronaldo Bendetti and the score by Nino Rota are worth commending. I also thought Leonora Ruffo playing Sandra was absolutely delightful to behold.
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on 13 September 2016
very good
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on 2 July 2014
very pleased, grazie, David.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 11 March 2013
This early (1953) film by Federico Fellini was only his second solo directing excursion, and its seriocomic tale of the exploits of five carefree young men (wasters, if you will) in a backwater Adriatic town belies its creator's relative inexperience, demonstrating a remarkably assured touch. I have always compared I Vitelloni with Luchino Visconti's 1960 masterpiece Rocco And His Brothers, another tale of five men (brothers this time) struggling both economically and romantically, and whilst I probably have a slight preference for Visconti's rather more serious, tragic (and, admittedly at times, overblown) realism, Fellini's film scores more highly on its poetic and comic qualities.

What also comes across very clearly, even in this very early Fellini film, was the director's love of the theatrical set-piece as (perhaps at a rather low-grade extreme) his film opens with an Adriatic beachside beauty pageant, at which young Moraldo's narration introduces us to himself and his four cohorts (in particular the amateur singer Riccardo - played by the director's brother, Riccardo - and philanderer Fausto - Franco Fabrizi - whose pregnant wife Sandra - Leonora Ruffo - wins the Miss Siren contest and then promptly faints). By contrast, Fellini later includes a more typically extravagant carnival scene, in which he bedecks his main protagonists in drag to hilarious effect. These scenes also find the director in satirical mode on one of his pet subjects - the illusoriness of stardom - as new-found 'fans' swoon in front of Miss Siren and, on her fainting, her mother quips, 'Die tonight, when they've made you Miss Siren?'.

At the heart of I Vitelloni, however, are preoccupations with ambition, personal responsibility and honour. These manifest themselves particularly effectively through Fabrizi's superb performance as the serial womaniser Fausto, as he first makes moves to desert his pregnant wife for a job (and presumably independence) in Milan, and then attempts to seduce a glamorous stranger he (and his wife) have just sat next to in the cinema, followed by his boss's wife. Only Fausto's father's sense of honour prevents his son's intended desertion, whilst fellow Vitellono, Alberto (Alberto Sordi), is similarly disgusted at his sister's affair with a married man. Along with Fabrizi's Fausto, for me the other standout acting turn here is that of Franco Interlenghi as Sandra's brother Moraldo, whose subtle and tender portrayal is particularly affecting, as his tolerance of Fausto's duplicity eventually runs out.

Fellini's film contains a whole series of superb sequences, including that where the fifth Vitellono, intellectual, and playwright, Leopoldo (Leopoldo Trieste), having gained an audience for his work with famous actor Sergio Natale (Achille Majeroni), soon bores his listening Vitelloni friends into the arms of a nearby group of actresses - Sergio's subsequent attempt to proposition Leopoldo (in quite a forward scene for its time) also makes for hilarious viewing.

Throughout, I Vitelloni is evocatively shot, whether it be during the Adriatic beach scenes or their urban counterparts, by regular Fellini collaborator Otello Martelli, and also contains a typically sweeping and impressive score by Nino Rota.
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HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWERon 31 January 2008
I Vitelloni signalled Fellini's move away from neo-realism, with all the trademarks (dwarves, older women, outrageous costumes, anecdotes replacing narrative) that would later become so exaggerated making brief and more naturalistic appearances in his apparently aimless tale of a bunch of time-wasting friends in a small coastal town where the biggest events are growing a moustache or sideburns. That it somehow becomes more than the sum of its parts is quietly magical in its own way, and the amiably dry narration linking the events and non-events underlines the ebb and flow of the film nicely. Oddly enough, I was struck by the similarities to Tony Hancock's later 'The Punch and Judy Man,' which seems to touch on several aspects of small-town inertia without ever hitting the same heights.

There are multiple editions of the film available, but while this remastered PAL edition from Nouveaux is respectable enough, Criterion's Region 1 NTSC DVD is the one to go for, offering a superb transfer with a good retrospective documentary, 'Vitellonismo,' which reveals a surprising degree of studio opposition to casting Alberto Sordi (then thought to be box-office poison after the disastrous commercial failure of Fellini's The White Sheik with the actor but whose career would virtually be made by the film) as well as the original theatrical trailer, stills gallery and booklet.
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on 28 October 2012
I vitelloni (Federico Fellini, 1953, 103')

Produced by Lorenzo Pegoraro, Mario De Vecchi, Jacques Bar
Screenplay by Federico Fellini, Ennio Flaiano, Tullio Pinelli
Story by Federico Fellini, Tullio Pinelli
Starring Alberto Sordi, Franco Fabrizi, Franco Interlenghi, Leopoldo Trieste
Cinematography by Carlo Carlini, Otello Martelli, Luciano Trasatti
Music by Nino Rota Editing by Rolando Benedetti

A story of five young Italian men at crucial turning points in their small town lives. Recognized as a pivotal work in the director's artistic evolution, the film has distinct autobiographical elements that mirror important societal changes in 1950s Italy. For Fellini, "vitelloni were "the unemployed youths" of the middle class, mother's pets. They shine during the holiday season, and waiting for it takes up the rest of the year". Today, the term is widely translated as "big calves" (Mondkälber in German).

Screened in competition at the Venice Film Festival on August 26, 1953, the film was awarded the Silver Lion by Italian poet Eugenio Montale who headed the jury, along with a public ovation and acclaim from the majority of critics, and an Academy Award nomination for Best Writing in 1958. "Belying all doubts about its appeal", the film opened on September 17, 1953 to both commercial and critical success.

It was Fellini's first film with international distribution, and I Vitelloni did reasonable box office in England and North America (to generally positive reviews) while performing "huge in Argentina". Opening in France on April 23, 1954, it was especially well received. The film's success restored Fellini's reputation after the commercial failure of The White Sheik (1952).

One of Fellini's most imitated films, I Vitelloni inspired European directors Juan Antonio Bardem, Marco Ferreri, and Lina Wertmuller. It also had an influence on Martin Scorsese's Mean Streets (1973), George Lucas's American Graffiti (1973), Joel Schumacher's St. Elmo's Fire (1985), and Barry Levinson's Diner (1987), among many others.

André Martin of Les Cahiers du Cinéma insisted that by "virtue of the quality of the narrative, and the balance and control of the film as a whole, I Vitelloni is neither commercial nor does it possess those traits that usually permit a work of art to be consecrated and defined. With a surprising and effective sense of cinema, Fellini endows his characters with a life both simple and real".

Film critic Geneviève Agel appreciated the maestro's symbolism: "Fellini films a deserted piazza at nighttime. It symbolizes solitude, the emptiness that follows communal joy, the bleak torpor that succeeds the swarming crowd; there are always papers lying around like so many reminders of what the day and life have left behind."

(compiled and edited from Wikipedia - source acknowledged - RC)

Today, I Vitelloni looks like a direct precursor to Amarcord and Roma, the central question being "whether you are strong enough to take the train" to Milan, Rome, and try a new start. Shows rigid family hierarchies and general backwardness, but also has many poetic moments.

201 I vitelloni (Federico Fellini, 1953, 103') -A long way to go - 28/10/2012
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on 18 November 2002
I Vitelloni (1953) is an early work by Federico Fellini, one that I feel is analogous to Bergman's Summer with Monika (1952)- both are nowhere near the heights of their obvious great works, but are the films where they began to perfect their distinctive styles.
This film can also be seen as an earlier-cousin of films of the nouvelle vague, particulalry Godard's Bande a Part- whose central triad waste their time in a similar way to the 'young calves' here (perhaps a further analogy towards the Beat movement is stretching the point, then again George Lucas was reported in Peter Biskind's Easy Riders, Raging Bulls to have used this as the model for American Graffitti. Does this mean Fellini created Happy Days?). In Italian cinema terms, the characters here are slightly more middle-class takes on those found in such classics as Pasolini's Accatone and Visconti's Rocco & His Brothers.
I Vitelloni may be far from a masterpiece of form and philosophy, but for those who were turned off by the less human aspects of Roma or City of Women there is much here. This is also interesting to contrast against the later work, Amarcord- in terms of memory and youth. This film is worth seeing and still has descedents to this day- most notably in Northern-Central American cinema with films like Beautiful Girls, Swingers and Y Te Mama Tambien. Another minor classic, which are sometimes more wonderful than the revered work- such as La Dolce Vita, which I'm still not that keen on! (8 1/2 is a different matter...)
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 3 February 2015
I vitelloni (1953) is Federico Fellini's first masterpiece, the film which put his name on the map as a director of significance. It triumphed at the Venice Film Festival and was widely admired abroad. It is the final film in what Fellini expert Peter Bondanella calls his `Trilogy of Character'. The first (Variety Lights [1950]) was co-directed with Alberto Lattuada and the second (The White Sheik [1952]) was a sophisticated comedy. Both are very good, but were box office failures and it was with some relief that I vitelloni at last hit the jackpot so enabling the following La strada (1954) and Le notti di Cabiria (1957) to be made. These two films won Oscars for Fellini and together with the astonishing success of La dolce vita (1959) catapulted him into iconic celebrity status, his name becoming a global phenomenon.

The `Trilogy of Character' focuses on willfully eccentric characters and the clash between the public role (the 'face') they have to maintain to get along in society and their more authentic real selves as expressed (or exposed) through fantasies, ideals, dreams and instincts. To this end Fellini plays `false' sober propriety up against the `true' liberating fantasy of make believe. In Variety Lights it is the fantasy of the variety theater, in The White Sheik the romantic escape of photoromanzi (photo novels of actors playing in exotic Arabian Nights-type adventures). In I vitelloni, Fellini puts before us scenes in a beauty contest, a cinema, a carnival and a variety theater, which expose character flaws in a group of 6 young men stuck in a provincial seaside town. These people are indolent wastrels, refusing to work, leeching off their families and drowning in self-inflicted lassitude. The etymology of `I vitelloni' refers to `large gut' (nonproductive person prone to stuffing himself), or a cross of beef and veal meaning `immature lazy young person without a clear identity or any notion what to do with his life'. The vitelloni all put on airs of respectability, but encounters with fantasy worlds makes it clear they are merely ridiculous. The film constitutes a great jump in maturity on the previous two films. The White Sheik is dazzlingly made, but the montage Fellini deploys there relegates the characters to unbelievable two-dimensional caricatures that can only exist on screen. Cinema technique masks reality rather than showing it accurately. In I vitelloni technique is always at the service of theme and never obscures it. The film focuses on a group of very real fully-rounded young men emoting real feelings that audiences even today can identify with. For this reason the film has had an enduring influence down the years on directors such as Barry Levinson in Diner, George Lucas in American Graffiti and perhaps most notably Martin Scorsese. His Italian-American films inhabit the same milieu of I vitelloni albeit transposed to New York. This is evidenced in films such as Who's that Knocking at my Door (1967), Mean Streets (1973), Raging Bull (1980) and Good Fellas (1990). Mean Streets is a virtual remake which even features some of the same camera shots, while Good Fellas lift's Fellini's voiceover introduction of the vitelloni at the beginning for a scene where gangsters are introduced in a bar.

Although there are 6 vitelloni, we only really get to know three of them well. The `spiritual leader' of the group is Fausto (Franco Fabrizi), a provincial Casanova who imagines himself to be sexy and sophisticated, but is actually selfish and base. He dominates the narrative and in each of the set piece make-believe scenes we see him unmasked as the immature spoilt brat that he really is. The film's opening beauty contest introduces Fausto's girlfriend Sandra (Eleonora Ruffo) as the beauty queen while he eyes up another girl. Turns out Sandra is pregnant with Fausto's child and his father forces him into a shotgun marriage when his real desire is to simply run away. Back from his honeymoon and in a cinema with Sandra, he brazenly flirts with the woman sitting on his other side. He promptly deserts his wife hoping to get his end in. Failing, he returns back to the cinema, his wife having been left alone to wait for him. Later he is given a job working in a shop selling religious artifacts. He doesn't notice the wife of the shop-owner until the carnival reveals her beauty to him and he later gets fired for coming on to her. Then later backstage of a variety show performance he meets a dancer, who this time he succeeds in bedding, only returning to his wife and family in the early hours. Fausto plays the family man, the honest shop worker, the good father, but each social occasion sabotages this 'face', revealing him as a ridiculous flake. Fabrizi is superb in this role, carrying our amused sympathy (and the film with it) even when he does the most despicable things.

The second vitellone is the most ridiculous of them all. Alberto (Alberto Sordi who was The White Sheik) lives off the earnings of his sister Olga who also supports their mother, the father having deserted them. He pretends to be the master of the house, but is simply a pompous dead weight. He upbraids Olga for damaging the family name by carrying on with a married man while he drags the family name in the mud by refusing to work and leeching off the family's sole bread-winner so he can go gambling. His big come-uppance comes at the carnival where he gets drunk. Dressed up as the big fat woman he actually is, he dances with a giant plaster head and (only because he's drunk) utters the only true words he says throughout the film: "Who are you?...You're nobody. You're all nobody!...All of you. All." He addresses the words to himself just as much as his friends and when he finally lurches back home he finds his sister on the way out with her boyfriend. From now he has to look after his mother on his own. His woman's dress contrasts with the manly attire of his sister who up until this point has been the rock of the family. The implication is doom for the mother and himself, unable (unwilling) as he is to get up and find a job. Sordi is brilliant here, especially when he flips the bird at a bunch of construction workers as he drives past in a car. The car breaks down not far down the road and hilariously he has to run for his life as the men take pursuit. Sordi would have made an excellent Zampanò in La strada, but was to be disappointed when Fellini chose Anthony Quinn over him.

Leopoldo (Leopoldo Trieste who we saw play Ivan in The White Sheik) is the quiet and introspective poet of the group. A writer, he imagines himself a Hemingway big game hunting in Africa. Unfortunately he is a purveyor of pap and his aspirations are merely pipe dreams. He faces his moment of reality at the variety theater when he meets the `famous' actor Sergio Natali who agrees to hear a reading of one of the great poet's dreary plays. Natali pretends to listen, but proves to be a homosexual who only wants to engineer a quicky with Leopoldo under the pier on the beach. Trieste plays Leopoldo with a quiet dignity which contrasts with the brash show of social propriety in The White Sheik, but he is shown as no less foolish than his friends, and no less in need of changing his life and grasping some responsibility.

Two of the vitelloni are virtually ignored in the film probably because they are surrogates for Fellini and his brother. Riccardo Fellini plays a character actually called 'Riccardo' and we must assume that the film's narrator (the first time for Fellini to deploy voice-over narration) is Federico himself. The director grew up in Rimini, a seaside resort not dissimilar to the town in this film and we must assume the film amounts to a poetic account of his childhood days, though obviously he didn't want to get too personally revealing (such modesty is lacking in later films which freely parade his dirty dreams for everyone to look at!) and kept both his brother and himself in the shadows. In his excellent book on Fellini (The Cinema of Federico Fellini [Princeton University Press, 1992]) Bondanella says there are only five vitelloni and moots the last member of the group Moraldo (Franco Interlenghi) as the possible narrator, but look closely at the scene on the beach when they are walking and we count five without Fausto who is on honeymoon.

Moraldo watches over the three key characters (and we presume the two hidden ones) and functions as the film's conscience. He may be no less indolent than his friends, but their inadequacies are writ large in his comparative innocence as he functions as a cipher for the audience. He is Fausto's brother-in-law and is compromised by covering for his infidelities and lying to his sister. He is also dragged into theft as Fausto exacts revenge on his former employer. In addition Moraldo is the one who escorts Alberto home from the carnival and witnesses his final embarrassment, and of course he is present as Leopoldo embarrasses himself in front of Natali. Moraldo is given two scenes with a young boy who reflects his innocence in perhaps a gesture towards neo-realist convention where adult cruelty is pointedly contrasted with the reactions of children. These conversations seem insignificant, but are the only moments of genuine feeling in the film completely absent of either `face' or make believe. They lead into the film's natural conclusion which is that Moraldo is the only one who gets up the courage to leave the town and start life afresh.

In the film's conclusion we first meet the ambiguity that will become a Fellini trademark. In the following trilogy of redemption or grace (La strada, Il Bidone, Le notti di Cabiria) all the characters find a certain redemption wherein they seem to find God, but actually this is never made explicit. The sacred and secular are interchangeable and we are not sure if the characters actually improve or not. The same applies with I Vitelloni. One reading would be that Moraldo sees the pathetic waste inherent in his group's lifestyle and seeks to break away. This suggests a certain character drive and a belief that he can change things for the better. The problem is we see no sign of this drive anywhere else in the film. He gets on the train not knowing where he's going or what he's going to do. He deserts his family and friends without telling anyone and a second reading of his departure could be that he is simply running away from his responsibilities rather than staying and dealing with them. The flight could be seen as a symptom of the prevailing social illness that grips the group rather than a cure. Interestingly, the first draft of the script comes firmly down on the side of the second view with Fellini damning his characters completely for their idleness. He made the change however, perhaps realizing that audiences would respond better to an ending that was less finite and which reflects real life more accurately. It would become his mantra throughout his career as he became infamous for narratives which refuse pat explanations. Arguably, this got out of hand in his later extravaganzas which verge on incoherence and self-indulgence, but all his films prior to La dolce vita have disciplined narratives deeply bedded within the characters involved and are all the better for it.

The film making technique deployed in I vitelloni seems to be much less flashy than the complicated montage of The White Sheik. However, look closely and we notice the camera barely stands still. Slow complicated tracking shots dominate the film with the show piece social occasions (especially the wonderfully-shot carnival) coming beautifully alive. The camera seems to be at one in sketching out these characters and making them so believable. Of course the performances here are fabulous and help Fellini, but the subtle treatment of the camera (take a bow Otello Martelli), the deployment of voice-over, the odd use of subjective shots which startle because they jar with the fixed point of the narrator's perspective, and the deeply affectionate, but also deeply critical depiction of a particular social milieu with older characters featured as a barometer against which the actions of the vitelloni can be measured, are all deeply impressive and make for a profoundly moving experience. The famous shot at the end as Moraldo rides away on the train as the camera subjectively portrays his farewell to his friends by gliding over their beds as they sleep is the icing on the cake. All in all, I vitelloni stands as one of Fellini's very best and is mandatory viewing.

This is a review of the Nouveaux Pictures DVD. There are no extras except the usual trailer and picture gallery, but the picture is pristine (aspect ratio 4:3) and extremely beautiful with the sound properly restored.
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on 3 September 2005
'I Vitelloni' is one of the key works in the career of legendary Italian filmmaker Federico Fellini; establishing his early style and attention to character detail, whilst simultaneously inspiring the scope and tone of his later films, Nights Of Cabiria and Amarcord. It's also one of the key-works of the Italian neo-realist movement, offering us an unpretentious and, to some extent, sympathetic portrait of working class Italy, with the stark black and white cinematography managing to find a sense of poetry and pathos in the lives of these wandering souls.
The film seems like an anachronism when compared to some of it's director's later projects, with 'I Vitelloni' making the most of it's static, almost-documentary-like camera perspectives and lingering scenes of quiet conversation... a world away from the carnival grotesques in films like Satyricon or Casanova. There are a few hints of the style that would develop, particularly in the use of composition, character, and overall theme, but for the most part, this is Fellini finding his feet. The depiction of the old seaside town here bares no relation to the gaudy Technicolor fabrication of Amarcord, though it's certainly as lovingly rendered; with Fellini offering empathy and compassion to his characters who, like Mastroianni in his more celebrated films, mostly come across as lazy, feckless, arrogant and chauvinistic. Despite these character flaws however, Fellini is still able to make us understand these characters and feel compassion towards them. By involving us, as an audience, within their everyday lives, conversations, relationships and deepest desires, we feel almost initiated within the group and ultimately end up captivated by their lazy, directionless charm.
The film is greatly entertaining, capturing the spirit of its characters and striking something of a chord within any of us who have ever felt as if life and youth was slowly passing us by. It's by no means a self-pitying film, despite the bitterness and sense of defeat so prevalent in the majority of the characters, there's still a great deal of warmth and humour to them... It's a bittersweet film then, in some respects; giving is the ultimate depiction of vibrant small-town youth slowly metamorphosing into the kind of cantankerous old characters found in every small town across the world. In that respect it has obvious parallels with films like Diner, The Big Chill, Days Of Being Wild, Mean Streets and Spetters, which present a similar depiction of aimless adulthood advancing on a wasted youth (...whilst the depiction of the town and the sentiments of the characters remind me of the Morrissey song, Everyday Is Like Sunday, with the main location here seeming very much like "the coastal town that they forgot to close down!!").
'I Vitelloni' is an intoxicating film... one best watched during a rainy afternoon when you can best empathise with the characters and their aimless decent into the darker side of life. The creation of the characters is perfectly observed, whilst the depiction of the town gives us an evocation of a certain time, place, atmosphere and overall sense of emotion. The direction is strong and shows us a glimmer of the style that would go towards creating iconic films like La Dolce Vita and 8 ½, which means that this could very easily be the best place to start for those new to the films of Federico Fellini.
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