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on 30 July 2005
It's well known that Fellini abandoned linear, narrative filmmaking sometime during 8½, though perhaps the seeds were already being sewn with his two episodic dramas, Nights of Cabiria and La Dolce Vita. Like those films, Fellini-Roma offers up a similarly episodic, shambolic and deeply romanticised depiction of Italy's capital. However, unlike those films, there is no central figure or narrator, like the prostitute Cabiria or Marcello the playboy journalist, to guide us through Fellini's labyrinthine concoction; only the fevered musings of it's director and the rambling recollections of a series of fanciful weirdoes. Thus, the film isn't a film in the traditional sense, but rather, a fusion of documentary style-footage and stylised recreations of characters, places, times and events.
Many have criticised the film (as well as others from the same era, particularly Juliet of the Spirits, Satyricon, Fellini-Casanova and The City of Women) as being trivial, meandering and self-indulgent, all of which are true, but certainly the element of indulgence and theatrical abstraction (as well as a penchant for the outrageous and arcane) was always part of Fellini's appeal. Here, the previous hints of free-form abstraction, is taken further, with all semblance of story removed, so the film, unlike his previous two films Juliet of the Spirits and Satyricon, which were abstract and sprawling but still had a sense of character and plot, Roma instead, wanders along from one scene to the next, with no real focus on character (although there are many faces that reoccur throughout) and nothing in the way of narrative momentum. Now, this will undoubtedly be a problem for some viewers who require a sense of pace or meaning to their films, though, for those of us still interested in what Fellini has to offer, regardless of content (or lack, thereof), it is perhaps best to think of the film as a collection of scenes to dip in and out of at random.
As was the case with many later-Fellini, the film has a number of intoxicating set pieces scattered sporadically throughout, amongst the most impressive being an epic fashion show replete with the trademark Fellini grotesques, social and political commentaries and a fair bit of sniping, sycophantic star-worship. Other standouts, with the film traversing a number of different time periods, include a reconstruction of Rome during the reign of Mussolini, a heated traffic jam on the autostrada and a lengthy documentary-like scene following a group of archaeologists searching through Rome's labyrinth of subway systems. There are a variety of other set pieces scattered throughout the film that probably warrant some sort of mention, but they just didn't resonate with me as highly as they have with certain other viewers.
However, that's one of the great things about Fellini-Roma, with the director stringing together a series of impressionist sketches that will no doubt conjure different moods and emotions in whoever watches the film. As was apparent right from the start with Fellini, was his ability to evoke a certain time and place through his images, set-construction, sound-design, and overall iconography... and that's certainly evident here. Of course, like all of the director's work from this period, the film won't be to all tastes, with many no doubt despairing of the filmmaker's seeming indulgence, pretension and wanton disregard of character and narrative. However, if you treat the film more like an episodic tapestry (or travelogue) to dip in and out of, then you're sure to get a lot out of Fellini's majestic, carefully orchestrated imagery, bizarre cavalcade of clowns, freaks, geeks and weirdoes (not to mention the usual barrage of buxom ladies), and a collection of cameos and in-jokes from a variety of Fellini regulars.
For my money, this film isn't quite as essential as 8 ½, Amarcord, La Dolce Vita or ...And the Ship Sails on, though it does rank alongside the sentimental La Strada and the similarly episodic Night of Cabiria (I'm not sure whether or not I prefer Casanova over this... I'd have to see both films again) and is much better than the free-form bombardment of Juliet of the Spirits, Satyricon and The City of Women (in my opinion, at least). Regardless of the comparisons to his previous films, Fellini-Roma is still an enchanting film with some astounding moments of visual spectacle to compensate for the overall lack of plot. Probably a worthwhile purchase for die-hard Fellini fans, though those new to the director's work would be better off starting elsewhere.
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on 7 April 2005
From its Daliesque opening images of pollarded trees, caught in silhouette like the blasted stumps of an Ypres battlefield, Fellini plunges the viewer into a world which is both real and surreal, which is both a living city and an historical allusion ... if not illusion.
Fellini often invokes themes of how we understand the narrative of our life - our memories, fantasies, dreams all become blended into some sort of logical whole. Here he explores Rome as a city of myths and illusions. The Fascists (who taught him as a child) presented ancient Rome as an ideal, as the eternal statement of civilised values. Yet the Rome they venerated was frozen in alabaster statues and decaying architecture. The Fascists' own illusion of permanence was to be rapidly swept away, yet they live on in the child's (now the man's) memories as a frozen statue of Mussolini.
Education for Fellini was regimented by the Fascists and the Church. The Church, of course, also venerated Rome as the eternal city, the heart of the Church. Rome, it seems, had eclipsed Christ.
And Rome dominates so much of popular culture - the cinema still celebrates gladiatorial epics. Fellini contrasts this with the popular culture of Roman vaudeville, a lengthy vignette playing on the bawdiness and vulgarity of the theatre going masses ... so different from the elegance of high culture theatre!
"Roma" is delivered in a series of vignettes, images, flashbacks, sketches which capture both Fellini's own memories of the city and some of its 'classic' representations. It is, we see, a living city, but one which Church, State, tourists and academics are trying to ossify, to reduce to an institution which can be controlled and used to justify power, history, politics, culture, religion, life itself.
For Fellini, Rome is a circus - and not the crumbling ruins of the amphitheatre. It is a living, ever changing circus of real life, of vivid imagination, of intellectual discovery and popular culture. It cannot be defined, it cannot be explained. It lives by day, it lives by night.
We dive beneath the city streets to find engineers tunnelling, building a new subway system. Every so often they have to stop as they unearth more archaeology. Every time they stop, the archaeologists are called up to preserve, to save, to delay and postpone. Finally, the tunnelling breaks through into a room resplendent in beautiful Roman wall paintings. As the onlookers watch, the paintings crumble to dust. Sic transit gloria.
And in the end ... the city is given over to youth. Late into the night, the city is taken over by young people on motorbikes. It's fun. It's a playground. It is a living international city, not the dead hand of history. The beauty that was Rome has decayed, as must we all. Fellini celebrates life, and so does "Roma".
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on 27 April 2014
Rome is one of my Fellini's favourite films. If you're from Rome like I am, you will love it. If you are not, or you don't lnow Fellini so well, you might remain either shocked or extremely amazed by such a unique film. In just one shot (made by several episodes) you will get both the happy and carefree side and the dark side of the eternal city, in a way that no one has ever manage to tell. An amazing blu ray as well, greatly restored.
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on 22 March 2014
Masters of Cinema continue to deliver a definitive and outstanding package of second tier Fellini titles. Following Fellini's CITY OF WOMEN (1980) and IL BIDONE (1955), their latest offering of ROMA (1972) will make a die-hard Fellini fans mouth drool, but realistically, the film itself might not convert any non-believers to the holy church of Fellini; though there are those who would place the film among Fellini's all-time best.

Better when viewed as an unconventional fantasy/quasi-documentary along the lines of I CLOWNS (1970), ROMA seems like a warm-up for Fellini's last great masterwork AMARCORD (1973). Just as AMARCORD was a film about rumination and the illusion of a particular place in time (Fellini's fictionalized home town of Rimini could just as easily stand in for the place anyone grew up), ROMA presents us with two views of the world-famous Italian capital.

The first view of the city belongs to the past, or Fellini's impressions of people, places and historical happenings. The second (and perhaps slightly more satisfying) view is that of the modern Rome, or at least modern at the time the film was originally released. Unlike AMARCORD, ROMA is not about characters. The titular city itself was intended to be the major (if not only) character. Unfortunately, that can make for a very tedious journey for viewers more accustomed to the usual tropes of cinematic storytelling.

ROMA feels quite loose and episodic; perhaps even Fellini's most stream of consciousness endeavor. The word "plotless" often gets applied to it, but I don't think the director was interested in plot at all when fashioning this particular journey. I think following the massive critical and cultural success of 8½ (1963), he was beginning to experiment more and more with alternative styles of filmmaking, and ROMA feels very much like an experiment from start to finish.

There are certain passages in the film that resonate strongly. A prolonged dinner scene at an outdoor restaurant and Fellini's own film crew deliriously entering the city are just two notable standouts. The famous fashion show satire of religion in the final act felt more like an homage to Buñuel than a surefire Fellini invention. Then there is the haunting yet strangely sleight sequence involving the disappearing frescoes. Like AMARCORD, there is a bit of vulgarity to the overall proceedings, but for the most part, the film is a love letter more than a travelogue.

For this viewer, Fellini has always worked best when applying his fantasy thematics to real people and real situations. ROMA is not exempt from the usual Fellini excesses, but it is short on the magic that makes his strongest films resonate (even his 37-minute segment in the 1968 portmanteau film SPIRITS OF THE DEAD seems more cultivated). The Blu-ray comes highly recommended (especially over the now obsolete MGM DVD) with some great essays and liner notes to help one navigate Fellini's oft-puzzling landscapes. A must for Fellini completists.

Anyone else might want to consult their travel agent before booking tickets.
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on 4 October 2014
This film was probably regarded as very cool and trend-setting in its day but now comes across as rather pretentious. The director has cobbled together various film sequences of Rome, which may be interesting in themselves, but the result is a mess. No doubt any complaints would have been met with the reply that it is 'art'.
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on 12 July 2003
excellent experimental film by Fellini. Not a documentary but not even fiction... or is this film both? Only Fellini could have shown the deep hidden spirit of Rome. it's secrets, it's people, it's hypocrisy, it's mystery, it's irresistible fashion. As Gore Vidal says in the film itself: Rome is the capital of illusion: the political capital of a nation, the capital of cinema, the capital of christianity... all producers of illusion.
unfortunately a (very)bad translation doesn't help the viewer understand the film rightly. There are even whole scenes translated wrongly(!), changing the subjects, making the film unecessary vulgar. probably the translator tried to translate the film in the way he/she wanted it to be. pity for non italian speakers.
4 stars for the film; 1 star for the DVD edition.
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on 13 March 2009
I think other reviews elsewhere have covered this movie in some depth. I just wanted to add that it really felt like a passport to the past for me in a way that probably surpassed Fellini's intentions. I say this because - although he obviously wanted to reminisce about the forties when he was young - the sections shot in the seventies were obviously contemporaneous. Viewing the movie in 2009 - over 30 years after it was made - we are treated to a double-dose of rich nostalgia.
Be sure to watch this sensuous treat with a good red wine!
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on 10 August 2014
MoC have done a great job by reissuing this beauty on Blu-Ray. It is not a straight story in sequences but an ode to the beautiful city of Rome. My favourite scenes are the ones on the highway, the dining scene & when the motorcycles cycle around the city. Fellini was a great director and i hope that MoC will release more Fellini movies.
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on 22 September 2012
Roma (Federico Fellini, 1972, 119')

Story and screenplay by Federico Fellini and Bernardino Zapponi, stars Peter Gonzales.
Music by Nino Rota and Carlo Savina, cinematography by Giuseppe Rotunno, editing by Ruggero Mastroianni. In Fellini film sequence between I clowns and Amarcord. The film was screened at the 1972 Cannes Film Festival, but wasn't entered into the main competition. The film was also selected as the Italian entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 45th Academy Awards, but was not accepted as a nominee.

Also known as Fellini's Roma, the film centers on two journeys to Rome by the director. The first is as a young man in the late 1930s and early 1940s. The second is as the director of a film crew creating a movie about Rome. The film alternates these two narratives. The plot is minimal, and the only character to develop significantly is Rome herself. Peter Gonzales plays the young Fellini, and the film features mainly unknowns in the cast. Fellini repeatedly contrasts Roman life in wartime Fascist Italy with its counterpart in the early 1970s.

The wartime scenes emphasise the congregation of neighbors in Rome's public places such as street restaurants, a variety show, and a bomb shelter. With the exception of hippies and a conversational scene with Fellini bemoaning the loss of Roman life with radical students, the analogous congregations of the 1970s are between automobiles and motorcycles. Fellini makes a comparison between the parade of prostitutes at wartime brothels and a fantasy runway fashion show featuring clerical garb and a papal audience.

A succession of Fellini fiests, not only culinary: The liturgic fashion catwalk episode takes the prize, equivalent to the first Catholic western in his Toby Dammit!

170 - Roma (Federico Fellini, 1972, 119') - 21/9/2012
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on 12 March 2015
It is very difficult to write a plot for this movie because there does not seem to be one. It is mainly nonlinear with a collection of narratives that slightly interconnect with each other. But there is a central theme and that is the change that Rome has under gone throughout the years.

Some of the characters express the feeling of nostalgia for the Eternal City of the past but beneath the surface Fellini seems to suggest that there may not have been any difference between the past and present at that time: regarding the cultural and social structure of Roman society.

It is a unique film both in its technical and narrative sense in particular where Fellini himself becomes both observer and participant off camera.

The film may not be to everyone's taste but it is something that I found very fascinating.

SFW, Subtitles, Deleted Scenes, Choice of audio effect.
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