I vitelloni

I vitelloni

Young and the passionate

DVD - 2004 | Italian
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This film compassioniately details a year in the life of five young men lingering in post-adolescent limbo, dreaming of adventure and escape from their small town and struggling to find meaning in their lives.

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danrothschild
Mar 27, 2017

It is a truism in cinema (particularly in the academy) that Fellini was a great director—and such films as La Strada (1954), La Dolce Vita (1960) and especially his paean to filmmaking and portrayal of mental illness, 8 1/2 (1963) do warrant his place as one of the great auteurs of world cinema.

Sadly (pathetically, even), I Vitelloni (1953) emphatically does NOT.

The film's plot (such as it is--and it cannot be said to play with and subvert narrative structure like masterpieces such as Goddard's Breathless (1960) or even Fellini's own 8 1/2) follows the lives of a group of lazy, listless, bored and (quite frankly) boring male 20-something friends. There is the conscienceless, pathologically womanizing Fausto; Leopoldo, a truly awful aspiring writer whose taste for the melodramatic is unfortunately not limited to his dreadful work; Alberto, trifling, lackadaisical to the point of somnolence, supported by his long-suffering mother and sister; Riccardo, an uninspired singer harboring the pathetically unrealistic ambition of singing professionally; and, finally, Moraldo, whom Fellini (unconvincingly) attempts to portray as the only member of the group with self-awareness and a conscience.

The piece's sexism is extraordinary, even by the standards of Italy in 1953. ALL (and I do mean ALL) the women in the piece are either clinging, stifling Maddonas (see especially Sandra, Fausto's wife) or shallow whores out for a good time and as much as they can get out of the men around them.

And what is it with Italian auteurs and homophobia? (See also Rossellini's Germany Year Zero (1948, with one of world cinema's most offensive depictions of the gay man as (inevitably) a pederast—but there are scores of examples in Italian cinema). Undoubtedly the most offensive scene in the film is when an aging gay actor attempts to persuade Leopoldo to join him on the beach to discuss a play Leopoldo is writing. The film makes it by no means clear that the actor's intent is to attempt to seduce Leopoldo—who reacts in a profoundly offensive homophobic manner.

The ending is entirely unconvincing. The viewer is lead to believe that Moraldo (who has not only witnessed, but kept the secret of and in fact enabled Fausto's womanizing), having grown sick of life in the provincial town which is the film's setting and having suddenly developed both a conscience and the will to act, abruptly leaves the town for good.

The camera work is occasionally beautiful, although far from original and showing us nothing new in terms of the potential of the cinema as a form for artistic expression. Nino Rota's score is at times almost cloying in its sentimentality—definitely NOT his best work.

During his lifetime Fellini frequently stated that I Vitelloni (in English, The Bulls—no kidding) was his favorite of all his films, being a fond look back at his youth in Rimini prior to his departure for Rome—which is the reason I chose to screen this particular "epic." If true, one can't help but think less of Fellini—as a director, a man and a human being.

After seeing this piece of gratuitous, self-indulgent garbage, it took screening La Strada, La Dolce Vita and 8 1/2 for me to come to respect Fellini as an auteur again.

If you only see one Fellini film, please—don't let it be I Vitelloni.

p
princeofdarkness
Sep 29, 2016

As complete a piece of cinema as I could imagine. It's all there - poetry of image, a thoughtful screenplay with honest characterizations, a soundtrack that accompanies and not overpowers, a dash of humour and social commentary, to name some of its assets. Thoughts and memories are brought to life, maybe coloured by time but captured in a substantial and satisfying viewing experience. No film is perfect, but this comes as close to that ideal as I've seen to date.

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