Baum Mots (New Feature)

But after 8 1/2 Fellini’s sense of narrative disintegrated into a kind of conveyor-belt spectacle, highlighting one damn showstopper after another — sometimes with brilliant moments and interludes (as in his Roma and Amarcord), sometimes with memorably disturbing undertones (as in his Satyricon and Casanova). But these films were invariably rather shapeless freight trains, going nowhere in particular except across the screen. “Fellini” had begun to seem undifferentiated; like pepperoni it could be sliced into at any point.

Casualties of the Mass Market“, CR review (The Voice of the Moon & Casino) 1 Dec 1995


For years now, Fellini has been fast becoming a sort of limitless, structureless commodity, like salami or pepperoni, that can be sliced into at any point, yielding pretty much the same general consistency and flavor.

Declarations of Independents: HARDLY WORKING“, The Soho News review (Hardly Working & City of Women) 4 April 1981

As with some of Fellini’s late works, the energy and inventiveness, not to mention the juicy vulgarity, are so consistent in Black Cat, White Cat that you feel you can slice into the material at almost any point.

Black Cat, White Cat (1999) CR capsule

Bonus JR on Fellini (continued from “Casualties of the Mass Market”):

My predecessor at the Reader, Dave Kehr, wasn’t very sympathetic to Fellini — or to Ingmar Bergman or Woody Allen — during his 11 years at the paper, and because I usually share these biases I’ve often retained his unfavorable capsule reviews of their pictures in our Section Two listings. My antipathy comes largely from the outsize reputations of all three filmmakers given their narrow thematic and stylistic ranges — especially in the case of Allen, whose dogged reliance on Bergman and Fellini is probably his biggest shortcoming. Bergman and Fellini have also seemed overrated because their defenders have usually shortchanged more substantial and ambitious figures like Dreyer, Rossellini, and Antonioni. If Bergman and Fellini were the best cinema could offer as art (Allen’s watchword), by implication artists who accomplished or even attempted more were overreachers. I readily concede that Bergman and Fellini are important, but I wouldn’t want to be a film critic if I thought that Bergman’s neurotic, antiseptic psychodramas and Fellini’s cartoon surrealist spectacles were the best movies can do — especially since both artists tended to repeat themselves ad infinitum (with noble exceptions, such as Persona and 8 1/2).

This was the gist of my demurral — and, if I’m not mistaken, Kehr’s — for most of the 60s, 70s, and 80s. But once Bergman retired from filmmaking and Fellini’s work stopped getting U.S. distribution, I began wondering whether their oeuvres were getting their proper due. Bergman’s last major film, Fanny and Alexander, has to the best of my knowledge never been shown here in its five-hour version — the only version Bergman recognizes as his own, but one that was excluded from a supposedly definitive Bergman retrospective held recently in New York. The declining interest in distributing Fellini’s late work here has also been distressing.


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