Anita Ekberg in one of the famed stills from La Dolce Vita (1960), dir. by Federico Fellini. Image: Cineteca di Bologna / Reporters Associati
The sweet life of the rich and famous is one that continues to enthrall us ordinary folks; such celebrity gossip continue to provide fodder for our watercooler talk.
But how did such a hankering for celebrity culture begin? To find out more, look no further than La Dolce Vita (1960), the iconic work by Italian film director Federico Fellini. After all, this was the film introduced the word “paparazzo” — the singular form of paparazzi — to our pop culture vernacular.
You’ll soon get to see this film in its full widescreen grandeur in Singapore at the 11th Italian Film Festival, to be held from April 2 to 10, 2014.
Also known as The Sweet Life, this famed Fellini film has been restored to its stunning widescreen format, thanks to the film preservation work led by luxury fashion house Gucci and The Film Foundation.
Scenes from La Dolce Vita before (top) and after (below) the film preservation work. Image: Gucci and The Film Foundation
Spearheaded by filmmaker Martin Scorsese, The Film Foundation is a non-profit group that supports film preservation and restoration projects around the world; Gucci, on its part, has helped to fund 10 of such projects, including the preservation work of Italian classics La Dolce Vita, Senso (1954) and Il Caso Mattei (1972).
“Fellini brought something new to Italian cinema. And with La Dolce Vita, he conquered the universe,” says Martin Scorsese. “It’s difficult to convey exactly how special the look of this picture was at the time, and thanks to the support of Gucci we’ve been able to restore this film from the original widescreen negative and bring it back to its original splendour.”
Footage from the original camera negatives of La Dolce Vita have been used to return the black-and-white film as it had been seen on screen in the sixties, minus the tears and damages caused by film decay (as seen above).
Actors Marcello Mastroianni (right), Anita Ekberg (left) in La Dolce Vita. Image: Cineteca di Bologna / Reporters Associati
La Dolce Vita follows the story of gossip columnist Marcello Rubini (as acted by Marcello Mastroianni), who gets drawn into the glitzy, decadent world of the celebrities that he interviews and meets. He’s accompanied by his camera-wielding sidekick Paparazzo, the namesake of what most celeb-stalking photographers are now known by.
As he indulges in the whims and fancies of these celebrities, Rubini soon becomes infatuated by several femme fatales, including the rich Maddalena (Anouk Aimée) and impossibly unattainable Hollywood star Sylvia (Anita Ekberg).
This film also inspired the term “Felliniesque”, thanks to its depiction of the lavish and outlandish life of the rich and famous. Just as kafkaesque denotes the nightmarishly surreal works of Prague-born writer Franz Kafka, the term Felliniesque became popularised as an adjective to describe the almost hallucinogenic scenes of debauchery and hedonism seen in Fellini’s film.
Marcello Mastroianni in La Dolce Vita. Image: Cineteca di Bologna / Reporters Associati
“La Dolce Vita is a film that paved the way for a new world with an obsession for style, fashion and celebrity,” says Gucci creative director Frida Giannini, on the film’s popularity in the swinging sixties. “This was (also) a golden period in Gucci’s own history, when the (fashion) house first emerged on the world stage partly due to the visibility it received from its international jet set clientele. It was therefore only natural for Gucci to honour this legacy.”
It’s certainly known for inspiring wanderlust too: The grand sets of La Dolce Vita spurred many cinemagoers to visit Rome, the main setting of the film. Another cool factoid to know? Quite amazingly, most of the scenes of La Dolce Vita were shot in a film studio. More than 80 set pieces were created for this film, including a replica of the dome of St Peters’ Basilica.
So see it for yourself by witnessing the grandeur of La Dolce Vita on the big screen; be sure to get your tickets soon!
Catch the restored La Dolce Vita film on April 4, 2014, 8pm at the National Museum of Singapore, as part of the 11th Italian Film Festival: Special Venice Edition; this film festival runs in Singapore from April 2 to 10, 2014. Visit www.facebook.com/ItalianFilmFest for more information.