#599 Amarcord (1973)

Amarcord is one of Fellini’s later films and is a semiautobiographical sendoff to the small Italian community of his youth. The structure of this film is a darting, weaving, ocean of actors whose roles come on and off the screen in waves, completely ignoring any central plot but seemingly just documenting a year in this tiny, sleepy community.  We travel through the seasons of the year as much as the seasons in life to view a melancholic and nostalgic faux reality in every character and every feeling. “A triumph of artistic form,” Amarcord has “direct and affecting” emotions that are “streamlined…into a pure, exalted poetry of mist, flowing camera movements, pastel colors, and lightly artificial set design” (Schneider). This was an engaging and enjoyable film that I ate up as Fellini’s story was woven into the fabric of a community, young and old, whimsical and real. A beautiful film.

Rife with this bizarre narrative and dreamlike imagery that jumps between little vignettes and tied together by a few community-member narrators, it resembles more of a memory-driven oral history than it does a straight narrative film. The characters that come on and off the page are hyperrealistic community members that captivate one’s attention as a brilliant little slice of life that never comes together as one whole but remains a wholly amorphous ensemble  – sort of like a Russian novel where everyone isn’t always important, but there are many, many characters that construct a vivid setting-character.

The score was completely beautiful, and the biggest success was perhaps the camera work and gorgeous editing that took these disparate elements and tied them all together through effective transitioning, color, music, costuming, and presentation. Here we have a community member narrating again, and here we follow the prostitute and get some fun sophomoric comedic relief before the big family fight scene. It is pastoral, and it is city, and it is the strangely artificial sea. It is happiness and it is sadness. It is beauty, destruction, resurrection, and life. It is a film that is difficult to characterize because there is so much going on that it reminds me almost of a successful execution of the fictitious play that Hoffman’s character was trying to construct in Synechdoche, NY but then somewhat deconstructed in memory like Eternal Sunshine.

It really reminded me of some elements of one of my favorite directors Wes Anderson in many ways – in the production, the color palette, the strange and effective editing and camera work, and the dramedy that is all woven together to create this picture of a community. Granted, this film that was larger than life and ridiculous, but in many ways, there is a rock solid truth in it that that can be more effective than documentary-style storytelling. It is almost more real because of its elements that seem too much, and in that sense, more real. There is truth in the dreamy super-fiction of Amarcord, and it created a truly wonderful and enjoyable film.

I watched Amarcord on Criterion DVD, #4.


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