Fellini’s Eternal Rome: Paganism and Christianity in the Films of Federico Fellini 9781474297646, 9781474297615, 9781474297639

In Fellini’s Eternal Rome, Alessandro Carrera explores the co-existence and conflict of paganism and Christianity in the

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Fellini’s Eternal Rome: Paganism and Christianity in the Films of Federico Fellini
 9781474297646, 9781474297615, 9781474297639

Table of contents :
Cover page
Halftitle page
Series page
Title page
Copyright page
Series Editor’s Preface
Author’s Preface
1 Fellini, Dante and the Gaze of Medusa
Beaming up Fellini
Eyes wide shut
2 Fellini and Rossellini
‘Appennino emiliano’ or a lesson in humility
‘The Miracle’, or the satyr and the nymph
The mystery of Perfect Joy
3 La dolce vita
All gods lead to Rome
The fish-thing and the maiden
4 8½ Or Trouble in Paradise
An albatross around Guido’s neck
Circe vs the virginal saints
The troublesome ethics of eternal life
5 Fellini Satyricon I
Foreclosing Rome
What were you (analogically) thinking?
Madness or ‘mental confusion’? Parallel lives
6 Fellini Satyricon II
‘The mask is ripped off ’
Lichas, Acéphale
‘Come on baby, light my fire’, or the two bodies of Oenothea
The sailor’s tale
7 Roma
Internal city, eternal city
Attack of the sixty-foot goddess
Escape from Rome
8 From City of Women to The Voice of the Moon
The witch and the lawyer
Fellini on Mount Olympus
Shooting at the moon
Conclusion: Rome’s extensive and in-tensive space

Citation preview

Fellini’s Eternal Rome


Classical Receptions in Twentieth-Century Writings Series Editor: Laura Jansen Each book in this groundbreaking new series considers the influence of antiquity on a single writer from the twentieth century. From Woolf to Walcott and Fellini to Foucault, the modalities and texture of this modern encounter with antiquity are explored in the works of authors recognized for their global impact on modern fiction, poetry, art, philosophy and socio-politics. A distinctive feature of twentieth-century writing is the tendency to break with tradition and embrace the new sensibilities of the time. Yet the period continues to maintain a fluid dialogue with the Greco-Roman past, drawing on its rich cultural legacy and thought, even within the most radical movements that ostentatiously questioned and rejected that past. Classical Receptions in Twentieth-Century Writing approaches this dialogue from two interrelated perspectives: it asks how modern authors’ appeal to the classical past opens up new readings of their oeuvres and contexts, and it considers how this process in turn renders new insights into the classical world. This two-way perspective offers dynamic and interdisciplinary discussions for readers of Classics and modern literary tradition. Also new in this series: Virginia Woolf ’s Greek Tragedy, Nancy Worman Editorial board Prof. Richard Armstrong (University of Houston) Prof. Francisco Barrenechea (University of Maryland) Prof. Shane Butler (Johns Hopkins University) Prof. Paul A. Cartledge (Cambridge University) Prof. Moira Fradinger (Yale University) Prof. Francisco García Jurado (Universidad Complutense de Madrid) Prof. Barbara Goff (University of Reading) Prof. Simon Goldhill (University of Cambridge) Dr. Constanze Güthenke (University of Oxford) Prof. Edith Hall (King’s College London) Prof. Judith Hallett (University of Maryland) Dr. George Kazantzidis (University of Patras) Prof. Andrew Laird (Brown University) Prof. Vassilis Lambropoulos (University of Michigan) Prof. Charles Martindale (University of Bristol/University of York) Dr. Pantelis Michelakis (University of Bristol) Prof. Neville Morley (University of Exeter) Prof. James Porter (University of California, Berkeley) Prof. Phiroze Vasunia (University College London) ii

Fellini’s Eternal Rome Paganism and Christianity in the Films of Federico Fellini Alessandro Carrera


BLOOMSBURY ACADEMIC Bloomsbury Publishing Plc 50 Bedford Square, London, WC 1B 3DP , UK 1385 Broadway, New York, NY 10018, USA BLOOMSBURY , BLOOMSBURY ACADEMIC and the Diana logo are trademarks of Bloomsbury Publishing Plc First published in Great Britain 2019 Copyright © Alessandro Carrera, 2019 Alessandro Carrera has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988, to be identified as Author of this work. For legal purposes the Acknowledgements on p. vii constitute an extension of this copyright page. Cover image: Federico Fellini, Anita Ekberg on the set of Boccaccio ‘70 – Le Tentazioni del Dottor Antonio, 1962, directed by Federico Fellini. © Paul Ronald/Archivio Storico del Cinema/AFE. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or any information storage or retrieval system, without prior permission in writing from the publishers. Bloomsbury Publishing Plc does not have any control over, or responsibility for, any third-party websites referred to or in this book. All internet addresses given in this book were correct at the time of going to press. The author and publisher regret any inconvenience caused if addresses have changed or sites have ceased to exist, but can accept no responsibility for any such changes. A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library. Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Names: Carrera, Alessandro, 1954– author. Title: Fellini’s eternal Rome : paganism and Christianity in the films of Federico Fellini / Alessandro Carrera. Description: London ; New York : Bloomsbury Academic, 2018. | Includes bibliographical references and index. Identifiers: LCCN 2018024244| ISBN 9781474297615 (hb) | ISBN 9781474297622 (epub) Subjects: LCSH: Fellini, Federico--Criticism and interpretation. | Paganism in motion pictures. | Christianity in motion pictures. | Rome (Italy)–In motion pictures. Classification: LCC PN1998.3.F45 C36 2018 | DDC 791.4302/33092—dc23 LC record available at https://lccn.loc.gov/2018024244 ISBN : HB : 978-1-4742-9761-5 ePDF : 978-1-4742-9763-9 eBook: 978-1-4742-9762-2 Series: Classical Receptions in Twentieth-Century Writings Typeset by RefineCatch Limited, Bungay, Suffolk To find out more about our authors and books visit www.bloomsbury.com and sign up for our newsletters.


Contents Series Editor’s Preface Author’s Preface

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8

Introduction: What Is Wrong with Fellini? Fellini, Dante and the Gaze of Medusa Fellini and Rossellini: The ‘Trilogy of Faith’ (1946–50) La dolce vita: Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love My Sins 8½ or Trouble in Paradise Fellini Satyricon I: An Archaeology of Silence Fellini Satyricon II : ‘Seek Out the Ancient Mother’ (Aeneid III , 96) Roma: Barbarians inside the Gates From City of Women to The Voice of the Moon: Fall of the Goddess

Notes Bibliography Index of Names and Films

vi ix 1 9 21 39 51 71 89 111 129 149 169 179


Series Editor’s Preface The present volume launches the series Classical Receptions in Twentieth-Century Writing (CRTW), a project that seeks to explore the modalities and textures of modern classicisms in the works of writers recognized for their global impact on modern poetics, philosophy, politics and the arts. CRTW approaches this aim from two distinct yet interrelated perspectives: it asks how twentieth-century writers’ appeals to the classical past open up new understandings of their oeuvres and contexts, and it considers how this process in turn renders new insights into the classical world. In plotting twentieth-century receptions of Greco-Roman antiquity from this two-way perspective, the series aims to promote dynamic, highly interdisciplinary discussions for readers of Classics and Literary and Cultural Studies. Indeed, a key feature of the series is its extensive range and scope. It looks at both Anglophone and non-Anglophone writers from modernities around the globe, as well as writers still or until recently active in their field. Each of these authors is considered primarily as a writer whose interest in antiquity has contributed to a significant revision of aesthetics, philosophical and political thought, identity studies, gender studies, translation studies, visual culture, performance studies, urban studies and cultural criticism, amongst other areas of knowledge. In this sense, CRTW aspires to promote a new intellectual space and critical direction for those producing research on Twentieth-Century Studies with a focus on Classics and vice versa. The series furthermore aims to re-energize aspects of reception premises and practice. Over the last two decades, Classical Reception has developed broadly into four main fruitful areas of investigation: periods and/or movements (e.g. Humanism; the Enlightenment; the Victorians), media (e.g. film; sculpture; painting; the stage; museology; comics), theory and criticism (e.g. psychoanalysis; gender studies; deconstruction; postcolonialism); and geopolitical regions (e.g. Africa; the Caribbean; Latin America; Eastern Europe; Australasia). These lines of enquiry have been instrumental in shaping methodological agenda and directions, as well as offering tremendous insights into discourses of GrecoRoman antiquity in space and time. Yet, within the histories of classical receptions focusing on periods and regions, the twentieth century has been underexamined as a thematic unit. On the one hand, there has been a preponderance of focus in vi

Series Editor’s Preface


studies in English on Anglophone, Francophone and Germanophone receptions. This has been in part corrected by postcolonial reception studies with a focus on geopolitical regions outside of Western Europe. What has been missing is a perspective that combines not only an appreciation of non-Western receptions, but also an understanding of these reception phenomena within a global, and not merely regional, framework. CRTW seeks to address this tangible gap, moving beyond isolated treatments and into full-scale investigations of authors recognized both for radical re-readings of the classical past and for challenging received ideas about the identity and cultural mobility of antiquity in the Western tradition. Interdisciplinarity is at the heart of such a reconsideration of reception in the series. Instead of treating reception as a sub-discipline of Classics, or as an expansion of the disciplinary boundaries of Classics, CRTW conceives reception as a hub for interdisciplinary exchange amongst multiple subjects, disciplinary practices and scholarly expertise. It addresses some of the most profound shifts in practices of reading, writing and thinking in recent years within the arts and humanities, as well as in the poetics of reading the classics that one finds in twentieth-century writing itself. Beyond reception, each individual study in the series draws attention to the specific quality of a modern writer’s classicism, as well as the various ways in which they negotiate classical ideals typically found in, for instance, the cuttingedge tradition of the twentieth-century Italian film industry. Such is the case with Federico Fellini’s intimate engagement with the ancient city of Rome. In Fellini’s Eternal Rome, Alessandro Carrera explores points of contact and tension between paganism and Christianity in Fellini’s vast filmography, as well as the unfolding image of the city of Rome as a maternal space that can be traced in his films’ characters. In developing these and other argumentative strands, Carrera discloses powerful visions of how classical antiquity subtly and allusively emerges in Fellini’s visual poetics, from his fascination with Babylonian and Christian Rome in La dolce vita (1960), through his distinctive engagement with Greek mythology in the never-televised Olympus, to the Italian director’s famous Satyricon (1969). Both a distinguished academic in Italian Studies and a prolific film critic and scholar, Carrera resists the usual discourses that seek to plot the classics as the very source and impetus of modernist receptions. Instead, the classical Roman past here emerges as part of a complex, often non-linear set of influences and traditions, some of which are mediated via other authors and thinkers in Fellini’s oeuvre. Carrera’s study furthermore artfully contextualizes Fellini’s cinematographic life, career and relationships with those of (non-) Italian authors, film-makers, critics and literary artists. Perhaps the most


Series Editor’s Preface

important argument in Fellini’s Eternal Rome is that his characters constantly desire a ‘maternal space’, one that they conceive as a utopian city representing eternity and immortality itself for those who inhabit it. Yet, as Carrera concludes, Fellini shows how this maternal space is destined to fail and disappoint, not because Catholicism has erased it, but because ‘the utopia of unlimited enjoyment is a self-defeating fantasy’. In this way, Fellini’s eternal Rome becomes an imaginative trope for not only how his characters negotiate the tension between pagan and Christian Rome, but also for how modern cinematography appeals to the classics to articulate the anxieties and identity crises of a postSecond World War world. Laura Jansen University of Bristol

Author’s Preface In the early 1980s, I was an occasional guest on an Italian weekly cinema review hosted by one of the new radio stations that the loosening of broadcasting rules in mid-1970s had helped create. At that time, I was primarily a music critic and I did not write about cinema, except for reviews of films about music, but I debated cinema quite frequently. At the beginning of my college years, I had attended training session for ‘debate directors’. In that capacity, my job was to travel a couple of nights a week, mostly in the winter, to small theatres in the Lombardy region, to events run by the local church or the local public library, at which I would introduce and then discuss with the audience the movies chosen for the season. It was a strange gig, perhaps, but many years later, when I started teaching film theory at the University of Houston, I was grateful to the Centro Studi Cinematografici in Milan and the people who had taught me the basic techniques of film discussion. One night, in a studio at Radio Popolare, we discussed the latest films by Federico Fellini. Disappointment about Fellini had been brewing since the release of Fellini’s Casanova (Il Casanova di Fellini, 1975), one of his most arresting works but one that was, admittedly, inaccessible to the average filmgoer. No one, as I recall, was particularly fond of his recent films. One of the panellists, however, was positively outraged. He was a serious intellectual, or one of those intellectuals who took themselves seriously. Nothing short of Carl Theodor Dreyer, Jean-Luc Godard, Robert Bresson, or Ingmar Bergman was worthy of his attention. He lashed out at Fellini’s vulgarity, lack of education, complete absence of whatsoever cultural project, indifference to anything but his petty problems and total irrelevance in the current predicament of the Italian society. I was born in 1954, the year La strada was released. I grew up together with the best of Italian cinema, which was so plentiful in movie theatres and ubiquitous on TV that it was all too easy to take it for granted and assume that it would never end. Vittorio De Sica, Luchino Visconti, Roberto Rossellini, Giuseppe De Santis, Luigi Zampa, Pietro Germi, Alberto Lattuada, Carlo Lizzani, Renato Castellani, Federico Fellini, Michelangelo Antonioni, Pier Paolo Pasolini, Bernardo Bertolucci, Marco Bellocchio, Mario Camerini, Ermanno Olmi, Paolo and Vittorio Taviani, Giuliano Montaldo, Ettore Scola, Francesco Rosi, Luigi ix


Author’s Preface

Comencini, Mauro Bolognini, Dino Risi, Sergio Leone, Francesco Maselli, Antonio Pietrangeli, Mario Monicelli, Marco Ferreri, Valerio Zurlini, Elio Petri, Florestano Vancini, Liliana Cavani and Lina Wertmüller were household names. One could endlessly criticize this or that film but there was no doubt that Italian cinema was great. With such an abundance, critics could afford to be severe. However, it did not take long to undermine the foundations. Poor political and managerial decisions, endless distribution problems, ageing stars who made no room for a new breed, the end of post-war reconstruction and the compelling stories it provided, competition with a rejuvenated Hollywood, the creation of private TV networks and the avalanche of American sitcoms and trash TV that suddenly flooded every Italian apartment, gluing audiences to the TV screen in a pandemic of perverse scopophilia; all these factors accomplished the deed. It was like a plague. By the end of the 1970s, cinemas were closing by the dozen or focusing solely on porn features; indeed respectable directors turned to soft porn to remain in business and the sub-genre films that had helped the national cinema industry to stay afloat – spaghetti western, horror, crime films or, as they were called, poliziottesco – were facing new competition abroad or running out of steam. In just a few years, Italian cinema went from being one of the most respected national schools to ‘the ugliest cinema in the world’, to quote an embittered critic.1 It took a long time for it to recover, but only in part, and the golden age, like all golden ages, has never returned. At the end of the 1970s, Fellini used to drive at night through the streets of Rome, wondering where all the cinemas had gone. His Orchestra Rehearsal (Prova d’orchestra, 1978), a short film made for Rai, the state-owned TV network, was a small affair, except for being the timeliest commentary – and still one of the best – on the years of bipartisan terrorism that peaked with the Red Brigades’ kidnap and killing of Prime Minister Aldo Moro. At any rate, it was not sufficiently spectacular to reconcile Fellini with the large audience that he needed for his lavish style of filmmaking. Then came City of Women (La città delle donne, 1980), in which Fellini tackled feminism, putting himself in the lions’ den in the disguise of the sly, complacent Marcello Mastroianni. What could go wrong? Quite a lot, as it turned out. And the Ship Sails On (. . .e la nave va, 1983), a flawed but fascinating metafilmic experience, remained a mystery to many. During our radio debate, I found myself in the awkward position of defending films I did not entirely like. I sensed that Fellini was not just self-referential when he indulged in an infantile treatment of sexuality or in humour usually associated with ‘boys’ who in their adult life never leave behind the pranks that they enjoyed in their teenage years. Perhaps, his aloofness toward the commonly accepted

Author’s Preface


cultural codes had to be taken at face value. Fellini was mimetic of a zone within the national psyche that was all but hidden (it was in plain sight), yet it caused embarrassment in intellectual circles and was usually put to rest together with some disparaging comments about the historical immaturity of the Italian people. Fellini’s opinion on the matter was actually harsher than that of my fellow panellist. In an interview that he gave after the release of Amarcord (1973), Fellini said in no equivocal terms that the combined forces of fascism and of the Roman Catholic Church had sentenced Italians to an eternal adolescence: That is, this remaining children for eternity, this leaving responsibilities for others, this leaving with the comforting sensation that there is someone who thinks for you (and at one time it’s mother, then it’s father, then it’s the mayor, another time Il Duce, another time the Madonna, another time the Bishop, in short, other people): and in the meanwhile you have this limited, time-wasting freedom which permits you only to cultivate absurd dreams.2

I did not recognize myself in that sketch, nor did I know many people who fit the profile. True, I was acquainted with some inveterate vitelloni (the ‘old boys’ of Fellini’s eponymous film), but who was not? Yet Fellini’s words rang somewhat true, and I was willing to give him credit on the condition that he included himself in the picture. He ought not to accuse his fellow citizens of the same weaknesses he abundantly showed in his films without feeling at least as accountable as they were. To be fair to him, he did include himself in the picture: in a BBC documentary he confessed that Casanova, the character he hated the most and which he described as the Italian male in his darkest incarnation, a scoundrel, a fascist, a creepy Pinocchio who refuses to become a good boy, was also a projection of himself. ‘Casanova dances with an imaginary woman who is a shadow because . . . that is his destiny, or at least the destiny I gave the character Casanova, just as, in short, I identified him with . . . with me . . .’3 The truth is that Fellini loved his compatriots and his love was not unrequited. They may not have loved all his films, but they loved him. Fellini the filmmaker saw his box-office power diminished after Amarcord, but a new Fellini film, regardless of its financial outcome, was always an event. And Fellini the directorstar was still very much in the heart of the nation – a privileged position that unfortunately did not help him to obtain sufficient financial backing for the most ambitious projects he had in mind. After he died, on 31 October 1993, a memorial service and viewing were held in Studio 5 of Cinecittà, where he made most of his films and which is now named ‘Studio Fellini’. On 2 November, tens


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of thousands of people paid homage. On 3 November, his funeral in the church of Santa Maria degli Angeli in Rome was held in the presence of the President of the Republic and the highest authorities of the state. In the early 1980s, if I had known that great quote from the American poet Frank O’Hara, ‘I want to be at least alive as the vulgar’, I could have thrown it at my fellow panellist who was lambasting Fellini for his poor taste.4 Even in his worst moments, Fellini is aiming at some elusive truth concerning the degree of freedom to which an individual can aspire, the repression that society exercises over the same individual and to what extent such repression is impossible to shake. In his New Yorker profile of Fellini, published one year after the director’s death, Clive James hit the nail on the head when he said that all that Fellini was about boiled down to ‘the difficulty of marriage and the emptiness of the alternatives’.5 By means of analogy, I intend to demonstrate in this book that one of Fellini’s major concerns, if not the major concern, is the failure of institutionalized Christianity and the impossibility of finding a ‘pagan’ alternative to it. In my other areas of research as a scholar of music and cultural studies, I have published a book on Bob Dylan whose subtitle is An Explanation of America.6 I could as well call this Fellini book An Explanation of Italy.

Introduction What Is Wrong with Fellini?

Cinecittà, Studio 5, 1975. Fellini is filming the first scene of Fellini’s Casanova. Led by their Doge, the Venetians are trying to dredge up from the waters of the Canal Grande a gigantic, crowned female head representing the submerged soul of the city, perhaps Reitia, the old goddess of the ancient Venetians, or the new goddess from which the name of the city seems to derive, Venice-Venusia-Venus. One of the extras, who plays a monk, starts laughing. Fellini swoops down on him. ‘Don’t you understand,’ he yells at the extra, ‘that the Venetians are performing a pagan rite? A Christian monk is not supposed to laugh; he must feel outrage at this display of paganism.’1 No more than a little anecdote, but it shows that Fellini was perfectly conscious that in many – if not all – of his films, he was staging the conflict and at the same time the guilty co-existence of Christianity and paganism. Most of the time, Rome was the backdrop of the drama, but it did not have to be Rome. Venice, born from the sea like Venus, and whose rule lasted longer than that of the Roman empire, could substitute. Any small town in Italy where Catholic processions were held, where barefoot pilgrims directed their steps to the next shrine, and where a miracle was announced to send the crowd into a frenzy, could be the site where Christianity and pre-Christianity would clash and then mingle to the point, sometimes, of being undistinguishable. Unless, as was the case in Fellini Satyricon (1969), he decided to reconstruct the Roman world as an alien entity that had occurred in a parallel universe and where the thread that connected Roman decadence and late antiquity to the Early Middle Ages was lost. From these few observations alone, it is clear that Fellini was not and could never be a straightforward ‘classicist’. He would not subscribe to the reassuring assumption of continuity between historical past and present time. On a personal level, he was an enemy of his own past as well. His friend and biographer Tullio 1


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Kezich bears witness that Fellini used to tear up his mail after he’d glanced at it briefly.2 He did not keep an archive and Giulietta Masina had to take away from his hands what survives of his notes, letters and sketches lest he threw everything in the bin. Fellini’s universe aims to be self-sufficient; it begins and ends with him. Other film directors have imitated him, but Fellinism never measures up to Fellini. Fellini was an average student in school and never attended a college class. His early roots lay in popular culture: comic books, caricaturists and (usually abridged) novels that were labelled as ‘young people’s classics’: Robinson Crusoe, Gulliver’s Travels, Oliver Twist, Treasure Island, The Thousand and One Nights, Don Quixote and E.A. Poe’s Black Cat. Of course, he read Homer (he was born in 1920 and Italian boys of his generation played Greeks and Trojans as much as they played cowboys and Indians). If we believe his recollections, he read Petronius’ Satyricon as a teenager.3 He also read Ariosto’s Orlando furioso, Conrad, Kafka and Dostoyevsky. Up to the 1970s, when insomnia made him an avid reader of literature, he preferred scientific manuals, history books, a little bit of philosophy, newspapers and minutes of court proceedings. Gianfranco Corsini, who played partisan Marco in Rossellini’s Open City and who after the Second World War became an influential journalist and translator of English and American literature, declared that Fellini had ‘no culture to speak of, and very little education’.4 The reality, however, was more nuanced. Fellini’s cultural carelessness was often a conscious act. He hated being pinned down. As he said to Kezich: I refuse to proclaim my ignorance. In addition, it would be antieducational. Should we teach young people that it’s only worthwhile to read comic strips? The truth is that it isn’t necessary to read a certain author – say, Joyce – if Joyce has really been important, as he has been, to contemporary culture. Then you come to know Joyce by looking at the layout of a magazine, speaking with people, observing how a girl is dressed. It is, of course, better to read and to understand everything, as Pasolini and Brunello Rondi do. But culture, when it is authentic and has a profound effect, doesn’t spare the ignorant, the lazy, the unprepared. I would say that the true cultural facts are breathed in the air, become sets, perspectives in a city, keys to your private relationships.5

Fellini had no ambition to pass as an intellectual, yet he was more knowledgeable than he wanted other people to know. The advantage of being selftaught is that you do not waste your time trying to keep up with the secondary literature. You do not read essay after essay about the classics; you simply read the classics. Legend has it that Fellini’s bedside book while he was shooting



I vitelloni was St Augustine’s Confessions.6 In Fellini’s films, the classical past emerges as a complex, often non-linear set of influences and traditions, some of which are mediated via other authors and thinkers, but the most significant ones come from Fellini’s penchant for discontinuity, for reading the classics in part as repositories of Jungian archetypes and therefore connected with all and none historical times, and in part as extra-terrestrial messages found on an asteroid. In the first case, we have Olympus (L’Olimpo), his treatment of Hesiod’s Theogony, a 1981 project for a TV mini-series that was never realized; in the second case, we have Fellini Satyricon. Fellini’s films largely avoid the three-act format that is the standard in Hollywood and elsewhere. Instead, they are shaped like polyptychs. Panels follow each other, often without connecting elements, while the first and last scene are the pillars that keep the edifice standing. According to his recollections, the gaps and voids of Petronius’ Satyricon fascinated him even more than the surviving parts, and his intention to do a theatrical adaptation of Satyricon dated back to the 1940s. But the same gaps and voids can be found in films that (ostensibly) have nothing to do with how he read the classics: La strada (1954); Nights of Cabiria (1957); La dolce vita (1960). In fact, Fellini’s break-up of the narrative flow parallels both his perceptions of the classics and the fragmentary nature of the American and Italian comic strips he grew up reading. Fellini’s indifference to cultural hierarchies is not a postmodern posture. It is rooted in the same modernism that produced both Joyce and, say, Happy Hooligan (the comic strip, and a visual inspiration for La strada), as well as Flash Gordon (a visual inspiration for Fellini Satyricon). Fellini is often ironic, but not gratuitously self-ironic. He is not serious about not taking himself seriously, let’s say. His ‘classicism’ stems from his looking for signs of vitality everywhere he can find them, especially in decadence, and his relationship with the classics (Petronius and Hesiod, traces of Homer, Ovid, Apuleius and Suetonius, plus the classical mythological corpus re-told by Károly Kerényi and Robert Graves) stems from having found in them the best comic strips ever written. As he said to Kezich: ‘The slightly rhapsodic tone you speak of [in my films] probably derives from this – the story told in chapters, in little pictures, like the ancient frescoes or cartoon strips.’7 All these reasons may help explain, at least in part, why contemporary film theory is not comfortable with Fellini. He is an impolite guest, irrespective of the good manners required at the theoretical table. On a personal level, Fellini made his films to get them out of his system, to free himself from the very obsessions that generated them. In 8 ½ (1963), he even pre-emptied his critics by


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incorporating objections to his film through the obnoxious Daumier, the nononsense and no-fun film critic played by Jean Rougeul. Daumier criticizes precisely Guido Anselmi’s (Marcello Mastroianni) lack of a serious cultural background, which represents Fellini’s lack of the same background. Daumier is insufferable, for sure, but he is not a fool. In a famous scene, Guido would rather have him hang, but Fellini listens to him. Daumier’s observations on the difficulty of discussing the Catholic conscience in Italy, the necessity of looking back at Suetonius to understand how an intellectual can effectively criticize his own times and the need for a little bit of silence, a moment of reprieve from the incessant chattering, do find their way in Fellini’s oeuvre. It happens in Fellini Satyricon as well as in Fellini’s last film, The Voice of the Moon (La voce della luna, 1990). Does Daumier listen to Fellini? It does not seem so. Film theory, even when it is not conducted as a police investigation, is always looking for hidden clues, slips of the image as an extension of the Freudian slips of the tongue. A film is a safe to crack, and the most formulaic B noir from the 1950s seems to offer more grisbi than the entire Fellini oeuvre. In Fellini, as the wisdom goes, there is too much to see and not enough left to discover. It is possible that the philosopher Gilles Deleuze was one of the few who got Fellini right. As we will see in Chapter 1, Deleuze – in his very influential treatise on movement and time in cinema – understood that Fellini is not about what you see within the frame; rather he is about an acceleration of time that occurs between frames and that no frame can show. Fellini slowed down in his last films, but as a rule he goes fast and his shots are crowded with faces, casual dialogue, music, make-up, ambient, light, parties, shows, people entering the space of the show, people exiting the same space, and fragments of events that never solidify and remain in a colloidal state of development. Sometimes it looks as if there is a plot, but in fact there is none: all we have are vitelloni drawn from all historical ages wandering through the night of their small towns like unsuspecting situationists (in girum imus nocte et consumimur igni, we go round and round in the night and are consumed by fire, as in Guy Debord’s 1978 palindromic film). Someone is always watching somebody else making a scene. Everybody comes in doing his or her routine. The world is not a stage; it is a routine. There is always a spectacle going on, because the spectacle is the site of power, and the power has no plot except displaying itself to full effect. There is no doubt that Fellini tests the patience of film theorists. And some of his sympathetic critics, perhaps afraid to appear even more obnoxious than Daumier, have been swift to condemn every attempt to put Fellini on the



theorist’s rack. Renaissance scholar and film historian Peter Bondanella led the charge when he wrote that ‘the ideological baggage of recent film theory’ is useless ‘to redeem Fellini from a position of theoretical marginalization’.8 Contemporary critical categories of race, class, gender, or other sociological approaches to Fellini’s cinema have limited explanatory value for a very simple reason: Fellini’s cinema is fundamentally not concerned about the issues upon which contemporary theory fixates. To attempt to force Fellini’s cinema into directions that are fundamentally alien to its intentions is doomed to failure.9

As a scholar of Umberto Eco, about whom he wrote two books, Bondanella might have remembered that the author’s intention (intentio auctoris) does not matter much, or at least it does not matter more than the work’s intention (intentio operis) or the audience’s intention (intentio lectoris).10 I do not watch a Fellini film, or any film, to agree unreservedly with the author’s intentions. Besides, what do I really know about those intentions? Are they all explicit? Are not subconscious or unconscious intentions worth considering too, to the extent that they seep through the shots and make themselves visible to the attentive eye? Bondanella’s reproach was aimed at Frank Burke, author of the most ambitious attempt to bring Fellini into the theoretical debate of the 1990s. Burke’s conclusive chapter, which enumerates Fellini’s sins of political ambiguity, misogyny, selfcentredness and self-victimization, is at stake here. However, first, one cannot even begin discussing Fellini without addressing these issues. (Say what you want about Fellini, but he never sweeps his biases under the rug.) Second, Burke is heavy on political correctness here and there, but an overall sense of balance prevails when he analyses the readings of feminist critics (by no means unanimous in condemning Fellini) and reminds the reader that Fellini’s critique of patriarchy may be highly flawed, but nonetheless remains powerful.11 More recently, and outside the realm of cultural/gender studies, Todd McGowan has stated that the problem with Fellini is that his films ‘obey the logic of fantasy to such an extent that they expose the tedium of the enjoyment that derives from fantasy’. Watching a Fellini film, McGowan argues, means facing ‘a radical failure to enjoy’. 8½ and Fellini Satyricon produce in the spectator the same sense of boredom that the characters experience in the film. Ultimately, the power of Fellini’s films is purely negative. The film [8 ½] produces in the spectator the same sense of boredom that Anselmi experiences within the film. Because it is a film that leaves open every possibility, nothing of significance ever happens . . . By exposing the emptiness of the fantasy scenario, Fellini helps to free us from its power. We fall for the seductiveness of


Fellini’s Eternal Rome fantasy because it presents with an image of plenitude that it doesn’t actually have . . . This overpresence of enjoyment . . . becomes suffocating and blocks the ability to enjoy. What this reveals is that the experience of enjoyment actually depends on its absence: too much enjoyment leaves us without any . . . As a result, Fellini’s films have the effect of pushing the spectator out of the experience of fantasy and igniting desire. . .12

In other words, the experience of watching a Fellini film engenders the desire not to watch other Fellini films and move on to something more desirable and therefore more enjoyable. McGowan is not entirely off the mark. Fellini is unrivalled in displaying the pleasures of impotence. I do not recall where and when, but I heard an exasperated Marcello Mastroianni during a TV interview saying, ‘Enough with this Latin lover nonsense! Don’t you see that the Fellini man is an impotent?’ Whether this impotence is cerebral (Zampanò in La strada), intellectual (Steiner in La dolce vita), psychological (Guido in 8½), or physical (Encolpius in Fellini Satyricon) is not the main point. The point is that Fellini’s conflation of excessive enjoyment, impotence and boredom is not the unwelcome result of a half-baked poetics. It is exactly what he wants to show, the conceptual kernel of his work. It is his response to a possibility of the human condition that has found a good terrain in decadent Rome (Fellini Satyricon), decadent Venice (Fellini’s Casanova), neo-decadent Rome (La dolce vita) and the always decadent, always self-complacent world of show business (8½). The entire issue of boredom as absence of desire or desire without a tangible object needs reconsideration. There is a specific understanding of boredom within the Italian culture that must be traced back to poet, philosopher and classicist Giacomo Leopardi and his post-Romantic reflections on the impossibility of enjoying real pleasure because every desire, being infinite by its inception, cannot find satisfaction in this or that goal and ends up necessarily in boredom. No object of desire, not even the entire universe, is big enough to satisfy the ontological and not just the pathological nature of human desire. To Leopardi, boredom is not a passing feeling. It is desire in its pure state, the goal of which no partial object can distort. It has the status of a passion, a drive, and it is equal in stature to sorrow and pleasure. ‘Truly, I believe that boredom should be regarded as the pure desire for happiness; not satisfied by pleasure, not openly offended by displeasure.’13 Fellini pays homage to Leopardi in his last film, The Voice of the Moon, but Leopardi’s presence is traceable everywhere Fellini’s characters encounter their ultimate satisfaction, which is their pride in realizing that no achievement will ever satisfy them.



The failure to incorporate the notion of desire according to the LeopardiFellini lineage (I omit other names for brevity) causes critical anxiety and the ‘desire’ to dismiss him. Why doesn’t Fellini just behave? Why is he always the naughty child? Why isn’t he easily theorizable. as Welles, Renoir, Hitchcock or David Lynch allegedly are? What’s wrong with him? This book wants to investigate precisely what is wrong with Fellini, the right that he makes with his wrong and the wrong that he makes and refuses to hide away. Fellini’s characters long for a ‘maternal space’ where they will be both protected and left free to roam. Yet his dream of the Mediterranean Goddess is shaped precisely by the phantasmatic projection of paganism that Christianity created as its convenient Other. What Fellini is about, ultimately, is that the dream of the free maternal space constantly fails. The Goddess herself fails, not because the Church has silenced her, but because the dream of an unlimited pagan enjoyment is self-defeating. The ‘sublime boredom’ that ensues (to quote Leopardi again, Pensieri, LXVIII ) is the deadlock that these two impossible desires generate. To go back to the origins of such a dichotomy is akin to going back to the mythical core of some universe before the Big Bang, when everything was contained in a state of unbearable tension. In Fellini, the name of that mythical core is Rome, the mother-city, in all ‘her’ dimensions, internal and external, undead and eternal. The classicist reader needs therefore to be patient and follow, step by step, the argument that this book presents. The classics will delay their appearance, as a primadonna should. Chapters 1 and 2 introduce the pagan elements in Fellini’s approach to Christianity, beginning with the neo-Franciscanism of his early collaborations with Rossellini (Paisà, 1946; L’amore, 1948; The Flowers of St. Francis, 1950). Such elements cannot be referred to a specific classical text. They stem from the pervasive feeling that pre-Christian devotion, beliefs and mythology still shape the popular perception of Christianity and that in fact Christianity, at least in its Roman Catholic declination, would be unthinkable without them. Chapters  3 and 4, on La dolce vita (1960) and 8½ (1963) respectively, show how Rome becomes in Fellini the place where paganism and Christianity co-exist eternally. At the same time, the space that the Fellini male characters inhabit is a war zone, disputed by the Counter-Reformation Catholic Church and by the Mediterranean Goddess of which Saraghina in 8½ is the most famous incarnation. Classical references to early Christianity, Ovid and Homer are well-hidden, but they are there, waiting to be found. Chapters 5 and 6 address the astonishing complexity of Fellini Satyricon (1969), possibly the most ambitious attempt to imagine what antiquity would be if it would survive


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forever, in a state of eternal decadence, with no final fall of Rome and no Christianity to replace it. Contemporary Rome in its eternal time and internal space is the object of the Chapter  7, which deals with The Temptations of Dr Antonio (1962), Toby Dammit (1967) and Roma (1972). The final chapter connects City of Women (1980), the recently surfaced treatment of a neverrealized TV series based on Hesiod’s Theogony (L’Olimpo, 1981) and The Voice of the Moon (1990). The last ten years of Fellini’s work chronicle his final struggle with the Mediterranean Goddess, classical mythology, and the legacy of a selfsufficient, impenetrable Church which, in the words of a perplexed priest in The Voice of the Moon, can no longer send us ‘news from paradise’.


Fellini, Dante and the Gaze of Medusa

Beaming up Fellini Before La dolce vita became Fellini’s trademark title, it had already appeared three times in Dante’s Paradiso: ‘all those souls grace the Empyrean; / and each of them has gentle life’ (IV, 34–35); ‘through . . . experience / of this sweet life and of its opposite’ (XX , 47–48); ‘and their land is this sweet life’ (XXV, 93).1 If Suetonius’ reports about Virgil’s answer to the critics who accused him of plagiarizing Homer (‘it is easier to filch Hercules’s club than a line from Homer’) are true,2 we understand why it took no less than Fellini to challenge Dante’s copyright on ‘dolce’. The word occurs eighty-four times in the Divine Comedy if we do not count ‘dolcezza’ and ‘dolcemente’, plus Dante’s early poems and the definition of ‘dolce stil novo’ that he gave to both his poetry and the poetry of his closest associates. The idea of directing a film based on the Divine Comedy always intrigued Fellini. Many producers in Italy, US and Japan would have been happy to embark on the project, regardless of the cost and Fellini’s idiosyncratic studio habits. Apparently, he was working on the treatment of a one-hour Inferno for Italian state TV shortly before he died. In previous years, however, he had always baulked at the idea, even when fearless producers were dreaming of a holy trinity of directors comprising Fellini (Inferno), Bergman (Purgatorio) and Bresson (Paradiso). Akira Kurosawa’s name was also thrown in for Purgatorio and Paradiso, but it was understood that Inferno would be Fellini’s. As was always the case with him, he gave many – and sometimes conflicting – accounts of his resistance to get serious about filming Dante. As a rule, Fellini’s interviews and statements were not meant to share information. They combined storytelling, made-up anecdotes, a continuation of his dreams, verbal films replacing those he could not or would not take on. Fellini’s Divine Comedy takes its place among his recurring dreams together with Fellini’s Iliad (which was rumoured too) and Fellini’s Don Quixote (he wanted Jacques Tati as Quixote, but he could not think of anyone for the role of Sancho Panza). 9


Fellini’s Eternal Rome

Other sources have it that the US network CBS tried to have Fellini interested in Inferno around 1980 or 1981, but the marketing department informed him that there could be no naked bodies. Appalled at the idea of shooting souls wearing underwear, he dropped the idea.3 However, in one of his conversations with Charlotte Chandler, Fellini said that he wanted less emphasis on Virgil and the orgiastic nature of Inferno and more on Paradiso and Beatrice, whose ‘purity’ was important to him. He had Hieronymus Bosch in mind as a visual reference, but, he added, ‘the producers wanted only bare tits and naked asses. I could never trivialize Dante by making something commercially sensational out of his work.’4 Different producers, evidently. It is also true that Fellini often made vague promises to adapt ‘fat’ literary classics, as his screenwriter Bernardino Zapponi used to call them, to keep producers interested in him.5 Fellini was more believable when he told Charlotte Chandler that he found Dante’s life even more appealing than the Divine Comedy. That would have been an interesting film to make, Fellini said, ‘including some extraordinary battle scenes which Kurosawa might admire’. Jacqueline Risset, a poet and scholar who translated Dante into French, had several meetings with Fellini while he was working on the French edition of Intervista (1987). As she reports, Fellini claimed that the reasons he could not make the Dante film was that all his films were descents into the underworld, that the Divine Comedy is already a film and there is nothing left to add except the special effects. By establishing parallels between the director and the Divine Comedy, Risset pointed out that Fellini films, like Dante’s cantos, are usually structured around a series of encounters between the protagonist and other characters. Once the encounter is over, the two do not see each other again. Also, Dante regresses to linguistic infancy in the last cantos of Paradiso. Because words cannot describe what he sees, he often refers to the first steps in learning a language while submitting himself – as Fellini often did – to the wisdom of maternal figures. And, of course, light is the essence of Paradise as much as it is the essence of cinematic art. These are valuable insights, more or less, but the Dante-Fellini complex begs for further explorations. What he said to Risset about his experience with LSD (which he attempted only once and under medical control) is perhaps more relevant. Being under the influence of LSD had been hell, but also meant happiness, freedom, the feeling of not being separated from the external reality: ‘You are the whole creation,’ Fellini said, ‘the mystic rose, the centre of Paradise.’6 This instantaneous passage from Hell to Heaven mirrors Fellini’s entire oeuvre, which is made of swift transitions from comedy to tragedy, from

Fellini, Dante and the Gaze of Medusa


seriousness to buffoonery, from high to low and from low to high. As Deleuze says, Fellini creates crystal images (time images) organized in a bipolar structure. In surrounding the seed, [the crystal] passes on an acceleration, a hurrying, sometimes a hopping or fragmenting, which will constitute the opaque side of the crystal; and sometimes it gives it a limpidity which is like the test of the eternal. On one side would be written ‘Saved!’, and on the other ‘Doomed!’, in an apocalyptic landscape like the desert in Satyricon.7

No one can tell in advance where the garden ends and the desert begins, or vice versa. An opaque side may become limpid, or the opposite will happen. Will everything be saved, as in the finale of 8½ or everything will be doomed, as in in the ‘mechanical fragmentations’ that lead to the final dance with the automaton in Fellini’s Casanova? To quote Deleuze again, ‘It is never wholly the one or wholly the other’. And, to use a word that Fellini allegedly invented, according to Deleuze, it is a matter of ‘procadence’ (procadenza), a decadence that runs past its course into a new possibility of creation. Fellini’s images, Deleuze points out, ‘do not crack’; they keep on growing. The tracking shots are always a race, but a single character can always interfere with the cavalcade, stop it, come forward and for a moment be the sole focus. ‘A fixed shot isolates a character, takes him out of the line, and gives him, even if it is only for an instant, a chance which is in itself eternal, a virtuality which will be valid forever even if it is not actualized.’8 Without mentioning Dante, Deleuze outlines Dante and Fellini’s technique of organizing a narrative around the main figure, who is at the same time internal and external to the diegetic structure. A protagonist is reduced to the role of an observer as much as an observer always has the chance to become a protagonist. Sometimes Fellini himself goes from one encounter to another (Dante the author and Dante the character parallel Fellini the director and Fellini appearing in his films as himself), while at other times the task is left to the viewers. Fellini is always looking from both sides of the picture. His gaze is totalitarian; it permits no escape. Deleuze’s reference to the bipolar organization of images may very well be extended to salvation and damnation, Heaven and Hell, moralism and amoralism. We will deal with all these subjects in later chapters but the one I want to explore at this juncture is the simultaneous, crystal-like presence of Christianity and paganism in Fellini’s films. Christianity enters Fellini’s films as a two-faced figure: the welcoming, compassionate side of Franciscanism, which extends mostly from his early collaboration with Rossellini to Nights of Cabiria, and the oppressive, scary aspect of post-Counter-Reformation demonization of sex,


Fellini’s Eternal Rome

which is one of the major themes in 8½ and beyond. Paganism, on the other hand, appears in Fellini’s films as the unbound territory ruled by the Mediterranean Goddess and where all men are either Ulysses figures, moving from one adventure to another, or the space where both men and women are subjected to subtle, unexpected metamorphosis, as we will see in our analysis of La dolce vita and 8½. The only classic text that Fellini adapted for the screen was Gaius Petronius’ Satyricon, a choice that indicates his reluctance to engage directly with the more canonical or popularized literary works. It does not mean, however, that references to classics are absent in other films. As we will see, there are traces of Ovid in 8½, and, as noted above, in the early 1980s he even drafted a project for a TV mini-series largely based on Hesiod’s Theogony. Fellini’s engagement with the classical world is mostly mediated by the Greek and Roman (and sometimes pre-Greek) mythological corpus with which he became acquainted because it was part of every Italian’s literary education and, later, because of his interest in C.G. Jung, which he extended to the writings of Kerényi and Graves. In Fellini, however, Christianity and paganism constitute neither an opposition nor an antagonism. An opposition may be pacified, either forcibly or ideologically (light–dark, yin–yang, male–female). Antagonism is a zero-sum game in which one of the two must win and the other will lose. In Fellini, Christianity and paganism achieve a complementarity status: wave–particle, Dionysus–Christ, Goddess–Holy Mother. When one of the two comes to the forefront, the other does not disappear. In Amarcord (1973), the tracking shot filming the coach carrying the new ‘girls’ to the city brothel stops before a shop displaying statues of the Holy Mary and, below, poor imitations of classical statues of naked women. Linear time has no meaning, paganism and Christianity are like waves ebbing and receding and always pounding on the same shore. They are not supposed to coexist, yet they do. In Fellini’s works, paganism is not the repressed unconscious of Christianity. On the one hand, paganism is what Christianity consciously ‘projected’ out of itself. On the other hand, it is ‘the same thing’ insofar as much of what we know of paganism has been filtered through the Christian understanding and judgment of it. Fellini was not inclined to historical veracity, nor did he engage with the most thoroughly researched subjects of classical antiquity (Homer, Greek tragedy, Roman comedy, Virgil or Seneca). His ironic admiration for the peplum subgenre notwithstanding, he never dabbled in Cinecittà or Hollywood ‘recreations’. His icon of the paganism–Christianity ‘quantic’ complementarity, long before he decided to put Petronius on the screen, was the image of a

Fellini, Dante and the Gaze of Medusa


helicopter carrying a statue of Jesus Christ over a broken Roman aqueduct at the beginning of La dolce vita. In cinematic terms, Christianity and paganism coexist to the extent that they are both excessive and the screen cannot choose between them. In Fellini, there is no ‘free space’ between the images on the screen and the point of view (aesthetical, moral, political) from which the audience are supposed to watch the film. Fellini owns his images, he is the master of the master’s gaze, but the relationship of ownership that he entertains with his shots problematizes the very notion of master gaze. His camera movements share Jean Renoir’s and Roberto Rossellini’s fluidity. Yet, in terms of cinematic language, they often seem to come from nowhere: they neither obey rules nor do they create them. Because Fellini’s images ‘do not crack’, as Deleuze phrases it, and nothing stands out because in fact everything stands out, it is hard to find within them the anamorphic exception, the blank point from which the film gazes at you, simply because Fellini is nothing but anamorphosis. When he wants to show the monstrosity of desire, he does it through a series of ominous ‘Things’ or characters that look monstrous even when they are ‘normal’. Fellini does not allow the audience to identify with his creations, which is why it is difficult, if not altogether useless, to pinpoint exactly where Fellini becomes ideological. The only possible identification left to the viewer is with Fellini himself – a truly Dantean move. Essentially, Fellini builds up himself from one film to another. By creating his own character (no other director has ever put his name in the titles as many times as Fellini did – Fellini Satyricon, Fellini’s Casanova, and even Fellini’s Roma, the title the distribution chose for his 1972 Roma), he has also created his universe – by augmentation. But it was an augmentation of ruins. We do not refer here to the aesthetic of classical ruins that swept over Europe at the end of the eighteenth century. To Fellini, the present and the past are both ruins, and only as ruins can they claim to be still alive. The future is a ruin too, if we think of the scenes he shot in the EUR district in Rome precisely because the fascistmonumental ‘new Roman’ yet ‘modern’ style of EUR architecture points toward a future that never was. His own body, in the films where he appears as himself, is like a monument that we cannot frame in a single, definitive shot. He never shows himself completely; after he sets up a situation, as he does in the improvised party at Anita Ekberg’s in Intervista, he quietly vanishes, leaving the scene to his actors who carry on as if he had never been there. He adopts the same master-like yet elusive gaze to frame the ruins of classical Rome in La dolce vita and Roma, until he is able to locate an entire film, namely Fellini Satyricon, in a sequence of ruined landscapes that nonetheless


Fellini’s Eternal Rome

bear witness to the power of Rome. In Dante, again, Hell is no less powerful for being in perpetual ruin and constantly subjected to earthquakes and walls tumbling down. As far as his characters are concerned, Fellini’s main concern is either the impossibility for them to decide about the direction in which their life is going (La dolce vita, 8½, Fellini’s Casanova), or, conversely, the sudden miracle of grace (the final scenes of La strada and Il bidone) and unexpected decisions (the final scenes of I vitelloni, Nights of Cabiria, even Fellini Satyricon, when Encolpius suddenly embarks on a ship and leaves). Fellini’s epic drama, however, is the copresence of Christianity and paganism, the representation of an ambiguity in which Christianity owns the present time but paganism is not at all ‘the past’ and is not ‘in the past’. It comes forward and speaks, or better acts out, like the characters Dante summons from the depths of eternity to say their line and then disappear, without ceasing to make their foray into time felt forever and ever. If we want to understand the deep roots of Fellini’s ambivalence, we must therefore go back to Dante in detail. The digression is necessary, as the reader will see.

Eyes wide shut Few lines of the Divine Comedy have stirred as many interpretations as Inferno IX , 61–63. Dante and Virgil stand before the gate of Dis where the devils have just refused to grant passage to the two pilgrims. Virgil is baffled that a bunch of low-ranking demons has the audacity and the capability to block his path. He had realized how defiant they were when, in their arrogance, they tried to stop Jesus descending to the first circle of Hell after his death on the cross in order to free from Limbo the souls worthy of Heaven. Yet Virgil feels humiliated. In the pagan order of the underworld, the one he knows intimately, even a temporary victory of impiety is unthinkable. The Christian underworld imagined by Dante the poet allows for ephemeral transgressions and fits of pride on the part of the fallen angels. Dante the character, however, is more than surprised at Virgil’s defeat. He is afraid. Until that moment, Virgil had been endowed with enough divine grace to open all doors, or so Dante had believed. Now Dante finds out that Virgil is indeed deficient in grace. ‘Someone’ must come to get them out of their dire predicament and Virgil has even the gall to lament that help is slow to come. Dante asks, cautiously but pointedly, whether the souls from Limbo have ever travelled the downward path that leads where they are now. Virgil answers that

Fellini, Dante and the Gaze of Medusa


in truth he was there once. Erichtho, a sorceress mentioned in Lucan’s Pharsalia (VI , 508–527), once summoned him so that he could descend to the lowest circle and bring back a traitor’s soul that she wanted to question. Virgil is eager to reassure Dante that he is still his guide, but Dante is not listening. Up on the walls of Dis, he has spotted no less than the three infernal Furies. Virgil knows them well; they are the ‘ferocious Erinyes’ from ancient mythology, his mythology. They have women’s bodies, hands like birds’ claws and hair made of snakes. They serve Persephone-Proserpina, wife of Hades or Pluto, ruler of the ‘old’ underworld, and they are angry with Virgil and Dante. They wish Medusa, the Gorgon, were there to turn Dante into stone and thus avenge Theseus’ sacrilegious expedition, lost in the mists of time, to the land of the dead. Even more terrified than his companion, Virgil tells Dante to turn around, close his eyes and cover them with his hands. To make sure that Dante’s sight is impaired, he puts his hands over Dante’s hands. Thankfully, the Heavenly Messenger Virgil was awaiting is now on its way and will disperse devils and mythic creatures like a serpent can scatter frogs in a pond. Before the Messenger arrives, however, Dante finds the time to include three lines that have puzzled commentators for centuries: ‘O you possessed of sturdy intellects, / observe the teaching that is hidden here / beneath the veil of verses so obscure.’9 What teaching is hidden here? Is Dante referring to the apparition of the Furies or to the arrival of the Heavenly Messenger? Does he want us to focus our attention on the power of Medusa (who does not turn up) or the four hands obscuring his vision? Or is Dante asking us to pay attention to the arc of the entire episode, which includes Virgil’s defeat, the very credible threat uttered by the Erinyes and the celestial cavalry coming to the rescue of the beleaguered pilgrims? Dozens, possibly hundreds, of explanations have been given for the passage, ranging from the sensible to the absurd. Dante’s reference to some ‘hidden teaching’ has moved more than one adventurous soul to believe that the whole Divine Comedy is written in a code that only the initiates of the Fedeli d’amore – Templars, Freemasons and other esoteric traditions – have the means to understand. We will not venture into that territory. We propose two ‘simple’ explanations instead. In the first one, Dante wants his readers to be aware that in the pagan, pre-Christian universe, the underworld may have unchangeable rules, yet no hero is safe from the perpetual shifting in the balance of godly forces. Perseus defeated Medusa and decapitated her, but she is not dead. The Furies can still summon her, and she can still put an end to Dante’s journey. Erichtho’s pagan magic, which allowed Virgil to descend to the lowest pit of hell in pre-Christian


Fellini’s Eternal Rome

ages, will not work this time. In the Christian universe, on the contrary, despite occasional outbursts of rage on the part of devils, ‘the doors of Hell will not prevail’ (Matthew 16:18). With his ‘harrowing of Hell’ (descensus Christi ad inferos), Jesus has granted salvation to anyone who truly wants to be saved. Virgil’s momentary despair on account of the belated arrival of the Heavenly Messenger is a metaphor of man’s submission to arcane fate, which the Gospel has erased from the world. In the Christian world, desperation is a sin – the worst sin – and Medusa, against whose power there is no defence, is the allegory of the sin of desperation.10 Yet such explanation needs no ‘hidden teaching’. It is out in the open; it is the backbone of the rapport between Dante, Virgil and the classical tradition. A deeper understanding (our second explanation) is therefore necessary. In the first cantos, Dante the author has fashioned his inferno after Virgil’s Tartarus (Aeneid VI ). Now that Dante the pilgrim has reached the gates of Dis, it is time for the narrative to take a new step, which implies the incorporation of allegory (the Furies as vices) into a fully formed theological structure. If the threat of Medusa obliges the wayfarer to cover his eyes, and his guide to cover the wayfarer’s eyes too, a correct understanding of Medusa will open the eyes of those who have the tenacity to ‘observe the teaching that is hidden here’. But the teaching is not that the Christian understanding of Hell supersedes pagan Hades. We already know that. Ultimately, the real dottrina has more to do with poetry than allegory. The power of Dante’s warning may have lessened with time, because Western culture has been through the Renaissance, the neoclassical use and abuse of classical mythology and, ultmately, the re-evaluation of myth operated by anthropology and psychoanalysis. The ancient gods have been ‘sent into exile’ many times, but have never died and, in fact, they always came back. In the Middle Ages, Dante was certainly not the first one to make full use of them, but he was most consistent in his enterprise. Our hypothesis is that the hidden teaching, which a nonpoetically initiated fourteenth-century audience would have found hard to accept (and had therefore to be warned about), was this: the passage from pagan to Christian imagination was marked less by break than it was by simultaneous co-presence. Pagan imagination had already revealed all that there was to know, except Revelation. Charon, Cerberus, the Furies and Medusa have a legitimate place in a Christian poem not only as allegories or figurae, but because they are, to a certain extent, literally real (real in the letter if not in the spirit). The ancient gods were ‘false and lying’ (falsi e bugiardi) as Virgil says (Inferno I, 72), but that does not

Fellini, Dante and the Gaze of Medusa


mean that they were not effective. They did not need to exist to be effective. The Messenger, as Pietro di Dante had understood already, is as much HermesMercury as he is a Christian angel. The Revelation is therefore a message of salvation and, at the same time, a new hermeneutics, a new hermetic, Hermessent doctrine compelling Christian poets and readers to open their eyes to a truth that otherwise would elude them forever.11 Yet, if they want to open their eyes, they must keep them closed. But closed to what, in this specific case? To Medusa’s beauty. She was as terrifying as she was beautiful. We do not need to wait for P.B. Shelley to be struck by the head of Medusa (then attributed to Leonardo da Vinci) that he saw at the Galleria degli Uffizi in 1819, or Sigmund Freud’s 1922 annotation on the head of Medusa as a symbol of castration that makes men ‘stiff ’ (petrified and erect).12 We can infer from the list of mythological characters that Medusa petrified (all of whom were males) that her countenance did not affect women. Her frightening, monstrous, obscene beauty threatened only men. Rather than an allegory, Medusa is the immortal symbol of the overabundant, intolerable beauty of paganism – sinful in the eyes of Christianity, and therefore an unending source of forbidden, sinful fascination for the Christian male poet. Here, ‘symbol’ must be understood in accord to Friedrich Theodor Vischer’s essay, ‘Das Symbol’: a mythical element once believed true, yet received and accepted as an apparition endowed with meaning long after it has ceased to be an object of faith.13 As a Christian poet, Dante is sending an advice to other poets. Open your eyes (by keeping them closed) to the beauty of Medusa, and be wary of the sensuality that you have celebrated in your love poems, because Medusa is the obscene reversal of your angelic women, of my angelic women. In Inferno IX , when the Furies threaten to summon Medusa, they do not even mention Perseus, who cut off her head. By wishing Medusa would turn Dante to stone, they long for a deferred vengeance of Theseus, who violated the underworld to abduct Persephone-Proserpina. His expedition was a failure, but he managed to escape and the Furies never forgot this outrage. It is not by chance that in the Garden of Eden Matelda makes Dante think of Proserpina, of the time when Pluto fell in love with her and took away spring from the world (Purgatory XXVIII , 49–51).14 It is Proserpina, however, who sets the rules in Hades. None but Proserpina unleashes Medusa to petrify those who violate the kingdom of the dead while still alive. Certainly, because of his Christian faith and determination, and because he closed his eyes to Medusa’s gaze while keeping them open to her meaning, Dante has accomplished what Theseus never did. Yet Medusa is still there, somewhere, and retains the power to petrify male poets.


Fellini’s Eternal Rome

In Dante, Petrarch and Boccaccio, in the Renaissance and beyond, paganism is the not so secret companion of Catholic Christianity, whose tendency to cultural inclusion and syncretism is perhaps its greater strength – inevitably accompanied by a high degree of anxiety about the heterogeneous, non-Christian features of whatever has been culturally necessary or politically savvy to appropriate.15 Federico Fellini has been the twentieth century poet of such anxiety. As we will see in the following chapters, he has looked into the eyes of both Medusa and Matelda and unlike Dante has chosen not to choose between them. It is important to stress that Fellini, appearances notwithstanding, does not subscribe to the common Catholic dichotomy that regards women as either saintly mothers or prostitutes. In Italian films, that all-pervasive polarity is found in Raffaello Matarazzo’s popular tearjerkers as well as in Pier Paolo Pasolini’s sophisticated, allegorical tales in which the only female characters he can imagine are the Holy Mary and the Whore. Fellini’s female pantheon is more diverse. The role of the pagan goddess is split between Medusa, Circe, Venus and Persephone-Proserpina. The sometimes sexual, sometimes desexualized young woman (including Cabiria, the desexualized prostitute—a unique Fellini creation) may change into a sexless clown or an uncanny, androgynous angel-monster. Fellini’s women are goddesses, nymphs, angels, clueless mistresses or disaffected wives. The Blessed Virgin Mary is not absent, but her presence is rarely direct. Her image is carried around in processions and her role may even be taken by an unsuspecting poor woman (as in ‘The Miracle’ episode, 1948), but the tiresome Catholic pornography of the mother–whore complex is not at the forefront of Fellini’s imagination. Paganism, in Fellini, often takes the semblance of a ‘suspended state’ (Vischer’s terminology), in which the artist no longer believes in the magic or religious power of a certain image yet does not want to sever his connection to it, preferring to keep the image in a state of suspension between the mere conceptual sign and the still-powerful icon. Because classical antiquity and Christianity enjoy a simultaneous epiphany, they are framed on the screen at the same time. In Deleuze’s terminology, if there ever was a crystal-image – an image made of time and which compresses time – that was it. All the scenes of religious procession, Christ on the cross and statues of Mary that appear in Fellini’s films from La strada to Nights of Cabiria, from La dolce vita to the Church fashion show in Roma, find their counterpart in the imperial insignia carried around in Fellini Satyricon. The shots are so similar that one wonders at what Fellini was hinting.

Fellini, Dante and the Gaze of Medusa


The answer is, perhaps, that paganism and Christianity are intrinsically linked Not only because pre-Christian men and women would never say of themselves, ‘we are pagans’, but because Christians and pagans, together, hold the key to the enjoyment of their respective Other. In Italian culture, Christianity can be enjoyed only from a pagan point of view, just as paganism offers its pleasure only to those who approach it from the Christian perspective. Yet Fellini problematized and ultimately undermined this easy equivalency, one film after another, but slowly, as if he knew from the start that he was venturing into an uncharted territory and he had to create his own maps before he could move ahead. In his first foray into Christian themes (the monastery episode in Rossellini’s Paisà, 1946, which he scripted), paganism has no place. On the other hand, its presence is hidden – like the teaching of Medusa – yet paramount in ‘The Miracle’, the second part of Rossellini’s L’amore (1948), which he scripted and where he briefly appears in an acting role. Fellini’s collaboration with Rossellini will be, therefore, our point of entry.



Fellini and Rossellini The ‘Trilogy of Faith’ (1946–50)

‘Appennino emiliano’ or a lesson in humility Towards the end of Roma (1972), before we see fifty motorcyclists riding through the city like absentminded barbarians, not intent on conquering anything, we hear the real voice of Federico Fellini. In other parts of the film, the voice-over is done by the actor Alighiero Noschese, who imitates Fellini’s voice. Here, the voice is real because the encounter is real, and it does not matter if the lines are scripted. ‘This lady, who is walking home alongside the wall of an ancient, patrician house, is a Roman actress, Anna Magnani. She could be the symbol of the city.’ Anna Magnani turns and asks: ‘What am I? A symbol of what?’ Fellini continues: ‘Rome as she-wolf and vestal, aristocratic and downtrodden, gloomy, clownish . . . I could go on all night.’ Anna Magnani looks at him, but we do not see him; we hear only his disembodied voice. When she speaks, she answers him and at the same responds to the ‘institution’ of the male voice-over in so many documentaries. ‘Federico, go to sleep.’ Fellini persists: ‘Can I ask you a question?’ ‘No, I do not trust you. Ciao, good night!’ She slams the door of Palazzo Altieri, where she lives, and cut. The camera frames electoral posters, the lights of the now deserted ‘Festa de noantri’ (the ‘celebration of ourselves’, a uniquely Roman institution), and, finally, the bikers riding on the Lungotevere Tor di Nona across Castel Sant’Angelo. It was Anna Magnani’s final role. She was already ill, and died less than a year after the film was released. It was the only time she appeared in a film directed by Fellini. He could not handle her. In fact, no director ever could, except perhaps Luchino Visconti in Bellissima (1951). All they had to do was to let her be herself, through the best and the worst that she could give. Initially, she resisted the idea of playing a cameo role – she did not see the point. To convince her, Fellini told her: ‘You see, in a film about Rome I cannot leave out your face. You are Rome. 21


Fellini’s Eternal Rome

You have that maternal, bitter, mythological, ruined look. . .’1 Magnani did not resent the “ruined” and agreed to play the part by embuing it with her most disillusioned grin, which is as Roman as one can get. In fact their collaboration dated back to 1945, when Fellini was screenwriter and assistant to Roberto Rossellini while he was shooting Open City. Anna Magnani as Rome is a cliché, and Rome ‘she-wolf and vestal, aristocratic and downtrodden, gloomy and clownish’ is an even greater cliché, but the truth of Fellini’s involvement with Rome does not avoid a careful, ironic use of clichés. Here we need to remind the reader of a concept already anticipated, stressing that it will be clarified only in the concluding chapter: Rome is Fellini’s ‘maternal space’, womb, chôra (Plato, Timaeus, 52a8, d3). Because it shuns the paternal logos, Rome is ideologically neutral, both pagan and Christian, monumental and destitute, fascist and anti-fascist, bourgeois and proletarian. Here is where Magnani enters the picture. Fellini witnessed the birth of Magnani-as-Rome when Open City was released, and in ‘The Miracle’, the script he wrote in 1948 for her and Rossellini, the dual nature of Rome translates into the body of a poor, illiterate shepherdess who is both the Virgin Mary and a pagan nymph. We can understand the Fellini–Rome dyad only if we take a detour through the Christian themes that Fellini addressed in the scripts he wrote for Rossellini and in which the presence of Magnani plays a central role. On 15 January 1946, Roberto Rossellini and his heterogeneous crew began shooting the ‘Sicily’ episode of Paisà in the small village of Maiori, south of Naples and near the coastal town of Amalfi. Maiori was not quite Sicily, but it was south enough and the proper Sicilian accent in the dialogue would be dubbed in later. As soon as filming was over, Rossellini took a break with one of his many lovers, leaving the crew stranded in Maiori waiting for him to return and start the next episode. One day Fellini and Rodney E. Geiger, the American selfproclaimed producer of the film, took a walk along the beach. They stumbled upon the local Franciscan monastery whose simple and serene Romanesque façade overlooked the seashore. Fra Raffaele, one of the monks, stood still near the entrance, as firm in his place as a tree. Fellini was familiar with religious houses, and had stayed in them overnight as a boy during family trips. Wanting to see the inside, he was welcomed by no more than five or six monks. They lived in absolute poverty, not only out of religious or intellectual choice, but because that was the way it was and they knew no other. Invited to stay for dinner, Fellini and Geiger were offered a tray of broccoli as a treat, while the monks were having only wine and nuts. They only vaguely knew that there had been a war. When Rossellini came back, Fellini took

The ‘Trilogy of Faith’ (1946–50)


him to the monastery and had him stay for dinner to understand the spirit of the place. Eventually, Fellini decided to set up home in the monastery for a few days and write the treatment for the fifth episode of Paisà, which was to be located on the Apennines hills of the Emilia region (again, the right accent would be added later). It had already been planned that one of the segments would be about monks and/or military chaplains. For his story, however, Fellini took very little from the treatments that Sergio Amidei, Alfred Hayes, Klaus Mann and Marcello Pagliero had already provided. In an interview published in Bianco e nero in May 1958, Fellini described the idea as an encounter . . . between two quite different ways of conceiving religion, through a meeting between American chaplains and Italian friars; between an active belief, as that of military priests should be, and this kind of faith, so meditative, a life of prayers only, as it was lived in some little mediaeval convents that are to be found here and there in Italy.2

The story. The war is still going on, but the stalemate between the German army and the Allied Forces along the fortified ‘Gothic Line’ crossing the Tuscan and Romagna Apennines from Pisa to Pesaro is over. Three Allied military chaplains of three different faiths reach an isolated Franciscan monastery in a liberated zone. Newell Jones plays the Protestant chaplain (he was one in real life). Elmer Feldman, an OSS sergeant, plays the rabbi (Rod Geiger, who had been in the US Army, recruited both Jones and Feldman from his former company). William Tubbs, one of the six actors Geiger had booked in the United States boasting to Rossellini that they were stars while in fact they were unknown off-Broadway players, temporarily overcame his drinking problem to play Captain Bill Martin, the Catholic chaplain. The monks (played by locals and a few actual monks from the Maiori monastery) welcome the three strangers, offering them what they have. The Catholic chaplain is taken by the simplicity and good-heartedness of the Franciscan monks, who seem to be oblivious of everything that is happening outside the vicinities of their home. The Protestant chaplain and the rabbi keep a more reserved, even slightly bemused, attitude. Everything changes when the good monks find out that one of the chaplains is a Protestant ‘heretic’ and the other – heavens above – a Jew. They are genuinely scared, as if the devil himself has set foot in their God-protected territory. They question the Catholic chaplain, asking him why he has never tried to convert his apostate colleagues. To the monks’ astonishment, he admits that the idea never crossed his mind. They are good friends, and he never thought he could judge


Fellini’s Eternal Rome

them. Perhaps, he adds, in the peaceful world of meditation and prayer of their monastery, the monks are inclined to consider him guilty, but he does not feel that way. That very night the three chaplains are surprised to see that they are being served the best dinner the monastery can offer, while the monks have decided to fast. The abbot explains that their small sacrifice (which in the Franciscan tradition would be called a fioretto, a little flower) is for the light of truth to descend upon the ‘lost souls’ of the Protestant and Jewish chaplains. The two non-Catholic chaplains do not know what to think. They may well not have fully understood the drama that is unfolding before their eyes. Captain Martin, on the contrary, is moved. He stands up and gives a brief speech in which he thanks the monks for the ‘great gift’ they have given him, for which he will be forever in their debt. He claims to have found again in that remote monastery the peace of mind he had lost in the horrors of the war and, more than anything else, ‘a beautiful, moving lesson of humility, simplicity, and pure faith’. Fellini and Rossellini have often been misunderstood, but perhaps never as consistently as it happened with the critical reactions to the ‘Appennino emiliano’ episode. Many critics, in Italy and beyond, viewed it through a moralistic lens that failed to consider the authors’ highly original involvement with the Franciscan tradition, which in fact extended until 1950 when Rossellini filmed, with Fellini as co-author of the treatment, The Flowers of St Francis. Art historian Rudolf Arnheim wrote that American audiences could not understand why the liberal chaplain would praise the monks for displaying the same intolerance that helped ignite the war.3 In the US , Robert Warshow complained that Rossellini made the clueless monks appear morally superior to their American counterparts, who were not cast in a sympathetic light. In his 1972 book on Rossellini, leftist critic Pio Baldelli admitted that the episode was incomprehensible to him. He could not understand why Rossellini and Fellini were so unaware of the monks’ puerile fanaticism, nor could he figure out why, instead of condemning the monks’ intolerance, Rossellini had retreated into an infantilized idea of religion. Catholic critic Marcello Vazio (who gave Paisà a devastating review in La rivista del cinematografo) wrote that discretion and kindness prevented him from expressing an excessively bad judgment of the monastery episode. Brunello Rondi, himself a Catholic and later a Fellini screenwriter, provided a strange interpretative twist in his book Il neorealismo italiano (1956), where he argued that the monks were actually Pharisees, the visual depiction of the monastery as a desolate place stressing that their prayer were empty gestures and Rossellini clearly chastising their intolerance. In his 1993 biography of Fellini, John Baxter

The ‘Trilogy of Faith’ (1946–50)


argued that the monks’ behaviour ‘seems emblematic of arrogance and bigotry’ and consequently the episode ‘falls flat’.4 In his influential The Cinema of Federico Fellini (1992), Peter Bondanella touches a deeper level of meaning with two observations. First, the episode is likely to have found inspiration in Giovanni Boccaccio’s Decameron, Day 1, Story 3, ‘Melchizedek the Jew, with a story about three rings, avoids a most dangerous trap laid for him by Saladin’. Second, what Captain Martin liked was precisely the simple-mindedness, even the ignorance, of the Franciscan friars. For clarity, let us look at the Melchizedek story in more detail. Saladin, the sultan of Egypt, needs to borrow money from Melchizedek. Wary of speaking openly to Melchizedek at first, Saladin asks him which one of the three Laws (Jewish, Saracen or Christian) is the true one. Melchizedek senses a trap and answers with a story. There was a wealthy man who had three sons and a precious ring. He loved all of his sons equally, and so could not decide which one would inherit the ring. Therefore, he asked an artisan to make two more rings that could not be distinguished from the original. Now in possession of the three rings, only one of which was authentic, at the point of death the wealthy man summoned his sons one at the time and gave one ring to each one of them. Because the sons were never able to tell the rings apart and could not ascertain which ring was the original, the question of who was the true heir of the wealthy man and his estate remained unsettled. Saladin understood the meaning of the story and disclosed the real reason why he had asked Melchizedek to appear before him. Melchizedek was happy to lend Saladin the money he needed and in a short time was repaid in full and bestowed with great honours.5 Fellini may not have thought of Boccaccio as a primary source, but a certain familiarity with the Decameron is part of the literary education of anyone who attends liceo (prestigious state schools) in Italy and it is reasonable to think that the Melchizedek story might have been in the back of his mind. As for Captain Martin’s reaction, Bondanella points out that Fellini, like many Italians (and like Rossellini), ‘while rejecting the institutional trappings of the Church . . . has always responded to the Church’s evangelical message of love and human brotherhood and has constantly showed an unabashed admiration for the simple acts of faith on the part of its humblest believers.’6 One question remains unanswered, however. Is ‘simple’, ‘humble’ and decidedly infantilized religion (Baldelli had a point) the only good religion that there is? And why does simple-minded religiousness have to be bigoted? Why could not it be open precisely to the ‘evangelical message of love and human brotherhood’ instead of assuming that two religious men who profess different


Fellini’s Eternal Rome

faiths or hold a different interpretation of the same religion are necessarily ‘lost souls’? In his defence of Captain Martin’s speech, Gallagher writes that ‘tolerance must also tolerate intolerance (or else what is there to tolerate?), and the chaplain’s emotions are far above the petty and pedantic, self-righteous condemnation Rossellini’s critics desire’.7 Gallagher adds that the guiding idea of the Italian Resistance (the way Fellini and Rossellini understood it) was not to purge every idea one would find disagreeable. The monks are intolerant because they have no doubts about their faith, but their intolerance ‘does not exclude or condemn’ and it tries ‘to bridge ideological differences through fraternity, to construct a community through prayer’. In an anecdote that mirrors the film’s narrative, Gallagher reports that on the last day of shooting, Brother Claudio, one of the monks, spent the night in tears when he found out that assistant director Massimo Mida was a communist.8 One issue has not been addressed, however, and it is a major one. The three religious men have seen a world devastated by violence, hatred and racism. Intolerance, in their view, means taking up arms against anyone who is not ‘like us’. It means rounding up those who are different as a result of their ideology, nationality or race. It means jailing them, torturing them and sending them off to labour or die in concentration camps. That was the rule before and during the war. The Franciscan monks are ignorant and biased, without question. To them, Protestants or Jews are ‘alien’ creatures, whose presence they perceive as a threat to their world. After the initial shock, however, they do not take offence; they do not eject the men they regard as infidels. They do not report to the Provincial Secretary of their Order that their refuge has been desecrated, nor do they unleash the Holy Inquisition after them. On the contrary, they perform a Franciscan fioretto, and skipping a meal was one of the most common fioretti, one that children were routinely encouraged to make in order to acquire brownie points with Jesus and Mary. Their act of penance is as misplaced as it is naïve. In true Franciscan fashion, however, they take the intrusion as an occasion for personal sacrifice and spiritual advancement. There is no doubt that they are misguided, but they represent the exception, not the rule, and the world would be better off if all the intolerant people were like them. Captain Martin could have said, ‘Judge not, that ye be not judged’ (Matthew 7:1), which would have applied to him as well as the monks. It is not by coincidence that Fellini, in the already-quoted 1958 statementinterview, repeated Captain Martin’s words (‘a lesson of humility’) to describe his apprenticeship with Rossellini. During the time spent with his mentor, Fellini

The ‘Trilogy of Faith’ (1946–50)


learned that films could be created without deceit, without presumption and free from the obsession to have a message to send around. ‘I repeat that the most important thing I got from Rossellini was a lesson of humility.’9 The lesson influenced the artist, not the director – Fellini acted like a tyrant becauase he thought that was what directors did – but we will return to the issue of ‘humility’ in our discussion of The Flowers of St Francis.

‘The Miracle’, or the satyr and the nymph The tension between paganism and Christianity, which has no place in ‘Appennino emiliano’, takes centre stage in ‘The Miracle’, the second part of L’amore, the Anna Magnani diptych that Rossellini directed in 1947–48. Magnani, who had become an international star thanks to Rossellini’s Open City (1945), was fond of Jean Cocteau’s monologue La voix humaine, which she had already performed in Rome in 1942 in Italian translation, and now wanted to film. A woman, alone in her house, on the phone for forty minutes, desperately and hopelessly tries to convince her lover not to abandon her for another woman. In the end, she must resign herself to her destiny – loneliness. The piece may seem dated now, but it was a wonderful vehicle for a mature actress at the height of her powers. Indeed Ingrid Bergman – who displaced Anna Magnani in Rossellini’s affections after the completion of L’amore – did the Cocteau piece for the US TV channel ABC in 1966. The shooting of ‘La voce umana’ at Place Clichy in Paris took two weeks during April and May 1947. After that, Rossellini went to work on Germany Year Zero in Berlin, but he worried about the ‘Voice’, which was a great piece of cinema but not a film per se. He spent months trying unsuccessfully to find a companion piece until Anna Magnani, with her usual blunt style, approached Fellini in a Roman restaurant and told him that instead of eating too much and getting fat, he would be better off writing a good story that she and Rossellini could use. Fellini came up with the story of a prostitute picked up by a famous actor who keeps her in his bathroom all night when his mistress comes home unexpectedly. Magnani rejected it right away. It was not in her character to stay locked up in a bathroom all night because of some idiot actor. She would have stormed out regardless. (Fellini ended up re-using the idea in Nights of Cabiria, 1957).10 After several meetings with Rossellini, Sergio Amidei and Tullio Pinelli (who was to become one of Fellini’s main writers), Fellini timidly outlined the plot of ‘The Miracle’. If we can trust his autobiographical recollections (which is rarely


Fellini’s Eternal Rome

the case, but in this particular instance no one has challenged his account), the others stopped in their tracks. They could not believe that the story was his. Rossellini loved it immediately, called Magnani and Magnani loved it too. They all left for Amalfi to work on the script with the intention of shooting the film in Maiori, the same location of the ‘Appennino emiliano’ episode in Paisà. So what was the story? Nannina, a poorly educated shepherdess who tends a herd of goats on a hill overlooking the Amalfi Coast, meets a tramp, a gypsy or maybe just a hiker whom she immediately takes for St Joseph because of his gracious demeanour, blond hair and fair, perfectly sculpted short beard. The man plies her with wine; as the viewer quickly understands, she will soon be drunk and unconscious. Cut. Weeks later, Nannina finds out she is pregnant. Not realizing that she has been raped while inebriated, she thinks she has conceived St Joseph’s child. In no time, Nannina is cruelly made fun of by the whole town, not because she has fallen pregnant (they do not care about the morality of a woman they regard as mentally ill), but because she claims that a saint has ‘visited’ her. In the end, the endless mockery gets the better of her. She runs away and climbs to the top of a mountain. Mysteriously guided by a goat (her totemic animal, one might say), Nannina looks for shelter in an abandoned monastery. Because the chapel is closed, she enters the adjacent bell tower. There, she gives birth to her child and is ‘transfigured’. Her eyes lose their haunted look, and she gazes lovingly at the new-born (whom we do not see); her voice changes, too, as we can hear when she repeats, ‘My child, my child’. After the words ‘The End’ appear on screen, we can hear a bell ringing in the distance. Bondanella suggests that Bocaccio’s Decameron, Day 1, Story 1, may have served as a subtext for ‘The Miracle’. The well-known tale of how Ser Ciappelletto, a notorious scoundrel, fooled a pious friar who administered his last rites and after his death was venerated like a holy man resonates with the apparition of the lascivious tramp whom Nannina believes to be a saint, but the connection is tenuous at best. It could be that ‘Adega’ – a short story that the Spanish novelist Ramón María del Valle-Inclán wrote in 1897 and then reworked as a novel (Flor de santidad, 1904) – was the source of Fellini’s treatment. The stories are quite similar. The main difference is that Adega, a shepherdess like Nannina, does not have learning challenges. Innocent and religious, she genuinely believes that the pilgrim who has seduced her has brought her the Son of God. Later, however, she begins to think that the pilgrim (who in the meantime has been murdered) was the Devil. The town is split. Some of the peasants trust her initial vision; the upper crust in the town think she is being sacrilegious and take her to an abbot for an exorcism. She participates in a pilgrimage that ends

The ‘Trilogy of Faith’ (1946–50)


with an immersion in the sea but the ritual, which was supposed to stop her pregnancy, fails.11 Fellini vehemently denied that he had taken the idea from del Valle-Inclán’s story. According to the website of Italian National Library (www.sbn.it), no Italian translation of Flor de santidad was available in 1947 and none is available today. It is possible that Fellini read a translation of the original short story in a magazine and then forgot that it was someone else’s idea. Or maybe not. As Amidei, Pinelli and Rossellini pressed him, Fellini said that his source was a legend from Gambettola, his father’s birthplace near Rimini, where he spent summers at his grandmother Franceschina’s farm (a memory that comes back in the farm scene of 8½ and elsewhere). A vagabond castrino (pig gelder) named Gaetanaccio had impregnated an intellectually disabled local girl. The pig gelder was a well-known figure in the area and a notorious womanizer, but many women hated him and claimed that the child was the son of Satan.12 Fellini might have made up that story, too. We will never know. In the end, ‘The Miracle’ may have had two sources, or none. In Fellini and Pinelli’s final treatment, ‘The Miracle’ ends on a glorious note. The bell in the church tower sways as if moved by an unseen force. After the first solemn note falls upon the land, the bell starts playing faster, announcing to the world that a saviour is born.13 Pinelli’s hand is detectable here, possibly more than Fellini’s. At any rate, Rossellini would not have entertained any of this solemnity. Pinelli was a devout Catholic; Fellini was a distinguished member of the ‘tormented Catholics’ club. Rossellini, on the other hand, was an agnostic with a deep sense of the sacred and a deep understanding of the mystery of faith, which was to him, primarily, the mystery and power of human imagination. One of the characters in ‘The Miracle’ was a real beggar from Maiori, who reappeared as Brother Giovanni in The Flowers of St Francis. He claimed to have visions of saints all the time and of the Virgin Mary ‘from head to foot’. Rossellini liked him because of his visions, but visions are not miracles. In all his religious-themed films, even in his late work The Messiah (1975), Rossellini showed very few miracles – if any. To him, especially after the death of his nine-year-old son Romano in 1946, life itself was miracle enough and it did not need an accompanying orchestra of church bells. If the ‘Appennino emiliano’ episode raised some eyebrows, ‘The Miracle’ sparked a trans-continental fire. At its release at the end of 1948, L’amore received reviews in Italy, France and England that ran the whole gamut from enthusiastic appreciation to open distaste, with a prevalence of the latter. None helped the film at the box office, but that was expected. Two years later, on 12 December 1950, ‘The


Fellini’s Eternal Rome

Miracle’ premiered in New York as part of Ways of Love, an omnibus film that included Jean Renoir’s A Day in the Country and Marcel Pagnol’s Jofroi. Renoir and Pagnol’s segments had a better reception than Rossellini’s, yet ‘The Miracle’ had its share of sympathetic critics. Ten days later, however, charges of sacrilege and blasphemy were already flying. The New York Commissioner of Licenses, the Legion of Decency (an archenemy of Italian neo-realism), the Catholic War Veterans and the Holy Name Society were on the warpath. Cardinal Francis Spellman, who had never seen the film, led the charge. He described ‘The Miracle’ as a ‘mockery of Christian and religious truth’, an attempt to ‘cast . . . ridicule at Christian faith and at Italian womanhood, thereby dividing Religion against Religion and race against race’. Ending on a high note, he exhorted the faithful to resist and combat ‘atheistic Communism’. ‘The Miracle’ was immediately labelled a communist film, the Paris Theatre in New York where the film was shown picketed and counterpicketed, anti-communist leaflets with dire warnings to Catholic patrons distributed, bomb threats and accusations of bribes made against the theatre’s management. In February 1950, the Boards of Regents of the Paris Theatre revoked the licence to show ‘The Miracle’. Because of a 1915 ruling by the Supreme Court that exempted movies from the First Amendment of the US Constitution, freedom of speech was not extended to films, and since the introduction of the Hays Code in 1934 Hollywood had been careful to keep its productions within the margins of acceptable rules. This time, however, Joe Burstyn, who supervised the distribution of Rossellini’s films, appealed the Paris Theatre decision all the way to the Supreme Court, which decided the case of Burstyn vs Wilson in 1952 by reversing the 1915 ruling. The Court declared that films were indeed protected by the freespeech clause of the First Amendment and therefore the charge of blasphemy had no legal grounds. ‘The Miracle’ had performed a miracle of its own.14 What is the exact nature of the miracle mentioned in the title? It is quite surprising that amidst the theological-political discussions generated by L’amore, there was no reference whatsoever to the transfiguration of the new mother – which is, possibly, the only miracle we can associate with the story. The oldest reference to transfiguration is in the Gospel of Mark: ‘And after six days Jesus taketh with him Peter, and James, and John, and leadeth them up into an high mountain apart by themselves: and he was transfigured before them. And his raiment became shining, exceeding white as snow; so as no fuller on earth can white them’ (Mark 9.2–3). The Greek word for transfiguration is ‘metamorphosis’, which is exactly what happens to Nannina in the birth scene.

The ‘Trilogy of Faith’ (1946–50)


She has changed and cannot return to her previous state. She has been reborn, both as the mother of her child and mother of herself. The people of the village have no power over her. No one can mock her now. The few frames of Anna Magnani looking down at her child with a new light of love and reason in her eyes are one of the moments in cinema that would seem obvious to call ‘transcendent’, except that the opposite is true. We witness here an instance of absolute immanence. It is a rare instance of the sublime, which in this case does not have to leave us elated and terrified in a perilous zone out of ourselves. Everything is in there, within the frame, transcendence included.15 The 1940s saw a resurgence of apparitions of Mary all over Catholic Europe, many of which were claimed by children. In 1950, the Church responded with the new dogma of bodily Assumption that completed the dogma of the Immaculate Conception promulgated by Pope Pius IX in 1854. It was not in Magnani’s or the authors’ minds to compete with the dicta of the established Church, yet on 1 November 1950 Pope Pius XII proclaimed in his Bulla, Munificentissimus Deum, that: ‘it is in our own age that the privilege of the bodily Assumption into heaven of Mary, the Virgin Mother of God, has certainly shone forth more clearly.’ On 21 November 1964 Pope Paul VI promulgated Lumen gentium, the new Dogmatic Constitution of Roman Catholicism, where we read: ‘the Immaculate Virgin . . . was taken up body and soul into heavenly glory, and exalted by the Lord as Queen over all things’.16 In his Answer to Job (1952), C.G. Jung (whose writings had a profound influence on Fellini from the late 1950s) argued that the dogma of the Assumption was, symbolically, long overdue. There was a palpable need among the religious masses for an ‘intercessor and mediatrix’ who could take her place alongside the Holy Trinity. The English archbishops, who had strongly disagreed with the Pope’s decision, were out of touch ‘with the symbols which are intended to compensate the truly apocalyptic world situation today’. In 1948, ‘The Miracle’ had already presaged a very earthy Madonna ascending into cinematic heaven. Had Jung seen it, he may have recognized in it the narrative transposition of his argument, namely that Christianity did not need a new god, but ‘the continuing incarnation of God’ and that ‘God has eternally wanted to become a man’.17 But why does St Joseph have to be blond and with a neat goatee? Apparently, the idea was Rossellini’s, after he decided that Fellini would play the tramp. Fellini’s black hair had to be dyed and Fellini was subjected to a practical joke mentioned widely in his biographies. Rossellini and cinematographer Aldo Tonti set up an appointment with a barber in Naples. Before Fellini set foot in his shop,


Fellini’s Eternal Rome

however, Tonti had tipped off the hairdresser, explaining that they had a friend who was a good person but had recently changed his sexual orientation, had become a pederast and wanted his hair dyed blond. Nonplussed, the barber just nodded. He amiably welcomed Fellini and reassured him that such things were quite common, there was nothing to worry about. Pranks apart, the question remains. Baxter’s explanation – that the peasants were used to visualizing Christ and the saints with Northern European features because they saw depicted them that way in their local church – does not hold water.18 Many Italians are blond, and in the Catholic iconography Jesus and the saints, including St Joseph, are depicted with a variety of hair colours: white, blond, brown and black. It is only red-haired saints, apart from Mary Magdalene, that are hard to find. We can therefore speculate a little more on Rossellini’s choice of a blond St Joseph. First, the tramp is St Joseph only to Nannina’s eyes. To the audience, he is clearly a sinister presence. The goatee makes him look like an old character from the lower ranks of Greek and Roman mythology, in fact the one who provided the blueprint for the Christian devil. With his dyed hair and fake goatee, Fellini looks very much like a satyr. Satyrs come in a variety of colours too, but the pointed beard is their most distinctive sign. Followers of the Greek god Dionysius were often depicted as having horse’s ears and legs, while in Rome they were fauns – half-men, halfgoats (and Nannina is a goat shepherdess). Both the Christian Devil and some masks of the Commedia dell’Arte subsequently inherited the satyr/faun’s appearance and behaviour. If Rossellini, consciously or not, intended to portray a fake St Joseph who was a satyr, then his joke about dyeing Fellini’s hair to make him look like a pederast acquires a different meaning. It implies that the character played by Fellini (who does not say a word) must exude an excessive, ithyphallic, even perverted sexuality that the poor illiterate woman, under the influence of Dionysian wine, cannot withstand. She knows the visual apparatus of Christianity, the only cultural code to which she can relate. She is unaware that, prior to her status of pious goat herder, in a previous life she must have been a wild nymph of the mountains, proud of her sexuality and not yet subjected to the sanitized Arcadia of eighteenth-century neoclassical poetry Nannina’s identification of the tramp with St Joseph, and her subsequent belief that she will have a child from him (from a religious figure, that is, whose sexuality the Scriptures explicitly deny), implies a Jungian coincidentia oppositorum. On the one hand, she has somehow grasped the notion of Immaculate Conception. On the other hand, and because she believes that St Joseph, of all saints, will give her a child, she re-sexualizes Joseph and reverts

The ‘Trilogy of Faith’ (1946–50)


the Christian notion of Immaculate Conception to its pagan status as ‘divine rape’. It is remarkable that in Italy no one was receptive to the implications of the double message that Fellini, Magnani and Rossellini (the unsuspecting Pinelli must be exonerated) were sending to the Church and the political forces of Catholic inspiration. The Marian revival of the 1940s noted above had deep political implications, too. The massive religious phenomenon known as Peregrinatio Mariae or Marian Pilgrimages (Madonna Pellegrina), in which a venerated image or statue of the Virgin Mary was transported from town to town, accompanied by huge crowds, began in war-torn France in 1943 as the Grand Retour. Mary’s Great Return was an international event throughout Catholic Europe even during the turmoil of the Second World War. The Madonna Pellegrina fervour reached its peak in Italy between 1946 and 1949, with processions criss-crossing the entire country. 1948 was also the year of the first Italian general elections after twenty years of fascism. (Women had already voted in the republican referendum of 1946; two years later they were able to take part in the general election.) In the torrid political climate of post-war Italy, divided between Catholics and Communists (Liberals and Socialists were an aside), religion was easily hijacked for political purposes. The Marian Pilgrimages were promptly deployed to warn the nation’s women that victory for the Communist Party would mean the end of the traditional family by making it possible for men to divorce their wives and pursue other relationships. The Christian Democrats, backed by the Church and by the Western Bloc active in the Cold War, won the election and established a structure of power that – with some changes – remained in place until 1992. The spiritual revival that accompanied the Peregrinationes Mariae was real and cannot be underestimated – millions of women and men followed the processions of the Madonna Pellegrina – but religion or politics were not the only motivations for the Marian Pilgrimages. For rural women in particular, becoming a ‘daughter of Mary’ and joining the Madonna meant that for the first time they could spend few nights away from home and their parents’ strict surveillance. The popular saying was that nine months after a major procession there always was a surge in out-of-wedlock births and a proverb was quickly coined: ‘The daughters of Mary are the first to give it up’ (‘Le figlie di Maria son le prime a darla via’). In this light, the pagan irony of the episode in ‘The Miracle’, in which a satyr and a nymph play Joseph and Mary, is all the more prominent. Cardinal Spellman was perhaps the only one who saw the whole truth of it, even though he never saw the film.


Fellini’s Eternal Rome

The mystery of Perfect Joy Fellini’s involvement with Rossellini’s The Flowers of St Francis (Francesco giullare di Dio, 1950) was limited to the initial treatment. He had no part in the final script and was absent when Rossellini shot the film. Nevertheless, Rossellini’s Franciscan film concludes the ideal ‘trilogy of faith’ that the director and his younger collaborator had begun with the ‘Appennino emiliano’ episode and then continued with ‘The Miracle’. Fellini’s contribution, albeit brief, was crucial. His task was to select narrative material from The Flowers of St Francis (I fioretti di San Francesco) and The Life of Brother Ginepro (Vita di frate Ginepro), two of the most famous texts in the extensive Franciscan literature of the fourteenth century. St. Francis of Assisi (Giovanni di Pietro di Bernardone, 1181 or 1182–1226) left a few written works, most notably the Canticum Fratris Solis or Laudes Creaturarum (Canticle of the Sun), the rules of his Order and his will. The Fioretti and Vita di Frate Ginepro are anonymous compilations of legends, miracles and anecdotes, the former serious in tone and the latter decidedly comic. What many critics missed when The Flowers of St Francis was released was that it was ultimately a respectful, if selective, adaptation of two early classics of Italian literature, whose popularity competed for centuries with the works of Dante, Petrarch and Boccaccio and continues even today. In many ways, Dario Fo’s oneman show, Lu santu jullare Francesco (1999), based on Tommaso da Celano’s early biographies of Francis (1229–57) as well as other sources, is very much the rationalization of the legendary material that Fellini and Rossellini drew on. The Flowers of St Francis does not have a conventional plot. Like Paisà, it is made up of episodes, or in this case, vignettes. When Fellini rejected the assumption that movies must be plot-driven and – starting with Nights of Cabiria (1957) – gradually opted for an open structure, he was still following Rossellini’s teaching. Fellini and Rossellini did not ‘historicize’ the texts of the Franciscan tradition, did not attempt to make them less rustic, less ‘medieval’ and more palatable to contemporary audiences. More than anything, they did not romanticize Francis and his disciples (not even St. Clare), nor did they stress in ‘modern’ or ‘political’ terms the revolutionary aspect of Francis’ teaching. The story begins in 1210, immediately after Pope Innocent III has accepted the new Franciscan Order within the ranks of the Church and ends in 1212, when Francis and his ‘Lesser Brothers’ (Frati minori) are already preaching all over Italy and beyond. The film focuses almost exclusively on the communal life and the comic incidents of

The ‘Trilogy of Faith’ (1946–50)


Francis and his Brothers, a bunch of misfits who ended up changing the history of Christianity. Fellini chose three Fioretti out of fifty-three. No. 8, in which Francis explains to Brother Leo his notion of ‘perfect joy’ (perfetta letizia), is well known. In No.  11, Francis and Brother Masseo reach a crossroads. Masseo asks Francis which direction they should go in, and Francis tells him to spin round faster and faster, as children do, until he tells him to stop and asks him what direction he is facing. Masseo answers that his eyes are on the road to Siena and Francis tells him that they will follow it. In No. 15, Clare pays a visit to Francis. The Brothers set up the table for a meal, but Francis and Clare are so intent on speaking about God that they forget to eat. The other episodes are taken from the Life of Brother Ginepro, a less serious work than the Fioretti and closer in comic spirit to the experience of the young Fellini upon his arrival in Rome, when he made ends meet by drawing caricatures for American soldiers and writing humorous dialogue for comedians and radio shows.19 Poorly received upon its release, The Flowers of St Francis has grown in stature and is regarded now as the most poetic of Rossellini’s films. Because it is a humble film about humility, we must come back to the key word uttered by Captain Bill Martin in ‘Appennino emiliano’ and the interview in which Fellini stated that humility was what he learned from Rossellini. Rossellini’s artistic humility (even though he was anything but humble in his private life) led him to his much-misunderstood masterpieces of the 1950s and the historical and educational docudramas that he directed in the 1960s and 1970s. Fellini’s humility resulted in his commitment to people who are so far removed from the mainstream that no social or political goodwill would ever rescue them (Gelsomina, Cabiria, the clowns of the eponymous film, the lunatics of The Voice of the Moon). A refreshing notion of virtue emerges from the work of them both. It is essentially Christian, but keeps its distance from the sanctimonious piety implied in the much-abused notion of humility as the main virtue of the ‘humble folk’. To Rossellini and Fellini humility was, primarily, an ethical project. In Aeneid III , Aeneas tells how, after leaving Buthrotum (on the Albanian coast), his ship crossed what is now the Strait of Otranto, until the Trojans saw ‘dim and distant hills, the low coastline of Italy’ (humilemque videmus Italiam).20 The Salentine peninsula is flat. Humilis is above all a geographical definition. When Dante, in Inferno I, adopts the term from Virgil, the geographical and moral connotations are hard to disentangle. A Hound will come, Virgil says in his most prophetic mode, who ‘will restore low-lying Italy / for which the maid Camilla died of wounds, / and Nisus, Turnus, and Euryalus’.21


Fellini’s Eternal Rome

Virgil mourns the native heroes who had to die to allow the ‘destined’ foreign conquerors to establish their rule. ‘Umile Italia’ had to be sacrificed for the sake of proud imperial Rome. Yet Dante’s Virgil knows that Rome too was defeated by a God who saves ‘the humble people’ and ‘brings down the eyes of the proud’ (Psalm 17:28). In 1950, with Italy in ruins again after the fall of fascist imperial pride, Rossellini and Fellini began the task of ‘restoring’ their nation by putting on the screen for the first time its humblest people: ignorant monks, abused women, God’s jesters. Francesco Giullare di Dio, Rossellini’s original title, is what Francis called himself when he preached to the ‘humble folk’ in an ‘entertaining’, often ‘comedic’ way, scrupulously avoiding the pompousness of self-righteous preachers. Yet this notion of humility, from Francis to Dante and from Dante to Rossellini and Fellini, is never one-sided. Camilla’s ‘humble Italy’ is mirrored in Dante’s decision to write a sacred poem in vernacular language, in a style that Dante himself describes in his letter to Cangrande della Scala as ‘remissus et humilis’. The same humilitas circulates in the canonical Gospels, where the celestial truths are explained in a language that even the mulierculae, the women of the people who, in Dante’s time, received no formal education, can understand. The Gospels’ literary revolution shatters the prevailing structure of ancient rhetoric and its tripartite hierarchy of styles (high, middle, low). Communicating is no longer a matter of lexicon or choice of subjects, as it was from Aristotle to Quintilian. Everything can be said in ‘humble style’, which lends dignity to anyone who listens to it by the very act of their listening to it.22 Dante’s humility is not submissive; it empowers those who embrace it. One can say the same about the comic confusion of Brother Ginepro, the sole person who can bring down the arrogant tyrant Nicolaio (Aldo Fabrizi, the only professional actor in the movie), precisely because Ginepro is so impervious to highfalutin’ seriousness that he is unaffected by the language of power. Pier Paolo Pasolini loved The Flowers of St Francis, but we wonder if he ever grasped that the humility of Rossellini and Fellini’s characters was not meant to preserve them from the ‘corruption’ of modernity. The eye of the camera is constantly on them, but its purpose is not to show’ them. Instead, it is to let them be what they are, which also means to love them as they are, protecting them neither from their clumsiness nor pretending that a paternalistic injection of selfawareness will make them better. It was the most counter-intuitive, even subversive, message that the people of a nation defeated in war could receive: do not try to adjust, do not worry that you are not clever enough, hang around with the wrong people, do dumb things if you feel like, be a fool in the eyes of the world.

The ‘Trilogy of Faith’ (1946–50)


With all his visceral love for the downtrodden, Pasolini never learned the most profound lesson of Francis’ hilaritas, and often confused the holy stupidity of Brother Ginepro with the ‘foolish’ laughter of Ninetto Davoli. He tried to match Rossellini’s and Fellini’s vision of Franciscanism in the ‘birds’ episode of Hawks and Sparrows (Uccellacci e uccellini, 1965) and, in that instance, he succeeded, but the normativity of his didactic intentions prevailed soon after. Pasolini loved the sub-proletarians, but he could not let them go the way Rossellini and Fellini would let their characters go at the end of ‘Appennino emiliano’, ‘The Miracle’, and The Flowers of St Francis (we must also add Passerotto – Little Sparrow – the character played by Giulietta Masina in Rossellini’s Europe ’51, even though Fellini had little to do with it). Pasolini loved the downtrodden as they represented the perennial Other to the bourgeoisie and to the bourgeois intellectual, him included. But Rossellini’s and Fellini’s outcasts are not at the margins of anything and they are nobody’s other. The do not ‘stand for’ something; they are not allegories. In particular, they do not represent a difference that the centre, any centre, must recognize as such. They are a form of life in themselves. In a twelfth- or thirteenth-century French manuscript called Liber XXIV philosophorum (Book of the 24 Philosophers), we find for the first time the notion that God is an infinite sphere whose centre is everywhere and the circumference is nowhere (‘Deus est sphaera infinita cuius centrum ubique, circumferentia nusquam’).23 You would not tell the medieval characters created by Rossellini and Fellini that they are the outcasts of a society that has marginalized them. Even if they understood the meaning of it all, the very idea would be irrelevant to them. They occupy an infinite sphere. Wherever they are, they are at the centre of their own universe, transfigured, untouchable, glorious in their ‘perfect joy’ which, as Francis understood, is nothing but the shining kernel of their suffering.24



La dolce vita Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love My Sins

All gods lead to Rome On 1 May 1956, Labour Day in Italy, the ACLI (Associazione Cattolica Lavoratori Italiani) – a powerful association of Catholic workers established by the Church in 1944, immediately after Rome was liberated from Nazi occupation – held its annual festival in honour of St Joseph the Worker. The main event was the arrival in St Peter’s Square of a statue of Christ transported by a helicopter flying in from Milan, as a gift of the Municipality of Milan to the Holy Father. Pictures of the helicopter’s journey were in all the newspapers. Four years later, Fellini recreated the image as the opening scene of La dolce vita (1960), adding a few touches that made it one of the most iconic moments of his cinematic oeuvre, one as relevant as Sylvia (Anita Ekberg) and Marcello (Marcello Mastroianni) wading into the Trevi Fountain at night. Two helicopters fly over the Roman countryside, where the Felice aqueduct in the so-called ‘Parco degli acquedotti’, close to Cinecittà, flanks a soccer field. The statue of Christ hangs from one of the helicopters. It is not tied to it, as the real statue was, and it is much bigger. Past the aqueduct, the two helicopters fly over the new housing projects built to replace the shantytowns that had sprung up after the war when immigrants, mostly from Central Italy and the South, had flocked to Rome. The profile of Christ with his arms open casts its fleeting shadow on the blank wall of a new building while two construction workers wave at him. In a more affluent part of the city, four women sunbathing on a roof look up and say, ‘It’s Jesus!’ One of the helicopters turns around and we are given a subjective shot of the roof. Marcello and the photographer Paparazzo (Walter Santesso) wave back at the women. Marcello tells them that they are taking the statue to the Pope and asks, to no avail, for their phone number. A ringing of bells welcomes the statue to St Peter’s Square. A quick – if not brutal – cut to a dancer 39


Fellini’s Eternal Rome

in traditional Thai costume introduces the next scene in a ‘cosmopolitan’ nightclub where Marcello is gathering gossips for his next tabloid article. Ancient Rome is in ruins, new Rome is under construction. The Holy See and Babylon exist side by side. After two thousand years, Jesus is finally coming to the Eternal City. He does not ride on a donkey, this time, though. He makes a modern entrance, only to find that the Church is already there and has taken his place. His arrival could be the beginning of a new age or just another newspaper story that will be forgotten the next day. Yes, a god has arrived in Rome, but Rome has always attracted many gods. At the end of the 1950s, Jesus found himself in competition with the new breed of Olympians that were invading from Hollywood. One of them is Sylvia (the most common nymph name in Arcadian literature), who is welcomed with more frenzy and anticipation than Jesus could possibly hope for. The bells ring again, this time louder, when Sylvia steps out on a balcony at the top of St Peter’s Cathedral. She is strangely dressed like a priest, but we feel that she is not out of place; in some way, she belongs. In the next scene, the fake pagan Rome of the pepla movies makes an appearance when one Frank Stout (Alain Dijon), a sword-and-sandals actor who after a day of shooting does not have the time to take off his blond wig and satyr beard, joins the party at the Terme di Caracalla and carries Sylvia in his arms during a ‘wild’ dance scene. (The hair and beard on gods’ statues were often painted blond in ancient Rome. The visual motif of the pointed satyr beard, already encountered in ‘The Miracle’, will reappear in 8½ in an ironic Catholic context.) During Sylvia and Marcello’s nocturnal wandering outside Rome and then back to the Trevi Fountain, Sylvia relates to dogs, whose howling she tries to imitate, and to cats that she wants to feed. She does not really communicate with Marcello or any other man, because she is Homer’s ‘queen of beasts’ (pótnia therón)1, Artemis-Diana, the goddess who hunts and is not hunted, who shoots from afar and cannot be captured. As J.G. Frazer points out, Artemis is parthénos, virgin, but not in the sense that she has never been touched. Within the context of classical mythology, ‘virgin’ means (in the main) an unmarried woman.2 It is true, however, that after being slapped (defiled) by her Tarzan husband (Lex Barker), himself a ‘king of beasts,’ Sylvia loses her goddess-like status and disappears from the story. But gods and goddesses never die. They just fade away for a while, and then return. In The Clowns (1970), Anita Ekberg reappears briefly to say that she would like to buy a panther. When she is shot in front of a tiger cage, for a moment it looks as though the tigers are afraid of her. In Intervista (1987), when

La dolce vita


she shows up wrapped in a towel and surrounded by her Great Danes, Fellini’s comment is, ‘These are lions!’ It is a mere coincidence that between 1958 and 1960, while Fellini was filming La dolce vita, an excavation at Monte Rinaldo in the Marche region brought to light the remains of an ancient sanctuary and several exceptionally well-preserved antefixes representing Hercules and the pótnia therón. That would have been no surprise to him; he was alerted to the Jungian tenet that all coincidences are meaningful. It is not difficult to argue that the three women in Marcello’s story – the fascinatingly promiscuous Maddalena (Anouk Aimée), his overbearing fiancée Emma (Yvonne Fourneaux) and Sylvia, the larger-than-life Hollywood star – are interchangeable substitutes for the primordial lost object. When they show characteristics that a ‘Latin male’ can recognize (sex, nurture, exoticism), they become suitable for a relationship. Yet all three women vanish from Marcello’s life, apparently without leaving a trace in his psyche. As film scholar Fabio Vighi says: ‘This splitting of woman into three fantasy projections reveals that in each case we are confronted with an act of sublimation aimed at concealing the absence of Woman, i.e. the fact that she is intrinsically an “inhuman partner” who can only be approached through fantasy.’3 It is an accurate assessment, except that Sylvia does not stand for ‘a modern version of the Lady of courtly love’. As Vighi claims, ‘Sylvia is deliberately characterized as an unattainable object’, but not all unattainable women are the ‘Lady’ of courtly love scenarios that Lacan discusses in his Seminar VII and XX . The Midons the courtly poets sing about is not a warm creature. She is cold, distant, arbitrary, inscrutable and often perversely cruel. The only relation that the knight or the poet can establish with her is that of servant–master, or the connection Job had with Yahweh. Like Queen Guinevere in Chrétien de Troyes’ Lancelot, the Lady cannot tolerate the slightest hesitation in obeying her incomprehensible orders, and does not think twice before shaming the wretched knight who has had the misfortune to fall in love with her. None of these features applies to Sylvia. She is whimsical and fickle, but she does not impose any task on anyone and certainly not on Marcello. She is just full of irrepressible, ‘inhuman’ joy because she is more-than-human. She asks Marcello nothing, expects nothing from him, and lacks nothing that a man like Marcello could give her. She is a real pagan goddess, not the tortured allegory of love that morphed into the frightful allegory of nature as we find it in the theological-philosophical poems of the School of Chartres and which then reappeared in the songs of the troubadours under the guise of the unapproachable Mistress of the Castle.4


Fellini’s Eternal Rome

Fellini’s link to the Middle Ages is Dante, not French courtly poetry. Through Guinizelli, Cavalcanti, Lapo Gianni, Cino da Pistoia and ultimately Dante, Midons undergoes a radical transformation that shreds most of her sadistic aspects. In Dante, the only character that reminds us of Midons is the mysterious Madonna Petra of the ‘stony poems’ (Rime petrose). When Petrarch describes Laura as a ‘beautiful and gentle beast’ (‘fera bella e mansueta’, Canzoniere CXXVI ), the oxymoron shows that the ‘feral’ component of the Lady is still there but no longer the dominant aspect of her personality.5 The angelic woman of Dante’s sweet new style (dolce stil novo) is far more complex than the definition suggests, but Midons, she is not. Fellini’s only angelic woman in La dolce vita is fourteen-year-old Paola (Valeria Ciangottini), who appears twice in the film and is awarded the last frame. We must discuss her separately, though, because she is more than a hasty visualization of Dante’s Beatrice. As for Claudia (Claudia Cardinale) in 8½, she is closer to a pre-Dantean allegory of wisdom and her name should have been Sophia. The secret of Sylvia, however, is that she can cross over from paganism into Christianity without losing any of her Olympian or even pre-Olympian features. If her cross-dressing as a priest were not enough of a clue, the baptism scene in the Trevi Fountain is the best demonstration of her double nature. When she wets her right hand in the water of the fountain and lets a few drops trickle on Marcello’s head, the water stops running. Marcello looks puzzled, even scared. He tries to caress Sylvia’s face but does not dare. You do not touch Artemis while she is bathing; you do not even want to look at her lest you be changed into a girl, as the myth says happened to Siproites of Crete. Sylvia does not change her expression. If Marcello is not worthy of her ‘sacrament’, the failure is Marcello’s, not hers. She can do nothing else for him. The ‘Miracle’ scene involving the two children who claim they have seen the Virgin Mary is the culmination of the analogous segments in La strada and Nights of Cabiria, not to mention the original miracle theme in L’amore. Through La strada, Nights of Cabiria and La dolce vita, Fellini stages a crescendo of demands addressed to God or his intermediaries (the saints, the Virgin Mary). In La strada, Gelsomina (Giulietta Masina) joins a procession but has no understanding of it. In Nights of Cabiria, at the Shrine of Our Lady of Divine Love (Madonna del Divino Amore, protector of Rome), Cabiria (Giulietta Masina) asks that her life may change. After the religious ceremony is over, Cabiria is the only one disappointed that things have remained the same (‘We have not changed!’, she cries), while all the other characters are perfectly resigned to the fact that miracles do not happen. Fellini is not making an anti-religious

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statement. He is stressing the self-fulfilling nature of any religion that involves staged communal rituals. If the faithful are an active part of the show, their requests to the deity do not have to be literally fulfilled. There will be no practical outcome, but there is satisfaction in the opportunity to request one’s wish in the most theatrical way. The crippled pimp called Uncle wishes to be able to walk again without crutches, and he gets a picnic on the grass instead. The demand has remained unsatisfied, but the baroque excess of the ceremony coincides with a certain amount of fetishized enjoyment that puts the demand on indefinite stand-by (‘I am still a cripple, but we had a great time’). Cabiria, on the other hand, takes her demand seriously, because love is what she demands, love is what she needs and she has no substitute for that. The procession was not theatre to her, and she found no compensatory thrill in the staging of her desire.6 Things get uglier in La dolce vita because the miracle is televised. In Nights of Cabiria, the pilgrims staged their demands for their own pleasure. Like the chorus in the early stages of the Greek tragedy, they were both actors and viewers. Their catharsis or abreaction did not come to them by means of a rational understanding of the drama unfolding before their eyes, but from the mental and physical exhaustion of total participation. In La dolce vita, the presence of the media abolishes the actuality of the ritual. Its truth is displaced; it will take place on someone else’s screen in someone else’s room. The old ritual might have been obsessive but one could at least ‘traverse’ it and emerge at the other side relatively unscathed. Now that TV broadcasting has hystericized it, the chance for emotional discharge is lost. The mischievous children who claim to have had visions of the Virgin Mary know very well that they are acting and their performance is all that matters. Because the believers are performing their beliefs for a distant audience, they have lost the ownership of their enjoyment. Not only are their demands unfulfilled, but they also must handle the remainder of a desire that can be postponed no longer and thus gets out of control. Their reaction is as furious as it is impotent, and it is symbolized in the tearing apart of the tree where, supposedly, Mary appeared to the kids. Emma too, after lashing out at Marcello and Paparazzo because they are like ravenous hyenas and ‘respect no one’, participates in the devastation of the tree. At least, she will possess one of the ‘holy’ branches – the only fetishist, selfdestructive ritual that she and the crowd can now enjoy. In the miracle scene of La dolce vita, Fellini rings the death toll of the Madonna Pellegrina movement, which ended as soon as Italy entered its economic boom. One priest is angry at the fake commotion and tells an interviewer that miracles happen in solitude


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and meditation, ‘not in this confusion!’, but no one listens to him. He is the only ‘reasonable’ priest – neither a bumbling mystic nor a cold representative of the pharisaic hierarchy – in Fellini’s entire oeuvre.

The fish-thing and the maiden Angelic Paola. Initially, Paola’s first appearance was supposed to occur after a rather gruesome episode. Marcello is on a boat with rich people on holiday. A young woman, who has decided to take a swim, is in the middle of an oil stain when one of the holiday-makers absentmindedly throws a cigarette butt into the sea. The oil catches fire and the woman is burned alive. Wisely, this episode did not make it past the treatment stage. Besides being gratuitous, it would have made it impossible to build up another climax at the end of the film. It is noteworthy, however, that ‘angelic’ Paola was to be introduced after those hellish flames. She occupies the centre of the film’s timeframe as a teenager from Umbria waitressing in a seaside restaurant where Marcello is clicking on his typewriter, hopelessly knocking at the gates of literature. Impressed with Marcello’s skill, she would like him to teach her typewriting. Her presence, which Marcello compares to ‘one of those little angels in the paintings that one can find in Umbrian churches’ (think of Filippo Lippi or Pietro Perugino), has a soothing effect, so much so that Marcello calls Emma and strikes a temporary truce with her. Paola returns in the final scene, again asking Marcello to teach her how to type. It is now a given in Fellini critical literature that she represents the only chance of salvation for Marcello’s lost soul – a salvation he rejects or simply does not recognize as such. The sequence leading to Paola’s final frame, however, shows that salvation is not a straightforward affair in Fellini’s work. The walk through the pinewood. The wild party is over and all the characters are scattered throughout a wood, either heading to their cars or just crossing the screen. Jacques Lacan mentions this scene twice, in Seminar Book VII (on the ethics of psychoanalysis) and in Seminar Book X (on anxiety). Never eager to please his audience, in Book VII Lacan obliquely suggests that the film did not impress him as much as it may have impressed the participants in his seminar. The ‘mirage’ of the film, Lacan says, ‘isn’t reached anywhere except at one single moment’. That is to say at the moment when early in the morning among the pines on the edge of the beach, the jet-setters suddenly begin to move again after having remained motionless and almost disappearing from the vibration of the light . . .

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Only the jet-setters start to walk, and they remain almost always as invisible, just like statues moving among trees painted by Uccello. It is a rare and unique moment.7

Lacan singles out the only visual element in Fellini that can be properly referred to classic, Longinian, pre-Kantian sublime: an overpowering intimation of transcendence, of finding oneself ‘out there’, exposed and de-subjectified, halfway between powerlessness and empathy, yet ‘filled with a proud exaltation and a sense of vaunting joy’.8 Unlike Rossellini, who could snatch sublimity out of thin air, and Pasolini, who laboriously strove for it, Fellini as a norm carefully avoided or even mocked all pretences of sublimity, except when the ‘vibration of the light’ pierced his screen like a ray of sun through the groves of the Garden of Eden. The first instance of such vibration occurs at the end of Nights of Cabiria (1957). Having barely survived the assault of Oscar (François Périer) by relinquishing all her money, destitute Cabiria walks through a spacious, shiny wood to a street where she is welcomed by young men and women smiling, dancing, singing and moving around in mopeds, innocent as angels. A similar vibration, this time in colour, shines at the end of Juliet of the Spirits (1965) when Giulietta (Giulietta Masina again), finally free from the ghosts of her past, leaves her house and walks alone toward the wood nearby, bathed in the clear yet surrealistic light of a Magritte painting. The fourth and last appearance of the ‘vibration of the light’ happens at Studio 5 in Cinecittà during the final scene of Intervista (1987) when a single ray of light (a ‘ray of hope’, Fellini says) materializes in the darkness of the studio. In a documentary released nine years after his death, Fellini mentions ‘the trembling of a leaf ’ as the potential genesis of an entire film, and he cites Akira Kurosawa’s Rashomon (1950) as the best instance of an artistic achievement made of pure light. In Rashomon, I saw a Japanese filmmaker who almost managed to photograph air, and by means of air, he let us glimpse into. . . The walk in the forest, for instance, with a man who has an axe on his shoulders and the sun is reflected on the blade of the axe, casting sparkles on to the leaves. That was an example of how film would narrate in the most imaginative and most complex way the reality that surrounds us. Interviewed in I’m a Born Liar, Damian Pettigrew, 2002

In a 1990 interview, Fellini says that, at times: ‘there is a vibration, a transparency, something that is less than a shadow, less than light, something that cannot be expressed as a sensorial experience. . . Such perceptions are


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beyond language, they cannot be translated, unless you try to recreate the memory of that moment.’9 In Fellini, the vibration of the light indicates a threshold between mortality and a notion of eternal life not necessarily related to the Christian immortality of the soul. In the first scene of Nights of Cabiria, Giorgio (Franco Fabrizi), Cabiria’s boyfriend, steals her purse and throws her into a river. Rescued by some boys who saw her drowning, for a few moments she lies between life and death. When she wakes up, she does not seem to understand what has happened to her, nor is she exactly grateful to those who saved her life. The last scene of the film repeats the beginning. Oscar, after dropping the pretence of being in love with her, comes dangerously close as if he wanted to kill her and throw her into a lake. Cabiria survives by giving up her money, but was she alive in the first place? Are we sure that she is alive when she crosses the threshold from the wood to the street and the ‘angels’ welcome her? Maybe she did drown in the first scene after all, but she did not know, and thus the film may chronicle her inhabiting the twilight zone that Lacan, in his analysis of Sophocles’ Antigone (again in Seminar VII ), has called ‘between-twodeaths’ (entre-deux-morts). Or perhaps Oscar did kill her after all, ‘freeing’ her from her ghost-like wanderings in and out of Rome. In Juliet of the Spirits, Giulietta is very much alive at the end of the film, but she too is entering a state of life that can be defined as ‘eternal’ in that it is no longer dependent on mundane events, hopes and fears. As we will see, in the case of 8½ and his main character Guido, the connection to eternal life is more ambiguous.10 The sea-monster. Some fishermen have brought ashore an unknown being from the depths of the sea. It vaguely resembles a large manta, but beyond that is unlike any known marine creature. The ‘jet-setters’ gather around the fish. One says with disgust, ‘But it’s alive!’ One of the fishermen says that the thing has been dead for three days. The camera frames the fish’s eye, which indeed does not seem to be dead. ‘And it keeps on looking!’ Marcello says (‘E questo insiste a guardare!’). What is it looking at? Who is it looking at? Initially, Lacan was inclined to downplay the easy association between the sea-monster and the Freudian ‘Thing’ (Das Ding) the repulsive, incestuous object of desire, which is one of the main topics of his Seminar Book VII (‘my famous Thing, which in this instance is some disgusting object that was caught by a net in the sea’).11 Das Ding cannot be seen if not by distortion; any direct image of the Thing is no more than a metonymy. But Lacan was just being elusive. The correlation between the Freudian Thing and the dead fish is no less true for being easy to spot. In Seminar Book X, Lacan leaves little doubt that the monster is indeed very close to the Thing:

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What gazes at us? The white glaze of the blind man’s eyes, for example. Or, to take another image, one you will remember, I hope, even though it harks back to another year – think of the gaudenti in La Dolce Vita, at the film’s final ghostly moment, when they make their way forward, skipping from shadow to shadow out from the pines and onto the beach, and see the dead-still eye of the marine creature [la chose marine] the fishermen are hauling ashore. This is what regards us over and above anything else, and shows how anxiety emerges in vision at the locus of the desire that the a controls.12

Which, in English translation, means that ‘a’ (as in ‘autre’, ‘other’), namely, the objet petit a (petit not because it is small, but because the letter ‘a’ must not be capitalized) forever lost, controls our desire and cannot be controlled. The anxiety that ensues ‘emerges in vision’ insofar as ‘a’ subjects us to its gaze. The chose marine is not ‘a’ (which cannot be represented) but the ‘Thing’ that stands for ‘a’. Let us go back to Cabiria. When she leaps out of the wood into her new life and looks at the camera, she seems happy, eternally happy. The film’s last frame, which blatantly breaks one of the main rules of cinema, has generated a substantial literature.13 True, she re-appropriates the gaze that the male characters had stolen from her, but the question remains: what do Cabiria’s look at the camera and the gaze of the dead fish in La dolce vita have in common? The answer is, eternity. Cabiria looks at us from the site of eternal life; the fish-thing gazes at us from the site of eternal death. Cabiria has traversed her fantasy, has crossed over; she is no longer an Antigone caught entre-deux-morts. On the other hand, the fishthing, dead for three days, is a failed Christ who has mishandled his resurrection and has remained trapped in the underworld. Nothing of him that doth fade, but doth suffer a sea change. No longer an object of bland desire, as it was at the beginning of the film when Marcello was triumphantly bringing the statue of Jesus to the Pope, this Jesus-fish is now a repulsive source of anxiety, whose gaze is bound to follow Marcello no matter how many ‘sins’ will he commit to keep Him, or It, at bay. Such a ‘disgusting object’, as Lacan called it in his Seminar Book VII , when for whatever reason he was not willing to say that it was in fact ‘the’ Thing, will not redeem Marcello nor will it have the power to sentence him to eternal torment. It will taint his desire, though. It will identify with his desire, it will be both Thing and object a, the correlate to Marcello’s troubled subjectivity. The promise of salvation gets its strength from the threat of damnation. For Jesus is a fish from the underworld. Ichthys, the Greek word for ‘fish’, is the acronym of Iesous Christos Theou Yios Soter (Jesus Christ, Son of God, Saviour),


Fellini’s Eternal Rome

the shibboleth the early Christians carved in their catacombs to mark the places where they could safely gather. Only by remaining ‘between-two-deaths’ can Marcello postpone the fateful encounter with He who comes to judge and is not judged. Paola’s Thing. In the film’s final frame, after Marcello has left Paola and, in her, his last chance of salvation, she looks at the camera as directly as Cabiria did. Hers is the beatific reverse of the gaze from the monstrous fish, but it is not antagonistic. In the first wide-angle shot following the monster scene, Paola is not there. We see a far-away structure of tubes around which a few children are playing. Fellini used the same visual motif in I vitelloni and in Nights of Cabiria, and he will use it again in 8½. In I vitelloni, when Giudizio, the village idiot, carries to the beach the wooden angel that Fausto and Moraldo have stolen and ecstatically worships him (or her, or it, because Fellini’s angels are androgynous), one can see a structure of wooden poles on the right side of the shot, like the skeleton of a hut to put a canopy on during the summer. It is only a frame, but no Fellini frame is just a frame. Later, when Fausto is frantically looking for Sandra on the beach, fearing that she has drowned herself and their baby, we get a complete visual of the structure. In Nights of Cabiria, after Cabiria has been rescued, she runs home passing in front of an abstract structure of metal tubes that seems to have no purpose and on which some children are playing. After her first date with Oscar, Cabiria gets out of her house and waves at the same children on the metal structure, who wave back at her. Immediately after, she meets Brother Giovanni, the last incarnation of the happy mystic Franciscan monk that we find in Fellini. Brother Giovanni cannot really help Cabiria. He is too much happy and too much in the grace of God to help anyone, but he does suggest that perhaps Cabiria did not get what he wanted from the Virgin Mary because she did not need it, and of course he is right. On a much bigger scale, a gigantic structure of tubes appears twice in 8½. At the beginning of the film, it is part of Guido’s dream. At the end, it is the launch pad of the spaceship, leaving planet Earth – a new Ark, whose pilots will be priests – supposedly the centrepiece of the film Guido Anselmi has in mind. In La dolce vita, very much like the vibration of the light, the structure represents a threshold between the sweet life on Earth and the eternal life and the children playing with the structure cannot be but angels. After a reverse shot of Marcello lying down on the sand, Paola appears as if from nowhere (that part of the beach was deserted in the previous frame), with

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the mysterious structure still in the background, three children who are playing with it and a woman, perhaps their mother, looking at the sea. A pool of gently rippled water divides Paola from Marcello. She asks him to fulfil his promise to teach her to type but the waves of the sea are making too much noise (amplified in the soundtrack). We cannot hear her words, nor can he. She insists, makes herself understood with gestures, but Marcello gives up. His last medium shot frames him covering his left eye with his hand, like the sinner in Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel. One of the women at the party puts a hand on his shoulders and pushes him away. Paola waves at him, smiles with a touch of sadness in her face and slowly turns her eyes toward the camera. The end. The Dante reference is unavoidable, and scholars have explored it at length.14 Marcello the pilgrim has walked through a pinewood like the Pineta di Chiassi, or Classe, south of Ravenna, which Dante mentions in Purgatorio XXVIII , 20. Dante has reached the banks of Lethe, the river that will make him forget his sins if he repents enough to be worthy of crossing it (Purgatorio XXXI ). Marcello, however, does not repent and turns away. But who is the woman on the other side of the water? Not Beatrice. There is no Beatrice in Marcello’s life. He has had his share of the sweet life and the sour life. The new life (vita nova) that began for Dante when he met Beatrice lies beyond his reach.15 Perhaps she is the young woman whom Dante sees gathering flowers on the other side of the Lethe. Who was she? The biblical Leah? The priestess Hero of the myth of Hero and Leander? One of Beatrice’s companions in Vita nova? (Beatrice names her Matelda in Purgatorio XXXIII , 118, without explanation.) ‘You have reminded me,’ Dante says to her, ‘of where and what / just when her mother was deprived of her / and she deprived of spring – Proserpina was.’16 The reference is to Ovid’s Metamorphoses: ‘This was the place where Proserpina played; / She plucked white lily and the violet / Which held her mind as in a childish game / To outmatch all the girls who played with her.’17 Persephone-Proserpina (also Kore or Cora, ‘maiden’) was the daughter of Zeus and Demeter. After Hades-Pluto, god-king of the underworld, kidnapped her, Demeter underwent a long quest to find her lost daughter, forbidding the earth to produce new crops until she found her. Helios (the Sun) and Zeus intervened and after some tricky negotiations with Hades, it was agreed that Persephone would spend the winter months in the underworld and the spring and summer months above the earth. In modern times, the obvious interpretation of the story as the archetypal agrarian myth (little grows above ground during the winter) has been validated by J.G. Frazer in The Golden Bough (1890–1915) and by C.G. Jung and Károlyi Kerényi in The Science of Mythology (1941).


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Following Erwin Rohde (Psyche, 1890–94) and Giorgio Colli (La sapienza greca, 1977), Giorgio Agamben points out that in the Eleusinian mysteries, Demeter and Persephone were often the same character. Demeter is herself a ‘queen of beasts’ and the mother–daughter myth involves an initiation to human life as a bridge between god and the animal.18 No matter how radiant Persephone appears during her time on Earth, in the winter season that she spends in the underworld she is queen of the dead and administers stern justice (in Odyssey X, 494, she makes sure that the curses against the dead are carried out). She commands the Furies and Medusa, as Dante knew well and as discussed in Chapter 1. In Hades, her river is the Styx (which Dante must cross in Hell at his risk), not the Lethe. She is celestial and infernal at the same time, sublime and obscene, an angel from an Umbrian painting and a terrifying creature of the depths. The monstrous fish (dead Christ and Persephone in Hell) gazes from the underworld. Paola (ProserpinaPersephone-Matelda) looks down from the upper world. The location of the gaze/look does not conform to the high vs. low hierarchy, though. The gaze of the fish (of Medusa, if you want) petrifies Marcello in his state as a debauched member of the leisure class. No Virgil was there to cover his eyes. Steiner (Alain Cuny), who could have been his Virgil, has committed suicide and has taken his children with him. Paola could reverse the nature of the gaze, if Marcello believed it possible. In fact, Marcello has always been subjected to a ‘divine’ gaze. While he was having an argument with Emma in his convertible car on a deserted road at night in the EUR district, an immense, impossibly elevated set of spotlights illuminated the landscape like a god with insect eyes – the same spotlights that had established their impersonal, alienating gaze over the previous miracle scene. In conclusion, both the fish eye, still ‘alive’ in death, and Paola’s move towards the camera but not Marcello, define the moral stance of the film (‘Oh, well, I did what I could. He can get lost now’). The fish and Paola are not the same thing, but they are the same Thing.


8½ Or Trouble in Paradise

An albatross around Guido’s neck The references to Greek and Roman mythology in 8 ½ (1963) revolve around the mysterious Saraghina and – broadly speaking – the theme of male metamorphosis, introduced when Guido Anselmi walks through a pinewood to meet a cardinal from whom he expects to receive spiritual advice. The pinewood again. The ‘vibration of the light’ the characters traverse in the pinewood scene of La dolce vita is discernible here too, but the promise of radiance does not materialize. In Rossellini and Fellini’s worlds, the passage into sublime immanence is for women only. Women transfigure when they reach that point where they are what they are and nothing else. They can still change, if they want, but no one can change them. They are beyond the power that men can exercise over them. Men, on the other hand, never attain the level of claritas or radiance that shines from Anna Magnani in the final frames of ‘The Miracle’, from Ingrid Bergman in the final scenes of Stromboli and Europe ’51, or from Giulietta Masina at the end of Nights of Cabiria and Juliet of the Spirits.1 Men go through sea-changes, which can be momentous, but do not lead to transfiguration. Neither Marcello in La dolce vita nor Guido in 8 ½ have the power to activate the radiance, nor do they possess the passive power to be receptive to it. Guido is intellectually more mature than Marcello, but he too goes through the pinewood without being enlightened by it. He is in fact lost in the wood like Dante in Inferno I, as Fellini himself said in an interview with Oriana Fallaci, and the people he meets are no Virgil to him.2 The people he meets along the way. Guido’s walk is flanked by props of young women carrying jugs and serving as doubles of the white-dressed nurses who distribute water to the clients of the spa (one of the roles Claudia Cardinale is supposed to play in Guido’s film). For a few seconds, we see a woman and two 51


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children passing by in the distance, almost a reminder of the woman looking at the sea and the children playing with the structure of tubes in the final scene of La dolce vita. The assistant who tells Guido that a meeting with the cardinal during the mud treatment is not feasible (a high prelate has his own private room) sports a pointed beard like Fellini in ‘The Miracle’ and Frankie Stout in La dolce vita. A black beard, not blond, but a satyr’s beard nonetheless. It is the first clue that the meeting with the Catholic high priest will involve mythical forces pre-dating the very Christianity that tried to rein them in. Walking past additional tall, classical props, a Monsignor who looks a bit like Vittorio De Sica comes along and joins Guido and the cardinal’s assistant. Guido tries to explain the religious crisis his protagonist is facing with the lexicon of 1950s psychoanalysis. His Catholic upbringing has given him ‘certain complexes, certain needs he can no longer repress’. The Monsignor kindly objects that cinema is not suited to dealing with such topics; film directors mix up sacred and profane love too easily. A wide-angle shot frames the cardinal (Tito Masini) in the distance. In the company of two nuns, a priest and a doctor, the cardinal sits on top of an amphitheatre whose curved wall is open in the middle, allowing the viewer to glimpse the slope of a hill in the background. ‘Yours is a great responsibility. You can either corrupt or educate millions of souls.’ The Monsignor’s final words before the meeting with the cardinal were familiar to Fellini. In the 1940s and 1950s, concerned members of the clergy were very active in either censoring dangerous films or wooing famous directors to the Church’s side, especially those like Rossellini and Fellini who were reluctant to embrace a leftist ideology. In the years of the fascist regime, the Italian Catholic Church created a network of Sunday-school cinemas, where films with the archdioceses’ stamp of approval were shown. Every Sunday, lists of recent films were pinned on churches’ doors everywhere in Italy. A film marked as ‘not recommended’ or ‘forbidden’ could not be marketed in those small towns where the only cinema was annexed to the church. The recommendations of the Centro Cattolico Cinematografico, established in 1935 and linked to the archdioceses and to the Italian Episcopal Conference, ranged from the overtly cautious to the negative. If a film was not absolutely safe in terms of language, sexual allusions and situations, it was recommended only for ‘fully mature adults’ or not recommended at all.3 After the Second World War, however, other branches of the Church took a more dialectic approach. In Milan, the Centro San Fedele – founded in 1954 and directed until 1967 by Father Arcangelo Favaro, SJ – was meant to create a space for intellectual conversation between believers and non-believers, and cinematic


art was at the forefront of the Centro’s activities. In Rome, the arrival of Dominican Father Félix Andrew Morlion (1904–87) put cinema on the Vatican’s agenda. Born in Belgium, Félix Morlion was a relentless activist, a highly skilled diplomat and an intellectual with a wide range of interests. In 1930, he established in Brussels the first centre for the Documentation Cinématographique de la Presse and directed documentaries. During the war, after the Gestapo put a price on his head, he escaped to the United States. In 1944, he came to Italy on an American passport and with the help of the US wartime intelligence agency Office of Strategic Services (OSS ). In Rome, he founded and directed the Università Pro-Deo (now the Libera Università di Scienze Sociali) and the Centro di Informazione Cattolico which might have been, among other things, an OSS front. The Catholic hierarchy in Italy had singled out Rossellini as a sympathetic director whom they could not afford to lose to Communist propaganda. Morlion got in touch with Rossellini and became involved in the production of The Flowers of St Francis. In fact, he took over from where Fellini had left off and his name appears in the film credits as a screenwriter, together with Franciscan Father Antonio Lisandrini. He was also involved in the production of Rossellini’s Stromboli.4 During the 1950s in Genoa, Father Angelo Arpa, SJ (1909–2003), created the first regular cineforum (screening of films followed by a debate) and established the Fondazione Columbianum for cultural exchanges between Italy and South America. During the 1960s, the Columbianum hosted major series of LatinAmerican films that had never been shown before in Italy or other European countries. Arpa, who was of Hungarian descent (his family name was Arpád), was influential in securing the general release of Nights of Cabiria despite the strong criticism coming from the government censorship office and the Church. He set up a private screening of Cabiria (very late at night to avoid publicity) for Cardinal Giuseppe Siri, Archbishop of Genoa, a young but extremely influential prelate who was then one the most progressive new cardinals (although he later became one of the most conservative). Siri, who according to Fellini was probably asleep most of the time, at the end of the screening mumbled, ‘Poor Cabiria, we ought to do something for her’. Due to the cardinal’s good disposition, the government censorship office (which remained in operation until the early 1970s) was easily bypassed and the film was eventually licensed for general release. After the screening at Cannes, however, and before the theatrical release in Italy, Fellini had to cut the scene in which Cabiria meets a man with a sack on his


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shoulders (played by crew member Leo Catozzo) who walks through the most desolate outskirts of Rome feeding the poorest of the poor, homeless people who live in caves. The Catholic charities voiced strong objection to that scene: in their view, no film should suggest that a secular individual would reach out where they would not go (the scene was subsequently included in A Director’s Notebook, 1969 and reinstated in its original place several years later).5 Father Arpa was also very outspoken – to the point of running the risk of being defrocked – in defending La dolce vita as a Christian film. In fact, the film’s release created a scandal whose magnitude is difficult to fathom today. The Church press and right-wing newspapers attacked Fellini mercilessly. His mother was terrified when the parson of Rimini, in one of his homilies, lashed out at the sinner who had shamed the city and threatened with excommunication anyone who attended a screening of La dolce vita. Shortly after the Dolce vita affair, Arpa established his production company, Golden Star International, to finance Rossellini’s Escape by Night (Era notte a Roma, 1960). The flop of Escape by Night was the beginning of a long series of financial troubles that plagued Arpa for the rest of his life. Apparently, fake cheques were involved. In 1967, Arpa was jailed and then expelled from the Company of Jesus. Fellini intervened to save him from jail, to no avail, and Arpa’s friends have always maintained that the decision to kick him out from the order was a belated punishment for his involvement in La dolce vita.6 He always remained on good terms with Fellini, though, as his spiritual advisor (one of the many advisors Fellini had). In Toby Dammit (1967), the cinephile priest who intends to produce the first ‘Catholic Western’, half Sergio Leone and half Pasolini, is an ironic-affectionate portrait of Father Arpa (and, as we will see, a distorted Arpa-like character will make his appearance in City of Women as well).7 The cardinal. Guido is now facing the cardinal and tries awkwardly to justify his desire to meet him, but the cardinal interrupts him, asking whether he is married and if he has children. Guido answers, ‘Yes, I mean, no’, which is an autobiographical answer from Fellini, whose only son, Pierfederico, born on 22 March 1945, died of encephalitis lethargica one month later, on 24 April 1945. Then, when the cardinal asks Guido how old he is (Guido answers, ‘43’, Fellini’s age at the time) a bird is heard singing. The cardinal asks Guido if he knows the name of the bird and proceeds to tell the bird’s story. It is a diomedeo (or diomedea). When Ulysses’ companion Diomedes died, birds gathered around him and accompanied his funeral by singing the wailing song that Guido hears now. Perplexed by the cardinal’s non-answer, Guido pretends to pay attention to the bird while all the others look up and listen


attentively. Through the opening in the wall, Guido sees a woman coming down a narrow path with a canvas bag on her arm. She lifts her skirt with both hands while she walks downhill and smiles. She is definitely an arzdora or azdora, ‘governess of the house’ in Romagnolo dialect, the elderly wife of the farm who supervises the work of the younger housewives while the men are at work in the fields. The arzdora makes sure that the food is on the table, the animals are tended and the linen are always clean and crisp. The legendary figure had not disappeared from Romagna’s countryside at the beginning of the 1960s. Fellini’s paternal grandmother Franceschina was a great arzdora while Aurelio e Miranda (Armando Brancia and Pupella Maggio), the parents in Amarcord, are a smalltown couple of arzdor and arzdora. The sight of the smiling, strong, motherly woman makes Guido forget that he is speaking with the cardinal who is not listening to him anyway, so he drifts off into memories of his early years at the boarding school, which brings the film to the Saraghina episode. We need to go back to the bird-loving cardinal, however, because he told the end of the diomedeo story but not the beginning, which is narrated briefly in Virgil’s Aeneid XI and with more details in Ovid’s Metamorphoses XIV. Now on Italian soil, Aeneas needs Diomedes’ help in his war against Turnus and the Rutulians. He sends therefore Venulus to Apulia, where Diomedes lives, to plea the Trojans’ case to him. Apparently, it does not matter that Diomedes, being Greek, is a former enemy. But Diomedes tells Venulus that he is now a poor farmer and has no one to spare. One of his men, named Acmon, one day vented his anger against Venus, the goddess who has taken against Diomedes and his crew. The other men, fearing Venus’ rage, try to silence Acmon, but it is too late. Acmon’s voice and throat grow thin, and he develops feathers, long wings, longtoed flat feet and a scissor bill. While his friends gaze at his transformation, they are turned into birds as well: ‘Fantastic creatures, very much like swans, / Yet not as handsome and a bit unpleasant, / They circled over the man who manned the oars, / Flapped wings, and flew away.’8 The diomedea is in fact the albatross. The legend of albatrosses mourning the death of Diomedes and standing guard at his grave may have originated from the San Nicola Island of the Tremiti Archipelago in the Adriatic Sea across Apulia, where a Hellenic burial site bears the popular name of Diomedes’ tomb. But why does the cardinal switch to a pagan story instead of listening to Guido’s very Catholic torments? Let us recall that 8 ½ begins with Guido’s dream of flying away from a traffic jam, only to be yanked down to earth like a bird on a leash. The Ovidian, mythological subtext stretches into the Saraghina episode, which too suggests a


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metamorphosis. Acmon was turned into a bird for insulting Venus, and the first ‘Venus’ who appears to Guido is the arzdora coming down the hill. The tough, protective mother, sexual but not vulgar, soon transmogrifies into Saraghina (Edra Gale, an American opera student). The central figure in Fellini’s female pantheon, Saraghina is the absolute Venus pandemia, Mother Earth and the ultimate Obscene Mama who initiates her Catholic ‘children’ to the promise of eternal (incestuous) sex. Fellini has called her ‘the horrifying and magnificent dragon’ and ‘the first traumatic vision of sex in the protagonist’s life’.9 He has also been generous with the story of his encounter with her. Saraghina was a ‘gigantic prostitute’, the first one he saw. It happened at Fano’s beach, south of Rimini, where Fellini would spend the summer in the local Salesian boarding school. The sailors called her Saraghina because they bought her favours with a few saraghe or saraghine (sea breams or grilled sprats).10 With the boys of Fellini’s age, she would shake her behind or even show them her private parts in exchange for some pocket money, roasted chestnuts, shiny buttons or candles that the boys stole from the church. She lived in an abandoned First World War blockhouse that smelled like tar, rotten wood and fish. The memory sounds true, but it was not Fellini’s own memory. It was that of Riccardo Fellini, Federico’s brother, who was sent to the Salesian school in the summer, and none of the Fellini brothers ever met Saraghina. Ennio Flaiano (1910–72), Fellini’s screenwriter and a remarkable author in his own right, incorporated in the script his memory of attending a boarding school in Fermo (south of Fano) and of a large woman called Saraghina. Flaiano always thought that Saraghina was one of his best contributions to 8 ½ and indeed it was. He deeply resented Fellini’s cavalier appropriation and the Saraghina dispute among them was one of the reasons why their collaboration ended by the time Fellini began working on Juliet of the Spirits. Unfortunately, the 1960s were the years of the director-as-God and the screenwriter’s contribution was hardly deemed worthy of critical attention.11 However, Fellini’s incorporation of Saraghina goes beyond the theft of a biographical reference. In many ways, she and Fellini needed each other. Saraghina, Fellini adds, is ‘a childish representation of a woman’ (the way little children see their mother: a big and overpowering figure, of a bigger shape than she is). She is endowed with animal-like femaleness, and at the same time she is ‘nutritive’. To Fellini, she was Woman as seen by the Italian teenager of his own age, kept in a condition of perpetual immaturity by the conjoined forces of ‘priests, church, family and harmful education’. Like the poor man who dreams


of becoming not just rich but fantastically rich, the poor Italian teenager would dream not just of a woman but also of ‘a great quantity of woman’.12 In a long 1963 conversation-interview between Fellini and the Spanish aristocrat writer-actor José-Luis de Villalonga, who plays himself in Juliet of the Spirits, the Saraghina tale undergoes such a process of novelization that all the added details match the film scene almost exactly.13 It is possible that Villalonga, while rewriting the interview several years later, matched recollection and film even more closely than Fellini had intended. Did Fellini really say that Saraghina’s smile reminded him of his mother’s smile? Did he say that he was eight years old when the whole tragedy unfolded – an age when boys usually take pride in saying that they hate girls? In the end, poor Flaiano never had a chance. Saraghina transcends all biographies. She is a new myth like Freud’s primal horde – a late but relevant addition to the Mediterranean cult of the Great Mother. When Guido, after the priests have punished him for dancing the rhumba with Saraghina, caves in to his temptation and goes to see her one more time, she is calm, facing the sea, with a long white scarf around her neck which waves in the wind like a bridal veil. Still horribly seductive, Medusa-like, when she says ‘Ciao’ to Guido she is also maternal. ‘Never trust the teller, trust the tale. The proper function of a critic is to save the tale from the artist who created it.’14 Anyone who writes on Fellini must keep in mind D.H. Lawrence’s saying. Fellini’s constant denunciation of the pervasive maternal idolatry in Italian culture (virgin mother, martyr mother, Mother Rome, Roman she-wolf, Mother Church, Madre Patria – ‘Mother-Fatherland,’ a uniquely Italian oxymoron) gives good cause for suspicion. All these maternal supplements, these fetishes of motherhood, Fellini claims, are meant to hide the absence of the ‘good mother’. We Italians, Fellini argues, ‘haven’t had enough of the “good mother” ’, which is why we constantly long for her and we perceive ourselves as hopeless little children.15 The gentleman doth protest too much. True, his diagnosis of the Italian national character, if such thing exists, complements the findings of Ernst Bernhard, his psychoanalyst friend and Jungian mentor (we will discuss Bernhard’s theory about the Italian cult of the Great Mother in relation to Satyricon). However, Fellini’s surprising conclusion that there is a deficiency of ‘good mother’ in the Italian psyche is an interesting clue. His devotion to the archetypal Big Mama (Sylvia in La dolce vita and Anita The Temptations of Dr Antonio, Saraghina in 8½, the Herculean woman in The Clowns, Oenothea in Fellini Satyricon, the tobacconist in Amarcord, the giantess in Fellini’s Casanova, the motorcycle mama in City of Women, even the female


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rhino in And the Ship Sails On, not to mention the ferocious steam-engine woman in The Voice of the Moon) is just the very transparent cover-up for the absence of a father and the absolute terror of maternal castration. As we can expect, the consequence of this fetishist concealment is a bitter, sadistic resentment against Woman, which will in fact explode in a key scene in The Voice of the Moon. For now, we will be satisfied with Villalonga’s acute observation: no matter how corrupt or proud a woman appears to Fellini, ‘she always hides an entity that has already been defeated. A reassuring entity’.16 Fellini loves and wants us to love Gelsomina, Cabiria, Juliet – women who introduce themselves as defeated. His male characters are in no position to love women who cannot be defeated (Sylvia, Paola, Claudia).

Circe vs the virginal saints So far, no one has contemplated the possibility that Saraghina might have a more illustrious lineage than that of a mad prostitute who fed on cheap fish. Change two vowels in her name, however, and she is Soreghina. In a well-known fairy tale from the Dolomites Mountains, which is also a famous folk song (a staple in the repertoire of mountain choirs), Soreghina is the ‘Daughter of the Sun’. She lives in the light of the sun. If she stays awake at nightfall, she will die. Soreghina falls in love with a proud warrior called Eye of the Night. One evening, she overhears Eye of the Night in conversation with a warrior friend, confessing his love for a princess he could not marry and had to leave behind. After his friend leaves, and thinking of Soreghina’s love for him, Eye of the Night repents of what he just said and opens the bedroom’s door to see if Soreghina sleeps well. Because she stayed awake past the twilight to hear the words of Eye of the Night, she now falls dead in his arms.17 Soreghina and Saraghina have nothing in common except . . . Except that in the Greek mythology (Hesiod, Theogony, 1011) the daughter of Helios (the Sun) is Circe, the seductive, scary sorceress who turned Ulysses’ sailors into swine to keep Ulysses at her side. A second metamorphosis is here at play after the one that befell Diomedes’ sailors and changed them into birds. Remember that Guido’s cape flaps like bird’s wings in the initial dream scene, and the boarding school boys who cheer at Saraghina’s rhumba also flap their capes like birds. Circe is also a main character in Book XIV of Ovid’s Metamorphoses (Ovid’s abridged rewriting of the Aeneid), which we have already mentioned in relation


to the diomedeo. Compared with Homer, Ovid gives Ulysses a less than heroic treatment, preferring to celebrate Circe’s magical arts and nymphomaniac inclinations instead: ‘No one more than she / Was ready to make love at any hour. / Whether she had an innate liking for it, / Or whether Venus, angry at Circe’s father / Because he had betrayed her love for Mars, / Gave Circe more than ladylike desires, / We cannot say.’18 Circe is jealous and vindictive. When Glaucus asks her for a potion to win Scylla’s love, she falls in love with Glaucus and concocts a brew that will turn Scylla into a monster, half girl and half a pack of dogs. Mad with rage, Scylla destroys Ulysses’ ships and would have destroyed Aeneas’ fleet too had she not suddenly turned into a rock. It is easy to connect the mythical and personal dots uniting the Saraghina episode, Fellini’s obsessive appropriation of her and his rage against the ‘bad mothers’ who do not allow Italian boys to enter adulthood. Saraghina-Circe has the power to change good Catholic boys into pigs (sexobsessed and infantile young males; in a word, vitelloni). Fellini-Ulysses must therefore ‘sacrifice’ himself to her desire and become the goddess’ lover so that the Italian little pigs can become men. But what about the absence of a father? Let us move from Homer to Shakespeare. Hamlet had three fathers. The Ghost was his imaginary father (whom Hamlet admired more than he loved him). Claudius was his symbolic father, from whom Hamlet could have received the symbolic mandate (the lineage to the throne) if he had chosen to disobey his superego and not to avenge his biological father. Yorick was Hamlet’s real father, the only one with whom he had an affective investment and remembered with fondness. In La dolce vita, Marcello has two fathers: his biological father, who is nothing but an imaginary figure (‘He was never at home, I don’t know him,’ Marcello tells Paparazzo) and his symbolic father, Steiner, from which Marcello hopes to receive the symbolic mandate to become an intellectual. Steiner, as we know, fails miserably. Marcello has two mothers as well: Emma, his motherly, nurturing, suffocating fiancée; and Sylvia, the feral, untouchable goddess who loves dogs and cats but not him. In 8 ½, the situation is repeated with few differences. Guido’s imaginary father is the one who is dead (Annibale Ninchi, the same actor who played the father in La dolce vita) yet even from the grave asks the producer if his son is behaving. The symbolic father is Pace, the producer (Guido Alberti). No real father figure is in sight, except perhaps Conocchia (Mario Conocchia), the caring production supervisor whom Guido cruelly disavows. Guido too has two mothers: his symbolic mother who in the graveyard dream subjects him to an incestuous kiss that reveals her as a displacement of his wife (in the logic of


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dream, however, the opposite could also be true), and his real mother, Saraghina, the only one for whom he shows real affection. Only after his encounter with Yorick’s skull, the relic of his real father, can Hamlet affirm his identity and symbolic mandate (‘I, Hamlet the Dane!’). Marcello and Guido, on the other hand, never meet their real father. There is indeed an overabundance of mothers, but only because there are no fathers to speak of. Fellini’s anti-heroes renounce their symbolic mandate from the moment they place themselves at the mercy of the goddess – a choice that subjects them to the constant fear of maternal castration, which is both infinitely deferred and constantly disguised as infinite philandering (Casanova and Sante Katzone, the ageing vitellone in City of Women, are the sad culmination of the entire process). After two priests catch Guido dancing with Saraghina, he is brought back to the boarding school where he must withstand a court of priests and his mother. Almost all the actors playing the priests are women. It is not a dream scene, but it looks like one and, like in a dream, its symbolism is overdetermined. In La dolce vita, as we have seen, Sylvia is clothed in clerical garments when she climbs the spiral staircase inside St Peter’s Dome. When she reaches the top and St Peter’s Square is below her (a background shot, as Fellini was not given permission to film within the cathedral), she could easily stand for a papessa, a female pope. Rather than suggesting a temporary relapse of sexuality on her part, her clothes hint at the maternal nature of the Catholic Church and the obvious fact that Mother Church is the true inheritor of the Mediterranean Goddess. However, this is not the only reason why the priests in 8 ½ are women (a dozing nun in The Clowns is a man, for that matter). In Fellini’s world, the clown is sexless and the angel is a hermaphrodite, but there is nothing clownish nor angelic about the sinisterly androgynous women-priests that shake their heads and repeat to Guido, ‘Shame on you, it’s a mortal sin, I cannot believe it, it is not possible’. No active sexual transgression is ‘possible’ to them, for they are eunuchs. Their wish, as well as the wish of Guido’s mother who is present at the scene, is to inflict on Guido the same real and not symbolic castration they have been subjected to. As Fellini said to José de Villalonga (if he really did say it), ‘There is Man. There is Woman . . . And then there is this Third Sex: the priest, his furtive motions, his undefinable look, his unique smell. That smell, which gave me so much pain when I was a boy. Rancid, sour . . .’19 The frame of young Guido facing his mother requires an iconological analysis. At the priest’s command, Guido turns mechanically, like a puppet (like Pinocchio) and starts running toward her, but she waves her hand and says, ‘Stop there! Oh,


God, I’m so ashamed, so ashamed and hurt!’ She dries her eyes with a handkerchief, making sure however, that one eye (Medusa’s eye, the Thing’s eye) is always open and fixed on her son. A painting occupies the centre of the frame. We have seen other paintings in the hallways of the boarding school: dull, undistinguishable former directors, but to an Italian viewer of Fellini’s generation the one that hangs from the wall between Guido and his mother is nothing but anonymous. It is a portrait of St Dominic Savio (Domenico Savio, 1842–57), one of the youngest Catholic saints. He was canonized in 1954, but his portrait would have been familiar to anyone who attended a Salesian school and his biography, written by St Giovanni Bosco – a Salesian father and Savio’s mentor – was used for decades as a textbook in Italian state schools. At the age of twelve, Domenico declared his intention to become a priest and was particularly devout to the dogma of Immaculate Conception (promulgated by Pope Pius IX in 1854). He died at fifteen, probably of pleurisy. In one of the anecdotes collected in Bosco’s biography, Domenico tore up a magazine of ‘indecent pictures’ that some boys were looking at, saying: ‘You know well enough that one look is enough to stain your souls and yet you go feasting your eyes on this.’ The boys replied that it was just a joke; they were doing nothing harmful. ‘If that is really so,’ Domenico replied, ‘it means that your eyes are already used to looking at such horrors.’20 St Dominic Savio stands for the virginal death Guido is supposed to strive for, and the refectory scene that follows brings the point home with even greater force. Guido is forced to kneel on a handful of beans thrown on the floor while a priest with a long beard and an acute voice reads pages from the life of St Aloysius de Gonzaga (Luigi Gonzaga, 1568–91), the ‘angel boy’ who had consecrated his virginity to God even before he received his First Communion. But above all, in his whole life and in any place where he lived, pious Luigi most abhorred any talk or dealing with women, whose presence he avoided in such a way that whoever saw him thought he had a natural distaste for them. He did not want to find himself in the sole company of his mother the Marchioness lest if it ever happened that while he was having a conversation with her. . .21

Cut to Guido hiding his face before a sarcophagus of some female saint who seems to have been portrayed in a partial state of decomposition. Guido runs into a room full of pseudo-baroque confessionals whose top decorations are shaped like the claws of an insect. He confesses to a woman-priest, who tells him that Saraghina is the Devil, and then goes back to the beach where Saraghina, sitting on a chair facing the sea, singing and with her long white veil around her


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neck, seems to be waiting for him. Fellini’s original idea was that she might be busy mending socks, like a ‘good mother’, but the veil reminds the viewer of the white scarf waving in the wind that Sylvia wears when she steps out of the aeroplane in La dolce vita. The recollection ends and the film returns to the main story. While the cardinal is having lunch a few tables away, sharing a joke about a priest and a communist, Guido listens to the relentless criticism coming from film critic Daumier. It takes a higher degree of education, Daumier says, to tackle the issue of Catholic conscience in Italy. One cannot be naïve about such a topic. The Catholic conscience? Please, ‘just think what Suetonius accomplished in the time of the Caesars!’ (A hint of Satyricon to come.) Your character, Daumier says, intends to denounce the church but because of his sentimentality he comes down as an accomplice. Not only did Fellini incorporate Daumier’s criticism in 8 ½, but he adopted it in a 1960 conversation recorded at the Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia in Rome, claiming that La dolce vita was ‘not a trial seen by a judge but rather by an accomplice’.22 The next imaginary scene is Guido’s second meeting with the cardinal in a location that could not be more Roman – the therma, the spa, where the comings and goings of the customers is directed by large half-naked men who look like extras from a peplum film. The cardinal, in a private room, no more than a finger-rising shadow behind a white sheet, resembles an old bird, perhaps one of Diomedes’ sailors turned into albatrosses. Now we understand why the cardinal could not address Guido’s religious and sexual problem. He too insulted Venus, like Acmon, and was turned into a bird. He and Guido do not actually meet. Guido speaks to him through frosted glass, as if confessing, and telling him that he is not happy. The cardinal answers that nobody comes into this world to be happy, and adds: Origen says in his homilies: extra ecclesiam nulla salus, there’s no salvation outside the Church. Extra ecclesiam, nemo salvatur. No one will meet salvation outside the Church. Salus extra ecclesiam, non est. There’s no salvation outside the Church. Civitas Dei. He who isn’t in the City of God, belongs to the Civitas Diaboli. 8½

The window slowly shuts and the meeting is over. Father Arpa suggested the quote. Either he made a mistake or Fellini thought that Origen (Origen Adamantius, 185–254) was an evocative name, because the actual quote – ‘Salus extra ecclesiam non est’ – comes from the lesser known Epistula LXXII , 21, of


St Cyprian of Carthage (200–58) and refers to the non-validity of baptisms administered by heretics.23 There is no salvation outside Mother Church, meaning that there is no salvation outside Mother. Suetonius could make sense of the birth pangs of the Roman Empire. Guido will never be able to make sense of himself because in a way he was never born, and lives his life moving from one womb to another. In the ‘harem dream’ episode, Guido’s wife, Luisa (Anouk Aimée), is scaled down to a submissive arzdora deprived of all her power and mystique – reduced, in fact, to tidying up the house and scrubbing the floor while the other ‘wives’ go to sleep. In the précis of 8 ½ that Fellini sent to his producer before shooting the film, he had imagined another and quite curious ending to the harem scene. Guido, ‘a serene patriarch’, comes home with a new girlfriend, whom the other wives welcome as one of them. He puts all of them to bed as if they were children. Then, all alone, he opens a door, walks through a narrow hallway and climbs a spiral staircase leading to a small room. Father Arpa is there, reading a book by candlelight and waiting to have a friendly conversation with Guido about initiation. Luckily, the idea was scrapped. Fellini never abandoned it completely, though. Toward the end of City of Women (1980), Snàporaz (Marcello Mastroianni) must climb a long ladder that will take him to a boxing ring where he will fight the final match between Man and Woman. But when he reaches the top, the women in the audience suddenly lose interest and begin to leave. The ring is empty, except for an old, hunchbacked maid who had already appeared before. She gets up from her chair and greets him, ‘Finally! I was falling asleep. Good boy, you’ve won!’ No one who has seen pictures of the ageing Father Arpa will miss how much he looked like the old maid. No matter how many women Guido or Snàporaz can pack in their dreams, it seems indeed that salus extra ecclesiam non est. To quote again from Fellini’s conversation with Villalonga: Some guys have decided, off the top of their head, that I am an atheist . . . What does it mean to be an atheist in Italy? . . . The expression, ‘out of the Church’s womb,’ must be there, somewhere. And here it is, you see, where the thing starts becoming ridiculous . . . First and foremost, I am Italian . . . Can you be Italian and atheist? Yes. The most aggressive atheists are here in Italy . . . But if you ask me, can you be Italian, atheist . . . and live your life entirely out of the Church’s womb? My answer is no, a thousand times no! . . . The Church never made me feel safe, never gave me joy. . . . The Church frightens me to death. . . . I am a Christian. I believe in the necessity of God. Because I believe in man. And God is the love of man.24


Fellini’s Eternal Rome

One understands two things from this monologue. First, Fellini is a true Christian, because for more than one thousand years being a Christian meant that the Church did scare you to death. Second, Fellini is not a Roman, because if you are Roman you are not afraid of the Church; the Church is family and, like family, first it represses you and then it finds you a job. In fact, Fellini speaks like a subject of the State of the Church, whose northern outpost was Romagna. Many of his contemporaries thought they were Italians while they were living – at least in their unsuspecting minds – within the old boundaries of the State of the Church. Only a non-Roman who thought he could treat Rome as his apartment (as he said), as his mother and his mother’s womb, would be so scared of the Church to the point of forcing himself to lift the veil on its monstrosity (in the medieval sense of monstrum – that which is worth being shown). No Fellini priests are scarier than Richard Basehart and Broderick Crawford wearing their fake cassocks in The Swindle (Il bidone, 1955) while they craftily rip off some greedy peasants. If priests are swindlers, then swindlers can be priests. Basehart and Crawford are not scary because they are swindlers, but because they could be real priests in good faith, asking for money in exchange for the worthless relic of some forgotten, legendary saint who never existed. At the end of the film, when Broderick Crawford repeats his swindler’s routine, he has indeed become the priest; now the suit does make the man. He rips off the peasants, again, and is willing to rip off his accomplices too, but he does not do it for himself. He does it for his daughter, the Virgin Mary of the story, and for the shrine where he wants to put her, the cashier seat for which his dirty money will pay the security.

The troublesome ethics of eternal life Let us return to Cabiria. As we know, she is a rather ‘fiery’ character. According to poet extraordinaire Gabriele D’Annunzio, who coined the name and wrote the intertitles for the original Cabiria film (Giovanni Pastrone, 1914), ‘Cabiria’ means ‘born from fire’.25 D’Annunzio’s etymology is dubious, but the name is clearly inspired by the Kabeiroi, Kabiri or Cabiri, pre-Greek, chthonic deities worshipped in Samothrace and possibly connected with Phoenician cults or the Phrygian Mother Goddess. After having been forgotten for two thousand years, Friedrich Creuzer and Friedrich W.J. Schelling (both convinced that the Cabiren were the most ancient Hellenic gods) ‘resurrected’ them at the beginning of the nineteenth century, spurring Goethe to give them a cameo appearance in the ‘Classical


Walpurgis Night’ of Faust: Part II.26 Because Fellini took the name from Pastrone’s film, and because Cabiria (Giulietta Masina), in her first brief appearance in The White Sheik (Lo sceicco bianco, 1952) is so fascinated by a fire-eater that she loses a client to a fellow prostitute, let us assume that she is indeed a creature of fire and only water can kill her. In fact, she ‘dies’ in the first scene when Giorgio pushes her into the river (we described Cabiria’s journey as entre-deux-morts in Chapter 3). After her first ‘death,’ she journeys through an unknown land where one adventure follows another. Sometimes she plays the main role, sometimes she is little more than a bystander. At the end of her story, she has become what she was at the beginning: almost dead by water (she is about to be thrown into a lake), but this time she does not resist death, and she takes us along in her first steps into the eternal life. The temptation to call it ‘paradise’ is strong. Cabiria is too innocent, too honest to live outside paradise. Every other choice, as she finds out, is only a futile attempt to live the sweet life (la dolce vita) while being entre-deuxmorts. Yet we must resist calling it paradise, at least for now. The religious connotation of the word would not allow us to understand what kind of eternal life Cabiria has joined. First, she must renounce any claim on her primitive accumulation of capital. The money in her purse is of no use in an eternal economy, one based neither on the anticipation of the future nor on incremental value. Cabiria has taken the long way of human economy (the money she saved from her work) only to revert to inhuman, eternal, ‘animal’ economy. At the end of the film, because now she is truly ‘dead’, Cabiria must forget that she used to be ‘mortal’. Mortals do not want just to live. Life pure and simple (what Aristotle called physis) is ‘eternal life’, the life of animals, not the life of human beings.27 Men and women want to live the sweet life, la dolce vita, whose unavoidable counterpart is obviously the sour life, la vita agra.28 Which means that men and women want to live the mortal life, not the eternal life. Such ‘life pure and simple’ extended into eternity would be bliss, if it were not that linear eternity is essentially inhuman and therefore otherwordly to the highest degree. Like the dying woman in Luis Buñuel’s Nazarín (1959), who wants her Juán and not the comforts of the last rites, the ‘mortals’ will resist with any means, including a denial that extends after death, the prospect of leaving the mortal life for eternal life. The endless legends of gods or demi-gods who choose to descend to Earth, marry a mortal and become mortal themselves reinforce the point (Jesus was the last God who chose mortality). To sum up: in Nights of Cabiria, Fellini has given us a hint of eternal economy. In La dolce vita, the logic of eternal guilt. In 8 ½, however, he gives us the ethics of


Fellini’s Eternal Rome

eternal life. Here the matter gets more complicated, because Guido’s ethics looks suspiciously like the ethics of an impossibly eternal good life. 8 ½ begins with Guido’s dream of flying out of a traffic jam. On a seashore, a ‘counsellor’ on a horse, with a mark on his forehead that gives him the appearance of a priest in some Egyptian-esoteric cult, orders an associate of his to yank the rope around Guido’s ankle that still connects him to the earth (the rope was not there when Guido had started floating in mid-air).‘Down for good,’ the counsellor says. Guido falls back into the sea, gasps and wakes up in a spa hotel bedroom suddenly invaded by doctors and nurses who ask him how he feels and take his pulse. The umbilical cord has not been cut, Guido was not reborn and perhaps he was never fully born in the first place. Toward the end, when the pressure to make the film the world is expecting from him has become intolerable, one of the production assistants (Cesarino Miceli Picardi) whispers to Guido that he will find a gun in the right pocket of his jacket. Guido crawls under the table of the press conference and amidst the insults of the crowd (‘Clown! Coward!’), he shoots himself. Another daydream? Is Guido fantasizing about suicide so that he can continue his dream?29 Perhaps not. Guido is no longer entre-deux-morts. He is dead, truly dead, like Cabiria, and ready for the eternal life. Instead of ‘It was only a dream, now I can wake up’, he can now say, ‘It was only life; now finally I can be dead.’ The happiness that suddenly seizes him makes him feel warmly again towards the real people in his life as well as his fictional characters. Guido finds out that it is right to accept and love them all, and that it is very simple too (‘Love is so simple,’ says Garance in Marcel Carné’s Les Enfants du Paradis, 1945). Everything is good, everything makes sense and everything is true. Or is it? In fact, everything still looks confused. ‘But this confusion is me. Not as I’d like to be, but as I am.’ He says to Luisa, ‘Life is a celebration. Let’s live it together. Accept me for what I am, if you can.’ With the entrance of the clowns, the film, the real one, can now begin – a film that can only take place in paradise. Or, if we are not ready to use that word, in the eternal life that Guido has fashioned for himself. In the magic ring of the circus, nothing that is not good, sensible, true and confused, but vitally confused, will ever happen. But let us be clear: the conclusion of 8 ½ is aesthetically gorgeous as it is ethically ambiguous. Throughout the film, Guido has been obsessed by the same question that drives authoritarian personalities into a superego frenzy: Why isn’t everybody happy? How can they not know that if they are not happy, I cannot be happy? Why do they want to make me unhappy? Woe to those who want to make me unhappy! Like every ‘good’ dictator, Guido wants everybody to be content: his wife, his


mistress, his producer, his actors and his crew. If they are not, he arranges them into erotic daydreams of ménages à trois, multiplies his lies or indulges in sadistic fantasies of punishment. In the circus ring scene, however, now that he is ‘dead’, he is finally happy, so happy that he does not need anybody else to be as happy as he is. He asks his ‘sweet creatures’ for forgiveness and proceeds to introduce them to his hard-earned wisdom, which in the end comes down to the Boudleaux Bryant song that would be a hit for Gene Watson: ‘Take Me as I Am (or Let Me Go).’ In his newfound eternal life, Guido will be free to cheat on his wife, deny his mistress and lie to his producers until the end of time, because ‘that confusion is me’ and it is a good thing too. Guido, in other words, stages a remarkable ritual of self-absolution. In La dolce vita, Marcello had refused the ‘passage’ that Paola was offering him: cross the whirlpool, come to me, come to the Garden of Eden. Guido needs no Proserpina-Matelda for purification. ‘Pure’ Claudia was supposed to assume the role. Guido tells her that there is no part for her, shrugs and cleanses himself by directing all the characters in his life (she does not appear in the final scene). If Marcello was a failure because he was always waiting for a symbolic father, perhaps Steiner, to legitimize him as a writer, Guido is a failed director until he realizes that as an artist he can legitimize himself and be his own catharsis. Like a medieval Brother of the Free Spirit, he has transcended what vulgar, spiritually blind people call ‘sin’. He can sin no more, because he has created an Eden for himself and there are no sins inside the Gates of Eden. When he was near to the completion of La strada, Fellini feared that he would not be able to shoot the remaining scenes and suffered panic attacks. Legend has it that he ran out of a session with psychoanalyst Emilio Servadio, sheltered under a tree from the rain and began a long affair with a female passer-by who recognized him and offered him her umbrella. Many years later, Servadio told the story to his colleague Simona Argentieri who called Fellini’s act an ‘escape into healing’.30 We may also call it an extraordinary act of self-absolution, a ‘rebirth into sin’ as opposed to a rebirth into purity – almost the beginning of a new religion. Its literary equivalent is not only Boccaccio’s Ser Ciappelletto, but also the criticism of pious life in the Marquis De Sade’s Dialogue entre un prêtre et un moribond (1782) which Buñuel used as the blueprint for the scene with the dying woman in Nazarín. Is an escape into healing truly different from an escape into a consoling (neurotic) illness? Do not we find the same hysterical anxiety at the core of both escapes? Is a rebirth into purity, at the basic dynamic level of the psyche, so distant from a rebirth into sin? In fact, the only real difference between Marcello


Fellini’s Eternal Rome

Rubini’s decision to embrace his sins and Guido Anselmi’s decision to become an eternal sinner is in the surplus of enjoyment that such decisions bring. Broadly speaking, the difference between what we have called Guido’s superego frenzy, and his final acceptance of the messiness of his desires, parallels the shift in Lacan’s assessment of the ethics of psychoanalysis from his ‘Rome discourse’ of 1953 to the pessimistic view that he expressed in his Seminar VII of 1959–60. In the paper that he delivered at the University of Rome, Lacan was still under the spell of Alexandre Kojève’s Parisian lectures on Hegel. He asserted therefore that the ‘dialectic’ of the analytical process was not related to the individual, ‘and that the question of the termination of an analysis is that of the moment at which the subject’s satisfaction is achievable in the satisfaction of all – that is, of all those it involves in a human undertaking’.31 Seven years later, he admitted that the over-optimistic tenet,‘There is no satisfaction for the individual outside of the satisfaction of all’ (which can be traced back to the politicization of happiness in both American and French revolutions) was grounded in the impossible premise that ‘the prerequisite [of happiness] is situated at the level of the needs of all men’.32 As a non-negotiable principle, such impossible premise can only lead to obsessive, indefinite postponement – or to political desperation, hysterical extremism and the pervert’s self-assurance that he knows what is good for us (‘I will make you happy, whether you want it or not!’, like Guido in the harem scene). The disenchanted conclusion that Lacan reached in 1960 is that doing good things for others does not save us from feeling guilty. In fact, the only thing we really feel guilty about is giving up on our desire. ‘What a subject really feels guilty about when he manifests guilt at bottom always has to do with – whether or not it is admissible for a director of conscience – the extent to which he has given ground relative to his desire.’33 At the end of 8 ½, Guido therefore adopts a post-political, post-moral, postreligious stance that is only tangentially Catholic (his kissing the hand of the cardinal looks like a gesture that is both sincere and devoid of commitment) but it is nonetheless ‘ethical’, true to Guido’s own daímon, to his character, his fundamental fantasy. His Holy Ghost, D.H. Lawrence would say. Perhaps it was worth dying to reach it, yet we must concede that men who do not give ground relative to their desire are not particularly sympathetic. Neither heroes nor antiheroes, they look like eternal vitelloni and maybe they are. After all, the ultimate desire of the vitellone is to be a man without having to sacrifice anything in order to become a man (without being subjected to symbolic castration, that is). Guido is not a vitellone, but he is not a positive character either, let alone a hero. A hero


must give ground relative to his desire. He must do it for his beloved ones, for his homeland, for his ideal, for his art. And he will be betrayed along the way. A man does not become a hero because of his deeds, but because his sacrifice comes as the consequence of a betrayal. True, Guido seems to have found a precarious balance between his desire and the willingness of others to let him enjoy the confusion of desires that he embodies. If he does not betray himself, they will not betray him. That is why absolute selfishness emerges as something both disturbing and endearing.



Fellini Satyricon I An Archaeology of Silence

Foreclosing Rome If we believe Fellini’s account, he read Gaius Petronius Arbiter’s Satyricon in senior high school, in an edition whose illustrations, which were meant to deeroticize the text, ended up making it more erotic for the teenage reader. He never forgot the impression the book made on him, and when he read it again while he was in the hospital in 1967, recovering from a rare case of SanarelliShwartzman syndrome (a dangerous reaction to bacterial endotoxins), the temptation to turn it into a film became irresistible.1 If that sounds too straightforward to be true, it is probably the case. Fellini was still reeling from the failure of not being able to film The Journey of G. Mastorna after the enormous amount of money spent in pre-production. Juliet of the Spirits had had a lukewarm reception. Toby Dammit, the short film he made in 1967 for a French omnibus project, artistic merits notwithstanding, was not a ‘major’ film. Fellini knew he had to commit himself to a big budget project, stick to it and deliver. He said, ‘Satyricon’, and producer Alberto Grimaldi, perhaps blinded by the prospect of Fellini finally filming those Roman orgies he had so clumsily suggested in La dolce vita, handed him the contract. On another occasion, Fellini claimed that he read the book only after signing the contract. After all, he had done the same with Toby Dammit. Convinced that film must be an autonomous art, and not being much sympathetic toward Visconti-like ‘faithful adaptations’ of literary works, he left the reading to screenwriter Bernardino Zapponi and took only one visual clue (the severed head) from E.A. Poe’s story (Never Bet the Devil Your Head) on which the film is ostensibly based.2 But why Satyricon? Why such a demanding text, if he had never read it before? Actually, the idea of working on Petronius’ novel might be traced back to the early 1940s, when Fellini was a cartoonist and comic writer at the Roman 71


Fellini’s Eternal Rome

magazine Marc’ Aurelio. He discussed with fellow writer and comedian Marcello Marchesi the possibility of using Satyricon as a theatrical vehicle for Aldo Fabrizi, a staple of Roman variety theatre who later was to become famous as the unforgettable Don Pietro in Rossellini’s Open City. Because of his rotund figure and his love for Roman food, Fabrizi would have made a splendidly comic Trimalchio. In 1967, Fellini did in fact consider Fabrizi for the Trimalchio role. When he changed his mind and gave the part to the Roman restaurateur Mario Romagnoli, also known as The Moor (Il Moro), Fabrizi felt insulted and ended his friendship with Fellini. Fellini has always been a great revisionist of his past. In this specific case, however, we can trust him when he says that he read Satyricon carefully and more than once – maybe not exactly at school, given that the scandalous content of Petronius’ novel would have been out of place on a school syllabus – and knew exactly what he was doing when he agreed to film it. In fact, Fellini never laid out the poetics of his movie-making better than he did with Satyricon. In his conversations with Charlotte Chandler, his observations on the novel and the reasons why it fascinated him have an air of meditated sincerity. In the 1930s, he says, Satyricon was one of his favourite reading matter, together with the great comic strips of the time such as Bringing Up Father and Felix the Cat. He found the novel’s fragmentary form intriguing (it too had the form of comic strips, one might say). ‘I was even more fascinated by what wasn’t there than by what was there.’3 He envisioned archaeologists of the year 4000 discovering a copy of Fellini Satyricon and wondering why the film is without a beginning, middle or end. Perhaps Fellini was unaware that he was expanding on one of Godard’s most famous quips (‘A film must have a beginning, a middle and an end, but not necessarily in that order’). Because Petronius’ fragments allowed him to get rid of all three requirements, his imagination was, as he said, ‘free to roam’ without being bound by the ‘rules of the present’. Fellini’s reference to the archaeologists of the future, and to archaeology in general, will be the guiding light throughout our analysis of the film. The haphazard nature of the novel epitomizes, to Fellini, his and our incomplete knowledge of the ancient world. The humanists of the Renaissance projected onto antiquity their own vision of it as a support for their cultural enterprise, which they believed was based primarily on the careful observation of nature, an enterprise that Greek and Roman artists had carried to the highest standard. On the other hand, they were also certain to be improving on the ancients. When Giorgio Vasari says, ‘from the time of the ancient Greeks and Romans to the present day, there never existed a man more rare or excellent than

Fellini Satyricon I


he’, meaning Filippo Brunelleschi, he leaves no doubt that Brunelleschi does indeed surpass the Greeks and the Romans.4 The idea that the Renaissance was a renaissance ‘of antiquity’ is a modern interpretation, originating in François Michelet’s Histoire de France (1855) and Jacob Burckhardt’s Die Kultur der Renaissance in Italien (1860) although it cannot be imputed only to them. Yet the very idea of continuity, not to say improvement, was foreign to Fellini. He had no idea of what antiquity was supposed to look like, or at least this was what he wanted to believe and wanted other people to believe as well. To him, antiquity was a lost world that historical knowledge was ineffective in bringing back. His education had done nothing to attenuate the sensation of absolute extraneity that he felt about the ancient world. At school, he was asked to learn lists of names and dates as if they were documents held in a land registry. He felt nothing except an indifferent and a little prurient curiosity toward that accumulation of data. The black and white pictures of Roman monuments looked funereal to him. Years later, not even a visit to the Museo Capitolino in Rome was enough to stir his interest. He was still turned off by the non-notion of antiquity that school had imparted to him. The only thing that did attract him was the bust of a woman who reminded him of his cousin Jole, who was always sick and bed-ridden (the bust represented Julia Cornelia Salonina, wife of Emperor Gallienus, who died in 268 and was known for her legendary cruelty). When Fellini says, ‘The psychical stratum which holds these memories has gone under, submerged by millennia of other myths, other forms, other stories’, he seems to channel the well-known vision of synchronic, unconscious Rome that Freud introduces in the first chapter of Civilization and Its Discontent. Now let us, by a flight of imagination, suppose that Rome is not a human habitation but a psychical entity with a similarly long and copious past – an entity, that is to say, in which nothing that has once come into existence will have passed away and all the earlier phases of development continue to exist alongside the latest one. This would mean that in Rome the palaces of the Caesars and the Septizonium of Septimius Severus would still be rising to their old height on the Palatine and that the castle of S. Angelo would still be carrying on its battlements the beautiful statues which graced it until the siege by the Goths, and so on.5

The unconscious knows neither time nor history; it is not subjected to entropy and decay. Because it is ever-present, it is inaccessible to introspection and can be detected only in glimpses of dreams, slips of the tongue, inexplicable forgetting, bungled and deferred actions and mysterious symptoms affecting our body. Fellini, however, radicalizes Freud’s notion. His idea of antiquity seems to


Fellini’s Eternal Rome

emerge from a complete disavowal, a foreclosure rather than repression. Whether it was Christianity that created paganism as its Other (a repository of whatever Christianity needed to repress to acquire its own identity) or the neutralization of antiquity was the result of middle-school drudgery, it made no difference to Fellini. Oblivious, or perhaps never fully conscious of the hide-and-seek game between Christianity and paganism that he had already laid out in his previous films, Fellini treated antiquity as an element rejected outside the symbolic order of modernity as if it had never existed.6 Putting together the ‘human tapestry’ (tappezzeria umana) of faces and bodies that usually populate the background of a Fellini film was more difficult this time. No one looked ‘ancient Roman’ enough to him. A Director’s Notebook, the 1969 documentary on himself that Fellini directed for the NBC network chronicling his creative struggles from the failed Mastorna to the pre-production of Fellini Satyricon, shows how he tried to dress everyday people in ancient Roman garb and have them act naturally, with poor results. At best, they looked like clueless extras in a low-budget peplum. They seemed believable only when they stood still, as in the sequence of the underground train passing through ‘forgotten’ stations where ancient Romans emerge like ghosts waiting for a convoy from Hades. Fellini understood he had to avoid any kind of resemblance to known reality, either ancient or modern. In particular, he had to avoid any similarity with the exotic, colonialist or fascist Romanness projected by Italian classics such as The Last Days of Pompeii (Mario Caserini, 1913), the already-mentioned Cabiria (Giovanni Pastrone, 1914) or Scipio Africanus (Carmine Gallone, 1937), not to mention the striking juxtaposition of a hero in contemporary clothes going through Herculean ordeals in the pagan underworld, as is the case with Maciste in Hell (Maciste all’inferno, Guido Brignone, 1926), the first film Fellini saw as a boy at the Fulgor cinema in Rimini. Nor could he capitulate to Hollywood’s Rome as it was portrayed in Quo Vadis? (Mervyn LeRoy, 1951), The Robe (Henry Koster, 1953), Ben Hur (William Wyler, 1959), Cleopatra (Joseph Mankiewicz, 1963) and The Fall of the Roman Empire (Anthony Mann, 1964). The clever, Cold-War reinterpretation of Roman history offered in Spartacus (Stanley Kubrick, 1960) could not spur his interest either. He was thinking of the Colosseum, ‘that horrendous lunar catastrophe of stone, that giant skull consumed by time and stranded in the middle of the city’. The Colosseum (an obsession for non-Romans) became to him the best symbol of the ‘alienness’ of antiquity when, for a moment, he saw it ‘as evidence of a civilization from another planet and it sent a shudder of fear and pleasure’.7 He

Fellini Satyricon I


had already used the odd-looking Colosseum in the traffic jam scene of Toby Dammit and he would use it again in Roma, yet there is no Colosseum in Fellini Satyricon. Just like there is no Rimini in I vitelloni, there is barely any Rome in his most Roman film. For the most part, the story takes place in Southern Italy or more specifically in a Roman time-space as uncanny as David Lynch’s planet Dune or George Miller’s post-apocalyptic Australia where Mad Max rides out. Fellini’s intention was to reinvent the Roman world as if it were ‘an ectoplasm’. He wanted to film it as a naturalist might film wild beasts moving about in the heart of the jungle, wrestling with each other, tearing each other to pieces, giving birth and dying unaware of a camera observing them. In this scenario, Rome is Flash Gordon, science fiction of the past, where interstellar travellers wear robes instead of space suits. It should be a film about Martians, Fellini said, whose behaviour is incomprehensible to us. We do not know why they do what they do; we can fathom neither their motivation nor their values. Of everything he said to get himself in the right mood to make the film – and he said a lot – two statements stand out. Our film, through the fragmentary recurrence of its episodes, should restore the image of a vanished world without completing it, as if those characters, those habits, those milieux were summoned for us in a trance, recalled from their silence by the mystic ritual of a séance . . . Certainly it is difficult to wipe two thousand years of history and Christianity off the slate, and square up to the myths, attitudes and customs of peoples who came long before us, without judging them, without making them the object of a moralistic complacency, without critical reserves, without psychological inhibitions and prejudices; but I think the effort will be precisely one of evoking this world then knowing how to sit back, calm and detached, and watch it all unfold.8 I ask myself if it’ll be possible to cancel two thousand years of history [and of Christianity] from our memory . . . without looking at them with an air of moral superiority, without judging them . . .? Perhaps the ancient world never existed, but there’s no doubt that we dreamed it. Satyricon should possess the enigmatic transparency, the undecipherable clarity of dreams.9

He also pointed out that the actors must be bad, that the dialogue should break up in places, and that the voice dubbing be out of synch in order to stress the estrangement the audience feels towards the characters – and to horrify Americans, who are obsessed with such technical aspects being on point. The film must resemble the work of an archaeologist who tries to put back together an ancient vase with fragments found centuries later, resulting in a jagged, incomplete, mutilated form, which nonetheless harks back to the reality of a


Fellini’s Eternal Rome

world that has disappeared and to the incomprehensible life and habits of a continent ‘buried in the galaxy of time’.10 Rome itself, Fellini said, ‘is an ancient broken vase, constantly being mended to hold it together, yet one that retains hints of its original secrets. It thrills me to think about the layers of my city and what may be buried under my footsteps.’11 We are still within sight of Freud’s synchronic Rome and not too far from, as we will see, Michel Foucault’s archaeology of silence. After explaining at length why ancient Rome is the paradigm of whatever is irretrievably lost, Fellini was also eager to suggest that extensive analogies can be drawn between his Martian Rome and the city where he lives in the present. Ancient Rome suffered the same turmoil – violence, a dearth of principles, desperation and fatuousness – as the contemporary city. Encolpius (Martin Potter) and Ascyltos (Hiram Keller) are ancient vitelloni who do not want to grow up and accept no responsibility for their lives; hence their amoral behaviour. But they are vital. They have the vitality of animals and their revolt against society consists in ignoring it, like American hippies obeying nothing but their instincts and a constant search for druginduced pleasures. All of which is true, if rather perfunctory, but it still leaves a question unanswered. How much available information had Fellini to consciously avoid if he really wanted to believe the rather incredible assumption that we know absolutely nothing of ancient Rome and about the life of its citizens, and thus the only way to portray Rome’s total Otherness is to treat it as if it were a civilization from a galaxy far, far away? The claim is all the odder because Fellini had the best sources at his disposal and he listed them dutifully: Apuleius’ Golden Ass, Ovid’s Metamorphoses, Horace’s Satires and especially ‘that cruel, degenerate, and crazy Roman world described by Suetonius in his lives of the twelve Caesars’.12 I am not saying that Fellini should have done his homework before declaring that Rome, one of the most documented civilizations in history, is as lost to us as a Toltec burial site. In fact, he did do his homework. His references were Vincenzo Ciaffi’s translation of Satyricon with facing text (1951, reprinted in 1967), Jérôme Carcopino’s Daily Life in Ancient Rome, C.W. Ceram’s The World of Archaeology, Joseph Vogt’s The Decline of Rome, René Ménard and Claude Sauvageot’s Les peuples de l’antiquité and Enzo V. Marmorale’s La questione petroniana.13 He consulted with historian Santo Mazzarino, spent an afternoon listening to Latinist and Petronius expert Ettore Paratore, and he enlisted Luca Canali, a young professor of Latin Literature at the University of Pisa, as on-site consultant. Bernardino Zapponi’s 500-page original script was extremely detailed. We need, however, to draw a larger picture of the cultural landscape that made it possible

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for Fellini to deal with Ancient Rome only by an act of disavowal. An extensive digression will be necessary if we want to understand the cultural implications of his dismissal of all that we know (or believe we know) about Rome and the epistemological rupture that such dismissal implied.

What were you (analogically) thinking? Between 1968 and 1972, while Fellini was busy filming A Director’s Notebook, Fellini Satyricon, The Clowns and Roma, several Italian intellectuals engaged themselves in the planning of a new journal that would approach literature and human sciences from an interdisciplinary perspective. Writers Italo Calvino and Gianni Celati, historian Carlo Ginzburg, philosopher Enzo Melandri and professor of French literature Guido Neri were all involved in the project whose tentative name was Alì Babà. The journal never saw the light of day. Calvino had envisioned a sophisticated yet popular magazine that could be bought at newsstands. Celati was inclined to a more speculative enterprise. Ginzburg, Melandri and Neri took part in the initial stages of the project until it became clear that the point of contention concerned Calvino and Celati’s diverging visions of the philosophical framework around which the publication was to be structured. Discussions were cut short in 1972, after Celati obtained a visiting professorship in the United States and Calvino became absorbed into a new book project that would eventually be Invisible Cities.14 Initially, both Calvino and Celati praised an article by linguist Paolo Valesio on the ‘language of madness in the Renaissance’ as a worthy contribution to the debate on the reason–madness opposition which followed the publication of Michel Foucault’s L’Histoire de la folie.15 Yet the reasons why Calvino and Celati were interested in the language of madness were the same ones that brought about the demise of the planned journal; namely, the growing gap between Celati’s strong embrace of the new, Foucauldian, archaeological paradigm of discontinuous knowledge and Calvino’s much more cautious approach to it. The rift between Italian historicist continuity and Foucauldian discontinuity is of paramount importance to any attempt to understand the role that Italian culture has played – and still plays – in the post-humanist cultural landscape, primarily in Continental Europe but with ramifications that extend to the English-speaking world. To Celati, Foucault’s notion of archaeology was just one link in a complex semiotic chain that included anatomy (Robert Burton), allegory (Walter Benjamin), analogy (Enzo Melandri) and conjecture (Carlo Ginzburg),


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each term standing for a paradigm of knowledge alternative to the Italian penchant toward historical continuity. Celati was initially attracted to Robert Burton’s Anatomy of Melancholy (1621) as a model of thematic research from which nothing having the remotest connection with the subject matter is excluded. By expanding the frame inherited from the Renaissance encyclopaedias, Burton did not separate credible information from imaginary accounts, choosing analogical completeness over scientific accuracy. Burton’s anatomy was Celati’s first step towards Foucauldian archaeology, whose manifesto was the introduction to the first edition of L’Histoire de la folie (1961). It is now virtually impossible to think of a genealogical and archaeological path to knowledge without referring to Foucault’s output in the 1960s. In those years, however, the discontinuity paradigm had other champions. Deleuze also influenced Celati, as did the discussions he had with Enzo Melandri, who was developing his own archaeological-analogical theory of knowledge, which he traced back to Kant’s Critique of Judgment. In his brief essay, ‘On Archaeology’ (‘Sull’archeologia’), Celati admitted his fascination for objects that no longer had the facility of speech:16 not just archaeological objects, but also all objects that no longer speak to us and turn de facto into archaeological artefacts. In semiotic terms, one could say that the archaeological objects, the connection with their interpreters (‘interpretants’ in C.S. Peirce’s lexicon) having been severed, are reduced to being signifiers without signified. Because the chain of signification is broken, they speak in faltering voices or do not speak at all. Yet they do not disappear; they stand mute, meaningless, but are no less ominous for that. In the years of the Calvino–Celati debate, the so-called ‘poetics of objects’ – extending from French Nouveau Roman (Alain Robbe-Grillet, Michel Butor) and Nouvelle Vague cinema (François Truffaut) to Italian modernist poetry and cinema (poet Vittorio Sereni, critic Luciano Anceschi, film-maker Michelangelo Antonioni) – was one of the most debated topics of the day. In many ways, the poetics of objects was also a forerunner to Jacques Derrida’s trace. In its game of presence and absence, trace shows, in a negative way, the location where presence signals its absence and retrieval is no longer possible. However, Benjamin’s notion of modern allegory as a broken code (as opposed to the transmitted cultural code of medieval allegory) had already provided the basis for a break-up paradigm long before Foucault’s archaeology and Derrida’s trace came along. As Renato Solmi pointed out in his 1966 introduction to the first Italian anthology of Benjamin’s writings, ‘Allegories – as Benjamin says in his essay on Baudelaire – are always allegories of the forgotten. Their true subject matter is oblivion.’17

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Calvino did his best to bow to the zeitgeist and embrace the discontinuity paradigm that Celati was championing, but he was an Enlightenment classicist to the core and his heart was not in it. In 1970, Calvino produced a brief prose piece, ‘The Archaeologist’s Gaze’ (‘Lo sguardo dell’archeologo’), which had been meant to be the introductory piece to the journal that never materialized. It was a rather clumsy article, in which Calvino catered to Celati’s inclination without having really grasped the implications of radical discontinuity at work in the archaeological gaze. Celati did not buy Calvino’s argument and answered with a letter that, friendship aside, did not tread lightly on Calvino’s theoretical shortcomings.18 Stubbornly, years later Calvino included his piece on the archaeological gaze in Una pietra sopra, his 1980 collection of essays, but he never came back to the topic and never expanded on it, at least in essay form.19 Yet the thorn was still in his side, so much so that, as we will see, his perplexity about archaeology is in fact the subject of one of his best Mr Palomar stories. Calvino felt a stronger affinity with Ginzburg’s conjectural paradigm, which satisfied his novelistic sensibility for those little clues that are essential to the solution of a mystery. Archaeology, allegory and discontinuity were just not his cup of tea.20 His true ambition, as became clearer and clearer to him during the 1960s and the 1970s, was to pack the classic continuity of literature so that it would be carried on safely to the next millennium. Foucault’s introduction to the first edition of L’Histoire de la folie, written in Hamburg in 1960, is a rejected text, a specimen of early enthusiastic prose its author soon outgrew. To try to recapture, in history, this degree zero of the history of madness, when it was undifferentiated experience, the still undivided experience of the division itself. . . . The caesura that establishes the distance between reason and nonreason is the origin; the grip in which reason holds non-reason to extract its truth as madness, fault or sickness derives from that, and much further off . . . There is no common language: or rather, it no longer exists; the constitution of madness as mental illness . . . bears witness to a rupture in a dialogue, gives the separation as already enacted, and expels from the memory all those imperfect words, of no fixed syntax, spoken falteringly, in which the exchange between madness and reason was carried out. The language of psychiatry, which is a monologue by reason about madness, could only have come into existence in such a silence. My intention was not to write the history of that language, but rather draw up the archaeology of that silence.21

It is easy to see how Derrida, a few years later, had a field day savaging this Romantic declaration.22 Foucault answered in 1972 with a new edition that omitted the 1961 introduction and replaced it with the appendix ‘My Body,


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His Paper, This Fire’, in which he rebuked Derrida’s criticism in the strongest possible terms. Mostly, Foucault objected to Derrida’s tenet that there is always a ‘textuality’ we can go back to, as if nothing could be truly lost and the Master were always in control of the chains of signifiers. A pedagogy which teaches the student that there is nothing outside the text, but that in it, in its interstices, in its blanks and silences, the reserve of the origin reigns; that it is never necessary to look beyond it, but that here, not in the words of course, but in words as crossings-out, in their lattice, what is said is ‘the meaning of being.’ A pedagogy that inversely gives to the voice of the masters that unlimited sovereignty that allows it to indefinitely re-say the text.23

Real madness is absence of text. If there is a text (an oeuvre, in Foucault’s phrasing), there is no madness to speak of. Derrida’s textual totalitarianism makes it impossible to cast one’s eye on the vast mental space that knows no textuality. It is as if Derrida were saying that modernity has established an allencompassing discourse, that there is nothing outside the gaze of modernity and that every discourse on non-modernity can be made only in the language of modernity. Fellini, for his part, did not need Foucault to develop a strong interest in the discourse on madness and of madness. It had been a major theme in La strada (1954). Immediately after the film’s release, Fellini became interested in Mario Tobino’s Women of Magliano (Le libere donne di Magliano, 1953).24 A psychiatrist and writer, Tobino had kept a two-year diary to chronicle his experience in a women’s mental hospital near Lucca, in Tuscany. Fascinated by the alternate reality described in the book and the alternate ‘reason’ that madness could generate (no textuality involved), Fellini paid Tobino a long visit, accompanied by Tullio Pinelli. Later, he sketched the story of a young doctor assigned to a women’s psychiatric facility who is torn between his grim duty and his inclination to have a good time until he finds a real motivation to help his patients. Fellini wanted Montgomery Clift to play the doctor, but Clift found the subject disturbing and rejected the offer (it is ironic that seven years later, he played a young Sigmund Freud in John Huston’s Freud: The Secret Passion, 1962). Apart from the main conversation, and yet essential to the full understanding of what was at stake, stands Enzo Melandri and his complex theory of analogy. Melandri published his massive work, The Line and the Circle (La linea e il circolo) in 1968, shortly before Foucault’s Archéologie du savoir was published in France.25 The timeline is crucial. Melandri was a logician and not a proponent of critical history, yet his approach to analogy should have been understood in parallel with Foucault’s archaeology (not just ‘in the light’ of Foucault’s archaeology), had

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Foucault’s terminology not seized the discourse and established its hegemony. Non-hegemonical works often suffer being incomprehensible in their own language. La linea e il circolo – an extremely demanding book – can be appreciated, even by today’s Italian readers, only by mentally substituting ‘archaeology’ every time the text says ‘analogy.’ To Melandri, analogy is the metonymical forest where language is replete with possibilities and prey to the endless game of permutations without reference. To echo Mallarmé’s warning, analogy is truly a demon unleashed: no matter how hard he tries, the narrator in Mallarmé’s Le Démon de l’analogie will never know the meaning of the strange words (‘the penultimate one is dead’) that popped up in his mind while he was walking down a Parisian street.26 The connection with archaeology reappears here. If historical comprehension works through metaphors (the past as a metaphor of the present), then archaeology works only through analogy, guessing and retrospection – the only codes left when cultural continuity is broken. La linea e il circolo is a product of its times. In 1968, Melandri believed that analogy could be summoned up to a political task. ‘Good’ analogies progress toward Hegelian-Marxist dialectics and political action; ‘bad’ analogies force us to go back to square one and deny that movement is possible (the movement of thought as well as political movement). Obviously, this is the dated aspect of Melandri’s theory. Much less dated is his observation that dialectics is always complemented by a non-dialectical moment, which remains analogical, nonmediated and possibly akin to Schelling’s absolute.27 Analogy, in other words, is the logic of immediacy, of the pure intimation of being. It is not symbolization and not metonymy either. Dialectics, as any other form of logic, strives to ‘comprehend’ it, to enclose it, but cannot neutralize it and will always bear analogy’s invisible mark under its skin. Analogy is a quantum leap. Fellini Satyricon, completed in 1969, appeared at a crucial juncture in French and Italian culture in relation to the debate opposing Italian historicism (humanism) and archaeology (post-humanism). Foucault’s L’Histoire de la folie had ignited the debate about the nature of the gaze that we direct toward the past and the exclusion procedures that we put in place to build and preserve our reason from the external forces that the very act of establishing the domain of reason create. The epistemological rupture of modernity first outlined in Walter Benjamin’s essay on German mournful drama (1928), and subsequently in his Theses on the Philosophy of History (1940), eventually developed into Foucault’s archéologie du savoir. In the Anglo-Saxon world, Foucault is known as a historicist and the term seems to imply some reliance on continuity. In the Italian tradition,


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however, being a historicist means believing that there are no discontinuities at all, or at least no discontinuities that cannot be resolved in a more comprehensive paradigm. In Italy, Foucault’s historicism was perceived as a radical rupture. My thesis here is that Fellini Satyricon is the most powerful ‘Foucauldian’ statement, in terms of epistemological rupture, that Italian culture – often historicist and classicist by default, Futurism and other occasional revolts notwithstanding – has ever produced.28 If we rewrite Foucault’s first introduction to L’Histoire de la folie as if it were a preface to Fellini Satyricon, the mash-up would go like this: To try to recapture the degree zero of antiquity, when it was undifferentiated experience . . . The caesura that establishes the distance between modernity (Christianity) and antiquity is the origin; the grip in which Christianity (modernity) holds antiquity to extract its truth as madness, excess or sickness derives from that . . . There is no common language: or rather, it no longer exists; the constitution of antiquity as documental object . . . bears witness to a rupture in a dialogue, gives the separation as already enacted and expels from the memory all those imperfect words, spoken falteringly [the out-of-synch dubbing], in which the exchange between antiquity and modernity was carried out. The language of so-called historical films, which is a monologue by modernity about antiquity, could only have come into existence in such a silence. Fellini’s intention was not to engage that language, but rather draw up the archaeology of that silence.

The strength of Fellini Satyricon lies in the power of its analogies, although not the incidental ones, which abound. The hallways in the ‘Marriage Agency’ episode (1953) anticipate the run-down, collapsing Insula felicles. Eumolpus (Salvo Randone), strolling through the museum of pre-imperial art while ‘tourists’ from Ancient Roman time are carried around on carts looking like scaffolds, sounds like every modern-day disgruntled intellectual who complains that his symbolic mandate has been revoked. And perhaps Encolpius and Ascyltos are two young Zampanos who will never find their Gelsomina, but the subversive power of analogy, the way Melandri understood it, strikes the viewer of Fellini Satyricon in unexpected, exceptional moments. Take the labyrinth scene, for instance. Encolpius has been thrown into the labyrinth to fight with a tall man whose face is covered by a mask depicting a bull’s head, and who carries a hefty club in his hand. Fellini Satyricon is not the typical Hollywood film in which the resourceful hero throws a handful of sand into the eyes of his enemy, blinds him temporarily and manages to gain the upper hand. Encolpius knows that he has no chance and he is not ashamed to plead for mercy.

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‘Why aren’t you fighting a gladiator instead of me? I’m a student! Don’t take your anger out on me. Spare me! I don’t know why they’re playing this joke on me. I’m not fit for this fight. I’m not Theseus, worthy of you. Dear Minotaur, I’ll love you, if you spare me. I beg you, have pity on Encolpius. You know me, right? So, forgive my incompetence.’ Fellini Satyricon, subtitles

Analogy has the power to annihilate distance. The immensely distant turns out to be immensely close. Melandri was not entirely wrong; there is indeed political power in analogy that overcomes historical continuity. I still remember vividly how Encolpius’ line, ‘I’m a student!’ startled me the first time I saw the movie. It was in 1972, when students’ movements in Italy were heavily repressed. The film was labelled ‘Restricted’ and I had to wait until I was eighteen to see it. It was legitimate to have doubts about Encolpius’ qualifications as a scholar and aspiring poet (he did not seem too bright), but that did not matter. The labyrinth charade, which is not in Petronius, might have been inspired by the mock trial in Apuleius’ Golden Ass III , 1–11, but it was not a period piece and it spoke in the present tense. Without mediations, without metaphors, allegories, or symbolism, thanks to the sheer power of analogy, Encolpius was every student who in 1968 and thereafter – in Paris, London, Berlin, Rome, at the Chicago Democratic Convention, at Berkeley – was fighting against the Minotaurs of the powersthat-be. Surprisingly, Fellini’s Minotaur appreciates Encolpius’ words. ‘It’s not cowardice,’ he tells the Proconsul, ‘it’s the sensible speech of an educated young man,’ and he spares his life. The Minotaurs of the Ohio National Guard who killed four unarmed students and wounded nine others who were protesting the Vietnam War at Kent State University on 4 May 1970 were less sympathetic. Fellini, however, had personal reasons to show a Minotaur who takes a liking to Encolpius and declares that as far as he is concerned, this is the beginning of a new friendship – as if the two were Humphrey Bogart and Claude Rains in the final scene of Casablanca. Those reasons belong to the oneiric order of discourse. The shape of the bull’s head is inspired by Pablo Picasso’s Minotaur (1933, Musée Picasso, Paris) and Picasso is a welcoming presence in Fellini’s pantheon of dreams.29 Besides, Fellini greatly admired Jung’s essay on Picasso and artistic creativity, which he read like a portrait of himself and the ‘schizophrenic’ inclination of his art.30 But what belongs to the analogical order of discourse is that Fellini Satyricon it is not just a film shot in 1968. It is the film of 1968 as much as Lindsay Anderson’s If . . . or Dennis Hopper’s Easy Rider.


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Madness or ‘mental confusion’? Parallel lives 1. In 1971, Celati published Comiche, the first of four novels whose subject is, broadly speaking, the language of madness. Or, better, the syntax of mental confusion, of marginalized subjectivities who cannot conform to what community and society expect from them.31 Celati’s preference for a broken language that does not aim to communicate was a direct threat to Calvino’s resistance to discontinuity. Calvino’s faith in continuity, however, was based on a self-defying paradox. In his Invisible Cities (1972), all the cities that Marco Polo describes to Kublai Khan are positively lost. They may exist somewhere or may have never existed, archaeological objects whose meaning is irretrievable, except in the analogical narrative that the Venetian traveller elaborates to make them understandable to Kublai Khan, who never leaves his palace. In the end, Marco Polo discloses that all those cities that he described were permutations of Venice. Their reference, their ‘sense’ is therefore safe, as much as Venice, the precarious city on water, can be considered safe. As long as Venice does not sink into the Adriatic Sea, Marco Polo’s analogies-as-cities or cities-asanalogies will stand. On the surface, Invisible Cities is a triumph of imaginative metaphors. Yet in essence, it is a deeply analogical work. Marco Polo holds the secret genealogy of the analogies he is piling up, but he will reveal it only at the last moment, solving a mystery whose existence Kublai Khan did not even suspect. 2. After the completion of Fellini’s Casanova (1975), Fellini could not let go of Venice. He used to travel to Venice in winter, trying to capture its magic for a projected film simply called Venezia, the companion piece to Roma. True, Venice was not Rome. It did not stir the same love-hate sentiments in him and he did not feel the need to make it incomprehensible, to distance himself from the preconceived image of how Venice was supposed to be filmed. He read John Ruskin’s The Stones of Venice (1853) and Frederick Rolfe’s The Desire and Pursuit of the Whole: A Romance of Modern Venice (1913, published in 1934). The idea remained with him until the end of his life, but all we have of the Venice film is a 200-page manuscript of notes that few people have seen. It was an archipelagofilm, made of scattered fragments like the islands of the lagoon. The protagonist is Stein, an elderly American director who is modelled after Erich von Stroheim. After visiting the cemetery where Stravinsky, Rolfe (Baron Corvo), Diaghilev and Ezra Pound are buried, Stein goes underground, or better underwater, exploring the fragile foundations of the city. In reality, Stein is retrieving the memories of all the places he visited with a woman he met in Venice many years

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before and then disappeared without leaving a trace, until he realizes that all the women in Venice look like his lost woman. In the meantime, Venice has been bought out by Caliban, a TV tycoon (Silvio Berlusconi, obviously) who intends to transform the entire city in a television studio. But the year is 2075 and global warming is bringing Venice a high tide from which the city will never recover. The water rises, mixed with dirt, debris and waste, and Venice is submerged.32 3. In one of the travelogue chapters of Calvino’s Mr Palomar (1983), the eponymous character is visiting the ruins of Tula together with a Mexican friend, an expert in pre-Columbian civilizations who is more than willing to teach Palomar the symbolism of the Toltec culture. At the same time, a class of Mexican schoolchildren is on a field trip at the ruins. A young teacher shows the columns, statues and the reliefs to his students, gives them a few facts and then, invariably, ends up saying, ‘No se sabe lo qué quiere decir’, we don’t know what they mean. Palomar is fascinated by his friend’s erudition, yet he is even more attracted by the severe pedagogy of the young teacher. Perhaps, he thinks, the refusal to interpret the ruins of the past is the only way to show them respect. But Palomar’s friend is not impressed. At the relief-frieze known as Wall of the Serpents, when the young teacher says again, ‘we don’t know’ why each serpent is holding a skull in its open jaws, the erudite friend cannot keep silent: ‘Yes, we do!’ he says. ‘It’s the continuity of life and death; the serpents are life, the skulls are death!’ Palomar does not know what to think. He has no idea what ‘life’ and ‘death’ meant to the ancient Toltecs and, for that matter, to the schoolchildren who perhaps are their descendants. He is not even sure what those words mean to him. As much as he leans toward the opinion of the schoolteacher, however, he cannot reject his well-read friend, because he sees so much of himself in him. He knows that he cannot repress his need to translate, to move from one language to another and ‘weave and reweave a network of analogies’. In the meantime, the teacher listens to Palomar’s friend high-level explanation, then turns to his pupils and says: ‘No es verdad. It is not true, what the señor said. We don’t know what they mean.’33 Is the Mexican teacher representing Celati, who would say, ‘we don’t know what it means’ for each objet trouvé he found? Palomar-Calvino assumes the position of the neutral observer, yet he knows that weaving archaeological analogies is as hazardous as pretending to command historical metaphors. 4. In 1987 Ermanno Cavazzoni, a writer from the Celati circle, published The Poem of Lunatics (Il poema dei lunatici), a novel whose subject matter is, once again, ‘the language of madness’. But ‘madness’ is never the right word, neither in Celati nor in Cavazzoni. The title of the second abridged edition of Foucault’s


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History of Madness was Folie et Déraison: Histoire de la folie à l’âge classique (1964). Déraison translates as ‘insanity’, but déraison or, in Italian, ‘sragione’, is what the characters of Celati and Cavazzoni have in common. ‘Sragionare’ is what they do. They belong to the illustrious tradition of Ariosto’s Orlando and Cervantes’ Don Quixote, without forgetting the Shakespearian fools and Hamlet’s cunningly calculated ‘sragionare’. In modern psychiatric terms, they are not insane. They follow a different path, not the opposite of reason as much as a parallel, endless ‘un-reasoning’ that runs on a different track than commonly defined rationality. Fellini did his best to overcome the pitfalls of the archaeology of silence and indeed he gave voice to those who sragionano. He did it in La strada, in The Clowns, and he would have done it with the women of Mario Tobino’s hospital too. He could not give a sympathetic voice to the characters of Satyricon because they speak to us from their proud, archaeological Otherness where terms such as reason and unreason may not have much meaning. At the end of his career, however, he was drawn once more to the language of gentle déraison and based his last film, The Voice of the Moon (1990) on Cavazzoni’s novel. One element of the never-realized Venice film resurfaces in The Voice of the Moon. As Stein understands that the woman he lost is all the women of Venice, so Ivo Salvini (Roberto Benigni), the main character of The Voice of the Moon, realizes that Aldina (Nadia Ottaviani), the woman with whom he is in love, is all the women and all the women are Aldina. A corny analogy, to be sure, but an analogy nonetheless. 5. In 1991, Celati directed his first film, Provincial Road of the Souls (Strada provinciale delle anime). Mainly a homage to photographer Luigi Ghirri and his unique vision of Northern Italian countryside, the film documents a journey to the mouth of the Po river. It revisits the places where Rossellini shot the final scene of Paisà and explores the Romagna where Fellini was born and grew up, populated with the same people, houses, churches and flat landscape that Fellini did not want to shoot, opting for substitute cities or studio reconstructions instead. One night, Celati, and his friends who are travelling with him, stop their bus and recite Giacomo Leopardi’s Night Song of a Wandering Shepherd in Asia. That scene could be cut and pasted into The Voice of the Moon, where references to Leopardi abound. 6. In May 2006, Celati gave a lecture at the University of California, San Diego, on ‘Fellini and the Italian Male’. He pointed out that the typical Fellini male looks at women as an assembly of partial objects. As one can see in three scenes from Amarcord, one time it is the bottom (the arzdoras mounting on their bicycles

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after one day at the market), another time is the breast (Titta and the large tobacconist), then the thigh (Titta making a pass at Gradisca). To the repressed Fellini male, the woman is an automaton, a sex toy made of replaceable parts – which explains the final scene of Casanova. But the mad uncle in Amarcord, who from the top of the tree screams ‘I want a woman!’, unmasks the whole fetishist construction, which is meant to protect the ‘sane’ males and keep them safe in their captive state. Desire is always directed toward a representation to which it will give meaning, but the primary impulses belong to the movement of matter. As soon as the impulses are elevated to the level of desire in which ‘dreams must become true,’ the space of mental confusion opens. That is the reason why the mad uncle climbs down from the tree and leaves with the midget nun without uttering a word, in a state of bewilderment.34

The mad uncle has no access to partial, erotic satisfaction. He wants a woman, which means he wants Woman. He wants the impossible, that is. He wants Saraghina. But no one can have Saraghina, who – Celati says – is one of those ancient, wide-hipped goddesses of fertility represented in pre-Minoan statues. She cannot be objectified, nor can she be reduced to the harmonious proportions of a Greek marble. She exudes sexuality without being a sexual object. She is an ‘archaeological remnant’ (resto archeologico) that modern man must expel from his mind since it has no connection at all with the world in which he lives. That is why, we can add, the large woman and the small woman (the midget nun) fulfil the same function. When you look for Woman, size does not matter. Neither Saraghina nor the foul-mouthed midget nun can be reduced to an object. A Thing, perhaps (the same Thing), but not an objet a.



Fellini Satyricon II ‘Seek out the ancient mother’ (Aeneid III, 96)

‘The mask is ripped off ’ Every good story begins with the retrieval of a manuscript. The existing fragments of Satyricon have been found, transcribed, lost and found again in a span of time that encompasses nine centuries. The earliest excerpts, from the scriptoria of Auxerre, Fleury and Orléans, were copied between the ninth and twelfth centuries and are known as O and L. In 1423, while visiting the library of Cologne cathedral, papal secretary and humanist Poggio Bracciolini discovered the complete Coena Trimalchionis (known as H) and had it transcribed in the miscellaneous Parisinus 7989, which was probably compiled in Florence. The Coena resurfaced in the Codex Traguriensis found in 1654 by Marinus Statileus in the Cippico palace at Trogir (Traù), now in Croatia. Nine editions of Petronius’ fragments had already appeared, but the first printing of the entire Coena (Book XV ), which Pietro Frambotti published in Padua in 1664, meant that the novel could be read as a more coherent work rather than a mere collection of paragraphs. The first comprehensive edition appeared in Amsterdam in 1669, edited by Michael Hadrianides. Others followed in the eighteenth century before Franz Bücheler published the editio maior of Petronii Arbitri Satyrarum Reliquiae (Berlin, 1862), the obligatory reference for subsequent revisions including Konrad Müller’s, which is the standard edition now.1 As soon as Satyricon, in all its scattered glory, made its way through the libraries of Europe, its incompleteness became a favourite target for exercises in para-literature. If the complete manuscript was nowhere to be found, there were editors and translators more than willing to fill in the gaps. The first spurious additions were the work of one José Antonio González de Salas (1643). The most famous ones, still reprinted in recent times even though nobody disputes their non-authenticity, came from François Nodot, a French soldier and amateur 89


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philologist who claimed that a manuscript saved during the sack of Beograd (1688) contained the entire novel. He was not the author (the faux Petronius was concocted in France by several scribes) and perhaps he believed, or wished to believe, that he had made a genuine discovery. His edition, published in Cologne in 1691, fooled no one, certainly not Gottfried von Leibniz (Letters, Vol. 9, 295–300), but the desire to claim possession of the entire Satyricon was too strong. During the following centuries, it spurred either claims of other sections found or simply generous attempts, up until recent times, to write prequels and sequels to the parts we know. In its own idiosyncratic way, Fellini Satyricon takes its place in this sometimes illustrious (and other times less-than-illustrious) tradition – not so much in terms of the textual additions, but for the power of Fellini’s visualization. The film is 20 per cent Petronius and 80 per cent Fellini, as has been said, or perhaps 30/70. At any rate, it would be difficult now to read Petronius’s text without thinking of Fellini’s choice of faces, costumes and colours.2 Bondanella compares the twenty-four sections of the original Satyricon (in accordance to William Arrowsmith’s division) with the twelve parts of Fellini’s scenario and the eight sections (sixty-eight scenes) of the final film.3 It is a useful guide, some inaccuracies aside (in Petronius, Encolpius’ impotence is not cured by a male lover but by Hermes, and Theseus does not journey into Minos’ labyrinth in search of Ariadne).4 It is remarkable, however, that no one has picked up Fellini’s hint that he liked Petronius in the same way he liked Bringing up Father and Felix the Cat. No matter how detailed the comparisons between novel and film are, Fellini does not linearize Petronius’ text as much as he subjects Petronius’ narrative to a comic strip treatment. Until the very end, when Eumolpus and Ascyltos are positively dead, the characters enjoy the same invulnerability as the heroes from the Warner Bros. cartoons. Every new scene is a new strip. Some elements of the previous strips are kept, others are discarded. The film’s structure is not just mimetic of the fragmentary nature of the original text. The hyper-modernity (not postmodernity) of Fellini Satyricon lies less in some notion of literary experimentation than in its references to popular culture. The characters have no recognizable psychology; they are utterly exteriorized and moved only by fate, which means by desire. They do have a mythical, archetypal unconscious, though, which they are constantly acting out. If they become agents of the narrative, or if it seems that they can push things their own way, it is because fate (desire) has enlisted them for the realization of a specific goal soon superseded by another one, as if the first goal did not matter much in the first place. Among the characters, Eumolpus is the one who goes through the

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most momentous changes in the whole story, but even his changes are quantum leaps rather than developments of his personality. In ‘A Spectator’s Autobiography’, chosen by the editors at Einaudi’s as the introduction to Making a Film (Fellini’s haphazard collection of writings), Italo Calvino makes a few observations on Fellini’s ‘programmatic anti-intellectualism’. In Fellini, he says: . . .the intellectual is always a desperate person, who in the best of cases hangs himself like in 8½ [Daumier is actually hanged in Guido’s imagination], and when his hand slips he shoots himself after having killed his children like in La dolce vita. (The same choice is made in Roma in the age of classical stoicism) [Calvino refers to the aristocratic, literate couple – the wife recites Hadrian’s Animula vagula blandula over her husband’s dead body – who commit suicide before the arrival of the soldiers of the new emperor].5

In Fellini, Calvino adds, ‘a spiritual, magical form of knowledge and religious participation in the mystery of the universe runs counter to cold, intellectual rational lucidity’, but this is just Fellini’s ‘rational’ justification. ‘The sanguine nature of his spectacular instinct remains instead as constant defence from intellectualism, the fundamental ferociousness of the carnival and the end of the world that his Rome of today or antiquity undoubtedly evokes.’6 Calvino does not mention Eumolpus, who does not conform entirely to the profile of the desperate intellectual insofar as he does something that for a true intellectual would be impossible. He gives up on poetry, literature and erudition. In the first part of the film, Eumolpus is introduced as a poet and mentor of Encolpius and he fits the part. In the picture gallery scene, he is angry, melancholic and depressed while contemplating the current demise of culture, but he is also serious about poetry. When he reappears in the second part of the film, he has become a rich, pleasure-driven man who plays the ultimate prank on his legacy hunters. As he writes in his will, if they want to enjoy his inheritance after he is dead, they must cut his body to pieces and eat it. Is there, in Fellini’s oeuvre, another intellectual who gives up? Yes; Marcello in La dolce vita. After Steiner’s death, he abandons his attempts to be a writer, becomes a PR person, makes more money than ever before and dominates parties where he insults and degrades all the people in his milieu who cannot but remind him of his failure. We must follow Eumolpus’ career, therefore, as if he were an older, more skilled and more cynical Marcello. Luca Canali, the Latinist who advised Fellini during the shooting of Satyricon and remained good friends with the director, implicitly corrects


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Calvino and all those who have accused Fellini of being uncultivated when he says: Fellini’s opus ranks among the most intellectual achievements in Italian cinema. Visconti’s intellectualism is of a different nature, it is aristocratically refined (his insistence with period furniture, for instance . . .). Fellini on the other hand invented everything, but always in accordance with an intellectual project of the highest order.7

In the banquet scene, Eumolpus behaves like the usual penniless poet-parasite who sits at the table of the nouveau riche, whom he despises. He pretends not to hear Trimalchio’s awful poetic compositions and mythological references that are invariably wrong, until he cannot take it anymore and ‘gets’ Trimalchio on the account of the latter’s plagiarism of Lucretius. The scene is worth analyzing. In Petronius, the line vaguely resembling Lucretius’ occurs in a different situation and is only one of the endless parodic references crowding his book. Encolpius, Giton (Max Born) and the rhetorician Agamemnon (who does not appear in the film) escape the chaos of Trimalchio’s banquet after the fire brigade, thinking that Trimalchio’s house is on fire, breaks the doors down and throws water everywhere. Encolpius and Giton finally manage to go home. During the night, Ascyltos steals Giton from Encolpius’ bed, taking advantage of the latter’s drunkenness and does with Giton as he pleases. When Encolpius wakes up and finds out that Giton has switched partners, he orders Ascyltos to leave. A fight ensues, until Ascyltos suggests that Giton decide who will be his lover. Encolpius agrees, not fearing that Giton might leave him, and is dismayed when Giton chooses Ascyltos and departs with him. The text moves from prose to poetry. In four couplets, Encolpius laments the fickleness of friends who show their true colours when you expect them to be generous and ends with the line, ‘the pretend faces vanish, the real one returns’ (vera redit facies, assimulata perit, 80, 9). In the film, Encolpius does not say a word and contemplates suicide by dagger. He is interrupted when the Insula felicles, where the scene takes place, suddenly collapses. Later, at a museum of pre-imperial art, he meets Eumolpus, who invites him to Trimalchio’s banquet. Busy stuffing himself while scoffing and grunting at the host’s poetic inanities, Eumolpus knows he must play nice, but only to a point. ‘Listen to my verses,’ Trimalchio says to him. ‘On a stage a troupe performs a mime. An actor plays the father, another one plays the son, a third plays the rich man. But as soon as the show ends, the pretend faces vanish, the real one returns. How’s that for poetry, eh, poet?’

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Eumolpus, who is completely inebriated, cannot keep quiet. ‘To tell you the truth,’ he says, ‘you stole them from Lucretius.’ Trimalchio is offended but Eumolpus insists, ‘That’s Lucretius! That’s Lucretius! I’m a poet, you’re not. You don’t write verses, you steal them! I am the poet here!’ Angrily, Trimalchio reminds Eumolpus that he has raised him from the gutter and fed him, and orders his servants to throw him in the oven, which they almost do, while Encolpius does not move a muscle. The terrifying close-up of Eumolpus against the background of roaring flames might be interpreted as the poet’s awareness that he is now a superfluous man (if he is not thrown into the fire, it is because Trimalchio could not care less about him), or the dawning of his decision to abandon poetry and cross over to Trimalchio’s side. After the banquet, in a desolate landscape, Eumolpus pronounces a poignant ‘farewell to poetry’, bequeathing it to Encolpius, and his valediction must be taken at face value. He will indeed abandon poetry. Yet we must resist a linear interpretation of Eumolpus’ metamorphosis into a cynical member of the parvenu class. Trimalchio’s banquet is Book XV of Satyricon, which means that the original manuscript was quite long. Given the proto-picaresque structure of the story, we must assume that in the complete Satyricon anything could happen. The characters are not bound by any kind of consistency and Fellini respected that. For all we know, Encolpius might have been buried under the debris of Insula felicles, yet in the next scene we see him unscathed strolling through the gallery like Wile E. Coyote at the start of a new chase after Roadrunner. The line, by the way, is not plagiarism, at least not in Latin. In Lucretius, it reads, ‘the mask is ripped off; the reality remains’ (eripitur persona, manet res).8 The Italian line used in the film, however (‘Scompare il volto finto, ritorna quello vero’) could translate both Petronius and Lucretius. Asked if Eumolpus’ rage at the alleged plagiarism was his idea, Canali answered that it was not, and the credit must go to Fellini and Zapponi. Fellini was indeed aware of the wide-ranging connotations of persona, from his Latin meaning as ‘mask’ to the ‘social mask’ of Luigi Pirandello’s characters (Pirandello is one of Fellini’s unacknowledged fathers), not to mention the significance of the persona archetype in the psychology of C.G. Jung: ‘A kind of mask, designed on the one hand to make a definite impression upon others, and on the other to conceal the true nature of the individual’. The mask is, however, necessary, given that the lack of persona makes a man blind to reality and incapable of dealing seriously with the external world.9 However, Jung clarifies, ‘when we analyse the persona we strip off the mask, and discover that what seemed to be individual is at bottom


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collective; in other words, that the persona is only a mask of the collective psyche.’10 Jung makes no mention of Lucretius, but it is likely that Fellini reached Lucretius via Jung’s notion of persona. Eumolpus wanted to unmask Trimalchio and he found himself unmasked as a leech of the new ruling class. What is consistency, what is textual fidelity in the world of the wealthy liberti such as Trimalchio, who now dominate the life of the city and have privileged access to the imperial throne (as it happened during Claudius’ and Nero’s reigns), while the old aristocracy represented by the senatorial class is kept at bay or publicly vilified? Petronius weighs in on the ‘corruption’ and ‘decadence’ of Rome exactly as Suetonius does, and he complains about the demise of rhetoric and the arts, but he is also ironically conscious that the old days are gone. Fellini agrees with him. He sees vitality in corruption and the birth of a new world amidst chaos. There will come a time when Fellini is no longer able to align himself with the world in which he lives, as in the final years of Ginger and Fred (1986) and The Voice of the Moon (1990), but that time is still far off. In 1969, Fellini is ready to break with the past as much as Encolpius and Ascyltos are, and as much as Eumolpus learns to do when he is one step from being thrown into the flames like the virgin sacrificed to the Phoenician god Moloch in Pastrone’s Cabiria (the obvious visual reference in the oven scene). The unmasking (and discarding) of the individual persona is the key to the ‘Widow of Ephesus’ episode, told by Eumolpus on Lichas’ ship (Petronius, 111–12) and relocated by Fellini at the end of Trimalchio’s banquet, where the story is narrated by Hermeros, one of the guests (played by a medium called Genius). On a superficial level, the inconsolable widow who quickly falls in love with a handsome soldier and hangs her dead husband on the cross – so that her new lover will not be accused that the corpse of the crucified thief he was supposed to watch has been stolen by his relatives – is an early variation on the misogynistic theme, ‘Frailty, thy name is woman’ (Hamlet, I, 2). On a deeper level, the complacent smile cast on the muliebris levitas commonplace fits perfectly Petronius’ reassessment of the new persona that helps you survive in times of constant social and moral upheaval. The ‘genital type’ (vraie génitale), whose best exemplification is Queen Gertrude, Hamlet’s mother, follows an economy of desire in which mourning is an unnecessary expense (‘Thrift, thrift, Horatio. The funeral baked meats / Did coldly furnish forth the marriage tables’).11 Because Gertrude does not differentiate between the ‘good’ lost object (her dead husband) and the ‘bad’ new

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object (Claudius), she fully adopts the saying, ‘The king is dead, long live the king’. Or, perhaps, its Italian version, ‘A king is dead, another is made’ (‘morto un re, se ne fa un altro’), which is in fact the common comment made when a widow remarries not long after her husband’s death. But the Widow of Ephesus does not fit the genital type. Her mourning is serious, sincere, or at least socially sincere. Yet it is impossibly over the top, an uncomfortable exaggeration of the acceptable mourning persona she is supposed to wear. By ripping off her mask, the soldier exposes that there was no ‘individuality’ in the widow’s posture, no individual consistency, only a byproduct of the collective norm. And that is a good thing, because if inconsistency is the new consistency, the dead husband is just the end of a strip and the soldier will be the new strip. Eumolpus, the renegade poet, does not need to go through a believable change of heart to embrace his new persona. However, if his behaviour at Trimalchio’s banquet was within the order of the imaginary (he took Trimalchio’s posturing seriously and defended imaginary values), his change of heart puts him in touch with the Real. Trimalchio organized his own mock funeral; Eumolpus really does die. Trimalchio served imaginary food (everything served at his table looked like something else); by taking literally the regression from the symbolic to the real that is implied in the totemic lunch, Eumolpus asks his would-be heirs to eat his flesh. The necrophagy theme, however, requires further analysis, which we will address later.

Lichas, Acéphale The films of Fellini are full of heads. Gigantic heads, ominous heads, angel heads, broken heads, speaking heads, heads that are carried around, heads that are thrown away, flattened heads, painted heads, sculpted heads, mosaic heads, golden heads, heads made of flowers, half-heads, Dante’s head with no skullcap – as we briefly see it in the tobacconist scene of Amarcord – and, in Toby Dammit and Fellini Satyricon, severed heads. In I vitelloni, drunk Alberto (Alberto Sordi) leaves the dance hall dragging around a huge papier-mâché head as the transparent metaphor of a phallus he does not know what to do with (‘We must get married!’, he cries to his friends). In the procession scene of La strada, where shots of Jesus on the cross are juxtaposed with shots of dead pigs in a butcher’s window, hung upside down with their legs stretched out, Gelsomina tries to hide from the crowd in an alley.


Fellini’s Eternal Rome

When a throng of people runs toward her, she quickly moves away and stops with her back against the wall under a poster of the Immaculate Conception. She looks up ahead and sees a picture of the Virgin Mary and Child being carried around, surrounded by a crown of wooden sunrays. It looks like an inconsequential scene, but why are these people running? There is no explanation in La strada, but we find it in Fellini Satyricon. After the scene in Vernacchio’s theatre (Vernacchius in Latin, but the name of the actor, played by comedian Fanfulla, is Fellini’s invention), Encolpius and Giton, strolling through the Suburra, reach a narrow street where a chariot drawn by six galloping horses carries a gigantic, incomplete head of Nero. We know it is Nero because Fellini himself described the scene in his preparatory notes: REMEMBER : INCOHERENT PROPORTIONS TINY MEN IN CLOSE UP AND GIANTS IN THE BACKGROUND The colossus of Nero transported on a chariot through the alleyways of Suburra.12

The unexplained alley scene in La strada remained dormant in Fellini’s mind for fifteen years, until the shot of Nero’s head completed it. After seeing Fellini Satyricon, we know that in La strada the people on the run should have carried something, a cross, a statue, or a head. They did not, yet now Nero’s head occupies the place that La strada had left empty, and it must be stressed that it is the same place. To paraphrase Freud (‘Where id was, there ego shall be’), where paganism was, there Christianity will be.13 In Fellini Satyricon, the reverse is also true, and so it is in Roma, where the ecstasy of the Roman ‘black aristocracy’ at the appearance of the ‘empty’ papal seat looks like a post-Christian return to pagan worshipping. Fellini Satyricon is a parade of heads. A bandaged statue of a head is visible in the museum where Encolpius meets Eumolpus. The head of an ominous goddess hovers over the flat deck of Lichas’ ship. Abstract sculptures of heads are scattered across the lower deck where the slaves sleep and fight for the amusement of their masters. A crane lifts a dead whale from the sea and brings it close to the camera shooting from below until the head of the whale (companion piece of the ‘sea monster’ in La dolce vita) fills the screen. After the young Caesar (played by a woman) kills himself and is thrown into the sea, a soldier serving the new emperor decapitates Lichas (Alain Cuny). The head falls overboard and is visible for a few moments before it vanishes beneath the waves. Tryphoena (Capucine) exhales, satisfied. Evidently, she had planned the whole thing for a considerable time and she enjoys Lichas’ beheading with

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the grin of a vindicated Salome. The drowning of Lichas’ head leads into the most ‘unholy’ procession in all Fellini. The triumph of the new emperor (we do not see him; it does not matter who he is) is made of military vexilla, crucified enemies – some of them headless and with crows eating from their open necks – horns, torches, spears and heads, more heads, sculpted and painted on a sail. In Petronius, Lichas is not beheaded – at least not by a soldier. He falls overboard during a storm. In the whole episode, however, there is a great insistence on shaved heads (a symbol of slavery) and Giton pretending to castrate himself and thus putting an end to everybody’s claims on him. After the storm is over and Encolpius, Giton and Eumolpus are safely ashore, the waves push Lichas’ head on the beach, the only part of his body still intact. This prompts Encolpius to pronounce a lamentation on the transient nature of human affairs. In the film, part of the same lamentation turns up later, when Encolpius laments the death of Ascyltos. In the Lichas episode, Fellini followed Daumier’s advice to Guido in 8 ½ and made good use of Suetonius. The grotesque wedding ceremony of Lichas and Encolpius (a scene Alain Cuny hated; apparently, he did not want to speak to Fellini afterwards) mirrors Nero’s wedding with the boy Sporus (the difference is that Nero had previously ordered Sporus’ testicles to be cut off ). It also mirrors Nero changing roles, being sexually submissive and even pretending to squirm like a virgin while having sex with his freedman Doryphorus.14 The feminine emperor could be a reference to Caligula, who was thin, very pale and liked to dress in women’s clothes and shoes, and in the regalia of Venus, but his youth may also refer to another dissolute emperor, Elagabalus or Heliogabalus, who was killed by his Praetorians at eighteen years of age.15 The wandering head of Lichas, however, deserves attention. The phallic symbolism of the entire parade of heads does not need to be stressed, nor does the sadistic, castrating demeanour of Tryphoena, a Klimtian vamp who would have enthralled and scared every young male in turn-of-the century Vienna. What matters in Fellini is that the severed head never dies; it is in fact more alive than ever. It will resurface four years later in Amarcord, during the imaginary wedding scene between ‘Fatty’ (Ciccio) and his beloved Aldina. The wedding is officiated by a composition of flowers portraying Benito Mussolini’s face, speaking in a distorted voice as if coming from a distant microphone: ‘Young Fascist, Ciccio Marconi, do you wish to marry Young Italian, Aldina Cordini? And you, Young Italian Aldina Cordini, do you want to marry Young Fascist, Ciccio Marconi?’


Fellini’s Eternal Rome

As Calvino has pointed out, no one has ever captured the provincial stupidity of fascism better than Fellini. Such stupidity, which was even greater than fascism’s violence and imperialism, was lost in the attempts of younger directors to portray it as an icy, hyper-modernistic regime, cruel but efficient in its own way (Calvino was clearly thinking of Bernardo Bertolucci’s The Conformist, 1970).16 Mussolini’s speaking head in Amarcord, in which he assumes the role of the priapic priest, is the ‘final cause’ of the long series of heads that populate Fellini’s films.17 The papier-mâché head in I vitelloni turns into Nero’s head; Nero’s head turns into Lichas’ and Lichas’ head turns into Mussolini’s. It is this monstrous Lichas (more monstrous than Petronius’ character) who marries Ciccio and Aldina. Fascist art was obsessed with Mussolini’s head. Renato Bertelli’s futuristic, bronzed terracotta, Continuous Profile (1933, now at the Imperial War Museum in London), is the most egregious example of such obsession. Inspired by the two-faced Roman god Janus, it shows a 360-degree stylized profile of Mussolini, implying that he can look in every direction at the same time (and therefore you can never escape the Duce’s gaze). Years ago, a collector named Giulio Bargellini assembled an impressive collection of portraits and statues of Mussolini that were shown at the Museo d’Arte delle Generazioni Italiane (MAGI ) in Pieve di Cento, near Bologna. The collection included huge heads of Mussolini whose resemblance with the heads in Fellini’s films should put any doubt to rest.18 It is essential that the head is separated from the body; it is part of its phallic function. As an autonomous signifier, Mussolini’s head accompanies the ‘Young Fascist’ in his journey through life, confers sexual potency and satisfies the latent homoeroticism required for the identification with the priapic leader. ‘All I can say is . . . Mussolini’s got two balls this big,’ says Lallo (Nando Orfei), Titta’s vitellone uncle, which is all that many Italians ever knew, or wanted to know, about fascism. But the beheading of Lichas, the most shocking moment in Fellini Satyricon, goes beyond the prefiguration of the Mussolini scene in Amarcord. It harks back to Guido shooting himself in the head (or imagining doing so) in 8 ½ and the Toby Dammit beheading scene, which was much less graphic than the one we see in Fellini Satyricon. In the 1967 short film, Toby Dammit (Terence Stamp) tries to jump over a collapsed bridge with his Ferrari, only to have his head cut off by an invisible metal wire hanging over the freeway. We do not hear the car crashing down below. We do not see the headless body. All we see is Toby Dammit’s head rolling on the asphalt on the other side of the bridge (he has reached his destination, after all) and being picked up by the young girl in white representing

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the Devil, or Death. The surrealistic, ecstatic component of the two beheading scenes cannot be underestimated. Georges Bataille, who in the 1930s thought it was possible to fight fascism with surfascism, seems far removed from Fellini’s roster of references, yet he gives us the key to the secret of both scenes: In past worlds, it was possible to lose oneself in ecstasy, which is impossible in our world of educated vulgarity . . . He who tries to ignore or misunderstand ecstasy is an incomplete being whose thought is reduced to analysis. Existence is not only an agitated void, it is a dance that forces one to dance with fanaticism . . . Human life is exhausted from serving as the head of, or the reason for, the universe . . . Man has escaped from his head just as the condemned man has escaped from his prison . . . Beyond what I am, I meet a being who makes me laugh because he is headless; this fills me with dread because he is made of innocence and crime . . . He is not a man. He is not a god either. He is not me but he is more than me: his stomach is the labyrinth in which he has lost himself, loses me with him, and in which I discover myself as him, in other words as a monster.19

Bataille wrote these words in Tossa, Spain, on 29 April 1936, a few months before the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War. It was his comment to Acéphale, a drawing by his roommate André Masson, that depicted a man with no head, his arms and legs stretched out like Leonardo’s Vitruvian man, a dagger in one hand, a heart in flames in the other, his entrails a labyrinth and a skull instead of the penis. Substitute ecstasy with sublimity or jouissance, if you like, but the point is not to underestimate Fellini’s outrageousness. Not only is Fellini Satyricon not a ‘decadent’ film; it cannot be normalized either, not even by calling it ‘irrational.’ It is not ‘mad’ to the extent that madness is still a derivative notion, concocted by reason. Many extras in the film move, gaze and behave in an unusual way because Fellini picked them up from an asylum (which is what he wanted to do in 1955 with his project based on Mario Tobino’s psychiatric memoir) – not to mock their mental ill health, but rather to impose their presence as a distinct possibility of ‘norm,’ a road never taken, a step back from the ‘educated vulgarity’ of the middle class. If Toby Dammit is a horror film, Fellini Satyricon is a monster film. It does not intend to go back to ‘paganism’, which is after all a Christian notion; it wants to rise up to the chaos and horror of Dionysian ecstasy for which there is no name, and not in a surrogate way. You must lose your head for that. It happens to Fellini himself. In one of the most chaotic scene in The Clowns, a journalist asks him what all the ruckus means. Fellini is about to answer when a clown puts a bucket on his head and stifles his response.


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‘Come on baby, light my fire’, or the two bodies of Oenothea Where does Lichas’ head go? On the one hand, it drowns in a deep level of repression from where no retrieval is possible, like the head of Venice-Venus at the beginning of Fellini’s Casanova, sinking again into the lagoon after the failed attempt to drag her out (in other words, the attempt to make her ‘conscious’ and suitable to narrative and interpretation). On the other hand, Lichas’ head is the true ghost-signifier that will appear and disappear throughout the rest of the story until Encolpius retrieves his lost virility. The immediate effect of Lichas’ beheading is that the film no longer has a libidinal centre. Giton is gone and no one seems to remember him, regardless of all the commotion that his sexual excess had previously caused. As a replacement, Encolpius and Ascyltos steal the divine Hermaphrodite from his old guardian, whom they kill. The scene repeats, on a mythical level, Fausto and Moraldo stealing the statue of an angel in I vitelloni and carrying it around to sell it. In the first instance, the theft ended in comedy. In the latter, it ends in tragedy as the albino Hermaphrodite dies of thirst in a scorched-earth landscape. Later, Encolpius will realize that he has lost his virility because the gods, especially Priapus, are offended that he has kidnapped the son of Hermes and Aphrodite. Fellini Satyricon is less a gay film (although the gay community welcomed it) than a hermaphroditic one, where sex is rarely enacted but sexuality is as fluid as mercury. When Gore Vidal blandly complained to Fellini that he had ‘stolen’ the hermaphrodite theme from his novel, The Judgment of Paris (1952), Fellini answered, ‘Why should I, since I am the hermaphrodite? Everybody knows that.’20 When Encolpius is thrown into the labyrinth to face the Minotaur, maybe he is bound to explore his unconscious – or his viscera, if we think of Masson’s Acéphale and the labyrinthine intestines of his headless man. The friendly Minotaur was, as we have seen, Fellini’s nod to Picasso. But the mythic Minotaur is the Shadow of Theseus, and when the man-Minotaur (Luigi Montefiori) takes off his huge bull’s head and smiles, he gives Encolpius the illusion that your Shadow is your friend. What looked like a victory, or at least a truce, is the beginning of a defeat, for the curse of Lichas is still in place. Ariadne, with whom Encolpius is invited to make love, lies under the headless statue of the Maltese Mediterranean Mother. So far, Encolpius’ sexual nomadism (a ‘sexual nomad’ is how Pippo Botticella – Marcello Mastroianni – defines himself in Ginger and Fred) only proves that he has never left the realm of the Mother. Ariadne is his emancipation and he fails. He cannot make love in the shadow of a non-phallic

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(headless) goddess. He needs permission from the phallic mother or, in other words, he cannot perform without a surplus of incestuous jouissance. Tryphoena, who had eyed Encolpius at Trimalchio’s dinner (from the Lichas’ episode in the novel we know that they have been lovers before and she wanted revenge) has decapitated him as well as Lichas. Here begins the long search for Oenothea, the sorceress who can return Encolpius’ lost power. First, we are introduced to the story of young Oenothea and the old magician who falls in love with her. She lures him to her dwelling, only to lock him up in a suspended cage for the whole night. The next day, the old magician is utterly furious. He extinguishes all the fires in the city and casts a spell on Oenothea, whose loins erupt in flames, when a bundle of branches and leaves is put between her legs. The episode is a variation on the ‘Virgil in the Basket’ story, perhaps the most famous legend about Virgil, who in the Middle Ages was believed to be a dark magician. In the legend, Virgil falls in love with the emperor’s daughter. After she has him hung in a basket and subjects him to the scorn of the citizens of Rome, he tells the Romans that they can kindle candles and torches only from her naked body, but they must do it one at the time, because one torch will not light another. The legend is much older than the Virgil lore and has gone through numerous post-Medieval versions as well.21 Also, the mime Latinus used to perform his routine, the ‘mime of the basket,’ during the years of the Flavian dynasty (ce 69–96).22 When Encolpius reaches his destination, he finds two Oenotheas, one young and one old, one thin and one large. The first one is whom Encolpius seeks; the second is what he finds. The first Oenothea is the one he wants; the second is the one he needs. Peeking through the fire, Encolpius gets a glimpse of young Oenothea (Donyale Luna, the first black supermodel), the imaginary Oenothea, whose face turns into a skull. Then the fire burns out and Encolpius sees the real Oenothea, a large, older black woman (uncredited) who lies down and waits for him. Guido has finally made love to Saraghina, Titta (yet to come) has finally made love to the tobacconist – or, perhaps, Marcello has finally been allowed to touch Sylvia. The incest with the Great Mother took ten years to consummate. The ‘head’ is in place again. The maternal superego, however, works both ways. In Catholic Fellini, as well as in Catholic Hitchcock, the mother is the main source of castration anxiety, but she also holds the power to legitimate the child’s sexuality (the father does not have that power: in Fellini, the father is always castrated; in Hitchcock, he is just not there). While Encolpius is busy with the Goddess, Ascyltos conveniently dies at the hand of the boatman who perhaps wanted to rob him – unless it was


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Ascyltos who tried to rob the boatman. Ascyltos is a student as much as Encolpius (he recites a line from Archilochus when the two enter the villa of the suicides), but he has always been pure instinct, pure id, never bound by the reality principle, always Candlewick to Pinocchio, Dean Moriarty to Sal Paradise. Now that Pinocchio-Encolpius has become a boy, not yet a man, thanks to his Blue (Black) Fairy, Ascyltos is no longer needed. (Encolpius is not yet a man because his incestuous regression would not make him such. Through his mating with Oenothea, Encolpius has been given the promise of becoming a man, however.) Analogies aside, the young and old Oenothea may not be the same goddess. Young Oenothea is a harbinger of death, a memento mori. Old Oenothea is the purveyor of that eternal, ‘animal’ economy that knows no increment and no decrease, no debt and no remainder, as discussed in Chapter 4. The rhinoceros that ‘gives excellent milk’ to the narrator who survives the shipwreck in And the Ship Sails On is a metamorphosis of both Anita Ekberg advertising milk in The Temptations of Dr Antonio and of Oenothea in Fellini Satyricon. At the end of the 1950s, Fellini converted to C.G. Jung thanks to Ernst Bernhard (1896–1965), a Jewish psychoanalyst who went into hiding in Italy during the Nazi occupation. After the end of the Second World War, he established his practice in Rome and was instrumental in bringing the Jungian brand of psychoanalysis to Italy. Fellini was certainly aware of Bernhard’s essay on the ‘complex’ of the Great Mother in relation to the possibility of establishing the discipline and practice of analytical psychology on Italian soil. From the point of view of the ‘German governess’, Bernhard writes, the Italian man is ‘untrustworthy, without moral principles, oversexed, lacking control, vain, spoiled and sentimental’, which is a good description of the men in Fellini’s films. The fact is, as Bernhard points out, that in Italy the Great Mediterranean Mother still rules. As an archetype, she dwells in men as well as in women, in the political institutions as well as in the Catholic Church. She will understand and forgive every weakness that can be found in the object of love that she has elevated to the status of ‘child’. Her ‘Shadow’, which consequently casts a shadow on the Italian male, is that She is a primitive mother, spoiling her children until they become dependent on her; she then becomes the Bad Mother, the devouring parental figure who makes her offspring frail and unhappy.23 The German governess may be right, but only in relation to the CounterReformation Mother and her many children. The profile fits neither Medieval nor Renaissance men. They were the adults. The infantilization of the Italian gens began with the ‘resistance to modernity’ whose strategic centre was the Roman Church and whose secular branches were the Bourbon dynasty in the South and

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the Spanish and then Austrian domination in large parts of the North. It ended (as much as things ever do) with the economic boom of the early 1960s, the Second Vatican Council (1962–65), the contraceptive pill (cautiously introduced in Italy in 1967) and the revolts of 1968–69. The Great Mother is still there (gods and goddesses never die) and all Fellini Mothers are avatars of her. But only to a degree. Because there is a difference between a primitive mother who spoils her child and the ‘inhuman’ mother, who neither rewards good behaviour nor forgives mistakes as that is not her role. She is ‘inhuman’ to the extent that the very concept of ‘man’ – anér, vir, in their Greek and Roman declinations respectively – came to prominence only after the cults of the Mediterranean Great Mother gave ground to the new, Zeus/ Jupiter-dominated pantheon. Via Jung and Bernhard, Fellini might have had a certain familiarity with Johann Jakob Bachofen and his notions of ‘Mother Right’ and ‘gynecocracy’, but Fellini’s Great Mothers are usually marginalized and destitute, including old Oenothea, who sells her magic cheaply. What they want is not their old power over the male (a reactionary idea, entertained by a large roster of reactionary male intellectuals). To use the term introduced by archaeologist Marjia Gimbutas, whose work is still controversial but has clearly rejuvenated the study of Mutterrecht, what the Mothers want is not gynecocracy but gylany (gy-an, woman-man), an absence of hierarchy that may have been more ancient than matriarchy. In short (and this applies to all Fellini’s so-called ‘freaks’ as well), they want the freedom to be what they are – ‘free at heart’, as Ivo Salvini in The Voice of Moon wished everybody could be.24

The sailor’s tale We have arrived at the final scene now, in which those who want to share Eumolpus’ inheritance must eat his body. The scene is taken in part from the novel and its source can be found in Herodotus, who lists four instances of necrophagy. The Massagetae of the Asian steppes used to boil and eat the flesh of old people (The Histories I, 216, 2). The Padaei of India killed and ate the sick (III , 99). When a father died, the Issedones of central Asia used to cut up his body, keeping only the head for a relic and eating his remains together with the meat of sacrificed animals (IV, 26, 1). In this case, we can speak of a ‘communion’ of sort, a reintegration with the dead whose symbolism is not that far removed from the Christian mass. Herodotus also provides a specimen


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of cultural relativism when he compares the reactions of the Greeks and of the Callatiae of India in relationship to the different treatment of their dead fathers: When Darius was king, he summoned the Greeks who were with him and asked them what price would persuade them to eat their fathers’ dead bodies. They answered that there was no price for which they would do it. Then he summoned those Indians who are called Callatiae, who eat their parents, and asked them (the Greeks being present and understanding by interpretation what was said) what would make them willing to burn their fathers at death. The Indians cried aloud, that he should not speak of so horrid an act. So firmly rooted are these beliefs.25

Necrophagy being foreign to Greek and Roman culture, the hypothesis that the consummation of Eumolpus’ body is an ironic reference to the Christian mass has enjoyed some currency among the scholars of Petronius. It is nonetheless problematic. If the author of Satyricon is indeed Gaius Petronius or Titus Petronius Niger (ce 27–66), arbiter elegantiae at Nero’s court, of which Tacitus gives an unforgettable portrait (Annals XVI , 18) and who committed suicide at the age of thirty-nine after he was (perhaps) falsely accused of conspiring against the emperor’s life, then he lived at the same time when the early Christians in Rome, gathered around St Peter, were writing the Gospel of Mark. Because Nero persecuted the Christians, we assume that their doctrines were known and it is entirely possible that the sacrament of communion was mistaken for necrophagy, or perhaps mocked as proxy cannibalism. But the Christian rituals were not as widespread as to be immediately recognizable to the sophisticated readership to which Satyricon was addressed. Would Petronius, an aristocratic, ‘imperial’ intellectual, spend even a small amount of his time making fun of the weird ceremonies of a minor Jewish sect? There is more. The final part of the novel (if it is the final part) takes place in Kroton or Crotona (now Crotone) on the southern coast of Calabria where Pythagoras, according to Iamblichus and Porphyry, settled in 530 bc . It would appear that Pythagoras did not lose time in reproaching the citizens of Kroton for their dolce vita lifestyle. He also imposed a vegetarian diet on the entire city, although there are disagreements about how strict it was. Given the iconoclastic view that Petronius adopts about the decadence of the old ways, it is probably safe to assume that he was mocking the vegetarianism of the Pythagorean School rather than the supposed cannibalism of Christians.26 (Think of a prankster who cheats a community of committed vegans into believing that he will build them

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the organic food store of their dreams if they agree to ingest a substantial amount of raw meat.) The last fragment of the novel ends with a discussion about the historical examples of cannibalism that occurred during the sieges of Saguntum (219 bc ), Petilia (216 bc ) and Numantia (133 bc ). It was left to Fellini to stage the actual chewing of Eumolpus’ body. The scene shows no resemblance to any known ‘sacred meal’ which, cannibalistic or not, is still a banquet, a communitarian experience.27 On the contrary, the legacy hunters consume Eumolpus’ body in solitude, without speaking or looking at each other. The ritual has been defiled, as it was in Eumolpus’ intentions. It has become a business lunch, a hysterical meal, where the only thing sacred is the money that the chewers expect to receive. One is reminded of Freud’s observation: ‘You wanted to kill your father in order to be your father yourself. Now you are your father, but a dead father’ – the regular mechanism of hysterical symptoms. And further: ‘Now your father is killing you.’28 Encolpius, however, to whom Eumolpus promised a ship in the previous ‘Garden of Delights’ scene, is horrified at what he sees, does not take part in the atrocity of the unholy meal and indeed departs on a ship, leaving the old world behind. Because he has reconnected with the ancient mother (more ancient than matriarchy itself), he is no longer tied to the primal horde, the killing of the father and the subsequent totemic lunch meant to assuage the killers’ guilt. He is alone. Giton has been taken away by the soldiers of the new emperor, Ascyltos and Eumolpus are dead, but he has regained his ‘sceptre’, his master signifier. Perhaps he is still capable of writing poetry, and that is all he needs to begin a new adventure, or a new strip. In the original treatment of the film, images of Greek and Roman gods were supposed to come slowly into focus – distant, immense and unperturbed – over the final shot of the Mediterranean Sea. In the film, no god-like presence is discernible. It would have been difficult even for Fellini to match the visual power of the godheads appearing over the background of Capri’s blue sky in Jean-Luc Godard’s Contempt (Le Mépris, 1963). The new ending, however, provides a layer of meaning that the epiphany of the gods would have blocked. The young sailors, who are about to leave, laugh at those old men trying to gain some portion of the inheritance by devouring Eumolpus’ flesh while ignoring that time is devouring them too. The one who seems to laugh louder and have the best time is a tall, skinny, black African. It seems too much of a stretch now to relate his laughing and spinning around as an endorsement of the new, postcolonial Africa elected as the continent of the future by sympathetic


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European intellectuals, including Pasolini, who went to Africa to shoot Notes toward an African Orestes (Appunti per un’Orestiade Africana, 1969). To the audience at the end of the 1960s, however, the analogy was strong and the connection immediate. Encolpius’ last words, over the shot of a far-away island, are these: ‘I decided to leave with them. We set sail that very night. I was one of the crew. We called at unknown ports. For the first time, I heard the names of Kelisha, Rectis. On an island covered with tall, fragrant grasses, I met a young Greek who told me that in the years. . .’ Fellini Satyricon, subtitles

The voice stops in mid-sentence. A close-up of Encolpius changes into a mural painting in Pompeian style. A backtracking movement of the camera (Fellini’s signature shot) reveals the partially collapsed wall of a house overlooking the sea. On the standing parts, the painted portraits of all the major characters in the movie are visible. The wind and the sparse notes of a guitar can be heard as the end credits begin. Contrary to what it may seem, this is one of the most satisfying endings in all of Fellini’s work. The gods are gone and the characters are frozen on a crumbling wall. Everything we have seen has disappeared, the continuity is broken. ‘No se sabe lo qué quiere decir,’ as the Mexican teacher would say. In fact, there never was any continuity in the first place. The ancient world is over, whatever it was and if ever it was. But it is over for us. In its own time–space continuum, it keeps on going, adventure after adventure, god after god, desire after desire. We would like to know more, we would like to hear the story of the young Greek, even if it were just another tale of lust and betrayal, sorcery and debauchery, quest and failure, until the end of a time that has no end. But what if the abrupt ending suggests that there was a specific moment when the world described by Petronius truly ceased to exist? Here we must perforce join the list of the many hopeless scribblers who have tried to fill in the gaps and complete the Satyricon Reliquiae. What if the tale of the young Greek is the one told by Plutarch, roughly one generation younger than Petronius (ce 46–120), in On the Obsolescence of Oracles? If this were the case, the name of the young Greek would be Epitherses, a teacher of grammar by trade, and this would be his story: I met a young Greek who told me that in the years of Emperor Tiberius, one evening, during a trip to Italy, his ship had entered a calm of winds and was drifting toward Paxi, near the Echinades Islands. Suddenly, someone from the island called

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loudly ‘Thamus’, the Egyptian pilot. Everyone was surprised, including Thamus. The voice called him twice and he made no reply, but the third time that he heard his name he answered and the caller said, ‘When you come opposite to Palodes, announce that Great Pan is dead’. Neither Thamus nor the people on the ship were sure about what to do, until Thamus decided that if the wind was still and the ship just happened to drift by Palodes, he would fulfill the request. So it happened and when Thamus, looking at Palodes from the stern, said loudly the words, ‘The Great Pan is dead’, an invisible crowd of people on the island erupted in exclamations of amazement and cries of lamentation. As soon as the ship arrived at its destination, the story spread all over Rome and the Emperor Tiberius sent for Thamus, listened to his story and started an investigation about the whereabouts of Pan, whom the scholars at his court believed to be the son of Hermes and Penelope.29

Tiberius was emperor between ce 14 and 37, the same years that Jesus roamed the roads of Galilee. Epitherses’ story can be subject to several interpretations, all mythical, none of them historically believable, yet hard to put aside because of the sheer poetic power of their source. Either the news of the death of Jesus spread over the Greek world and was mistakenly reported as the death of Pan, or someone understood that the old gods were dead now that a new god had come to take their place. As we know, Nietzsche saw in Plutarch’s parable the demise of tragedy. Older sister-arts faded away placidly at a great age. ‘When Greek tragedy died, by contrast, there arose a vast emptiness which was felt deeply everywhere; just as Greek sailors from the time of Tiberius once heard, on a lonely island, the devastating cry, “the great God Pan is dead” . ’30 Maybe Encolpius will eventually convert to Christianity; maybe he has run away just in time and his ship is carried by the old winds, always one inch ahead of the new god. But the old gods are not dead. Not to Fellini. They return in full glory in his treatment of Olympus (L’Olimpo, 1981), a never-realized TV miniseries, which will be the subject of Chapter 8. Knowing that he wished to return to the ancient world with a new project, however, gives us an advantage with respect to novelist and film critic Alberto Moravia and his early assessment of Fellini Satyricon, which he gave to Fellini during a conversation that took place while the film was being made. Fellini points out to Moravia that a civilization in which 150 gladiators would massacre each other in one single afternoon inside the Colosseum – at the time of Hadrian, one of the most cultivated and cosmopolitan emperors – cannot but be entirely alien to our world. He has therefore no other choice than ‘deconsecrating the myth of antiquity’, the humanistic myth. That is why he wants opaque colours suggesting stone, dust, mud and ashes, a rain of ashes, ‘a


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conglomeration of the Pompeian with the psychedelic, of Byzantine art with Pop art, of Mondrian and Klee with barbaric art’. Moravia, who as usual has already grasped all the key concepts, or so he thinks, proceeds to tell Fellini the meaning of the not-yet-made film, namely, ‘the fundamental alienation of the ancient world’.31 Antiquity, Moravia says, was most alien, most like a dream, not during the Renaissance, Neoclassicism or Romanticism, but during the Middle Ages, when it was alien because it was pagan and Christianity wanted to be the opposite of paganism. In order to deny and reject antiquity, Christianity had ‘to give antiquity the face of sin and damnation’. Fellini’s vision of antiquity, Moravia says, ‘is very close to that of the early Christians for whom the ancient world . . . represented a temptation, a danger, a challenge . . . pure nature, but fallen into the lowest degree of corruption’. Fellini interjects, ‘Are you sure?’ Moravia is relentless. All the freaks Fellini has crammed into his film reveal that in his eyes antiquity signifies nature without soul, corruption of the body, putrefaction, a physical inferno ‘of a vicious nature but at the same time innocent’. Fellini does not hide his confusion: ‘Your diagnosis of my attitude toward the ancient world is very subtle and penetrating. But I must say it leaves me rather puzzled. I had tried to look at pagan Rome with eyes not obscured by the myths and ideologies that have succeeded each other throughout two thousand years of history. Now to find myself compared to the early Christians seems rather odd.’32

There is depth and naiveté on both sides. As an artist, Fellini wants to avoid, as he says, ‘the danger of a dialectical relationship with a vertiginously remote and unknown reality’ (a choice that leaves room to analogy again). Moravia, certain as he always was that with a little bit of Marx and a little bit of Freud anything can be explained in this world and beyond, reminds him dutifully, ‘any artistic operation cannot avoid being cultural too’. I must return to what I said in the first chapter about Medusa. The point of contention is not how many monsters Fellini puts in his film, but the monstrous beauty of the pagan world in the eyes of Christianity. Moravia’s view is acceptable, to a point, if we think of Dante’s Medusa and even more as a general assessment of Counter-Reformation Italy, which has always lived under the heel of someone else’s enjoyment. Sometimes it was that of an occupying power, at other times it was the Northern European intellectual on his Grand Tour, seeking old Roman ruins and young Italian girls, and it always was the Church. During fascism, it came down to the obligation to enjoy vicariously the Duce’s priapic prowess,

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which Fellini nailed in Amarcord. On a lesser level, more as a farce than as a tragedy, the superego command to enjoy the leader’s phallus was reiterated in the years of Silvio Berlusconi’s fourth term as prime minister (2008–11). Fellini did not see that, but he got a glimpse of things to come in Ginger and Fred (1986). Such an obligation was rooted in the pagan-Catholic hedonism whose secret lies in its endless capability to recreate, within the Christian framework, a phantasmatic enjoyment, a magnified projection of the ‘infinite pleasure’ of paganism that Christianity allegedly suppressed. This malaria of pleasure has been a recurring illness from which Italy, like Pinocchio when he refuses to drink the doctors’ potion, perhaps would rather not recover. No wonder that the ancient world represents a temptation, a danger, a challenge to the Catholic mind. It was certainly so for Dante the character, who closed his eyes in order not to see Medusa who was not even there. It is so for Fellini, as far as its CounterReformation Catholicism is concerned. Yet Moravia missed the main point, namely, that Fellini – with the help of his freaks – was trying to revert to a dimension much larger and deeper than what ‘paganism’ suggests. The vast space–time continuum of which Fellini Satyricon offers us only a slice is a world of neither morals nor sin, where offences to the gods, however, are severely punished. It is also orphic, mystery-driven, syncretic, intensely southern and older than the patriarchal order imposed by Zeus-Jupiter. In the final scene, the crew that takes to sea is entirely male and it could not be otherwise, but for once we see young men who do not seem to be in the grip of the primal urges of food and sex. Their eyes are not the eyes of lunatics. They look free, ‘free at heart’. Free from the Christian gaze, which would compel them to put on an endless show of their supposed viciousness. Free from the terrifying Other of paganism itself, the lost world of matriarchy which promises the young pagan male a jouissance without end just like Christianity indirectly promises the young Christian male the same endless jouissance if he stares into the eyes of Medusa. Fellini would make ten more films in his lifetime, but his eye would never be as clear – as free – as it was in the final scene of his Satyricon. Zampanò at the end of La strada, perhaps Augusto at the end of Il bidone and most definitely Encolpius at the end of Fellini Satyricon are truly ‘reborn’. Casanova and Snàporaz in City of Women will never be born. They will always vegetate in their uterine dreams, without ever being able to make us feel anything for them except an abstract pity.



Roma Barbarians inside the Gates

Internal city, eternal city In Fellini’s psyche, Rome has always been a metaphor for his mother’s body. Not just Mother as archetype; his mother, Ida Barbiani, who was born in Rome and against the advice of her family fell in love with Urbano Fellini, a charming, working-class young man from the Rimini countryside, and ran away with him. Life with Urbano was not easy for Ida. Back in Rimini, he turned himself into a suave travelling salesman of food and wine, and while the family’s economic status improved, he was very rarely at home and took advantage of his time on the road to indulge himself with the many women he met. At home, Ida became bitter, strict, very pious and was always talking about Rome. It took several years before her middle-class family forgave her for eloping with her lover and reestablished contact, but in 1930 Fellini visited Rome for the first time, with his mother. Eight years later, as his family wished, he registered for law courses at the Università La Sapienza, Rome’s oldest university. He did not leave early in the morning without telling anyone, like Moraldo in I vitelloni. His best friends accompanied him to the station on 4 January 1939, and he travelled to Rome with his mother and little sister Maddalena. Ida wanted to make sure that her eighteen-year-old tall, skinny boy was properly settled with his aunt. Obviously, Fellini never attended a class. In a 1965 interview with the New Yorker, he said of his arrival in Rome: When I was seventeen . . . I went to Florence and stayed for three months . . . But I wanted to go to Rome. My mother was a Roman. As soon as I came to Rome, I had the feeling that I was home. Now I consider Rome my private apartment. That is the seduction secret of Rome. It is not like being in a city, it is like being in an apartment. The streets are like corridors. Rome is still the mother. Rome is protective.1 111


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Over the years, people have mistakenly taken this and other similar statements as Fellini’s definitive view of the city. They could not be farther from the truth. There is no doubt that Fellini cherished his provincial mindset and always looked at Rome with the eyes of a non-city-dweller. This is what Rossellini, a true Roman, and incapable of hiding his envy at the success of his former apprentice, said after watching La dolce vita (‘It is the film of a provincial’).2 Worldly-wise Orson Welles reinforced the notion: Fellini’s limitation – which is also the source of his charm – is that he’s fundamentally very provincial. His films are a small-town boy’s dream of the big city. His sophistication works because it’s the creation of someone who doesn’t have it.3

Fellini never challenged such opinions and never felt offended. On the contrary, he claimed the advantage of provincial gaze over the city gaze. When Rossellini said that La dolce vita was the film of a provincial, he didn’t realize what he was saying, since my own feeling is that to call an artist provincial is the best way of defining him. For an artist’s position in the face of reality must be exactly that of a provincial, he must be attracted by what he sees and at the same time have the detachment of a provincial. What is an artist, in fact? He is merely a provincial who finds himself standing between a physical and a metaphysical reality. Faced with a metaphysical reality, we are all provincials. Who then is a citizen of the transcendent world? . . . The saints. But it is the noman’s land that I call provincial, the frontier between the world of the senses and the suprasensible world, that is truly the artist’s kingdom.4

The statement must be supplemented with Fellini’s conversation with Charlotte Chandler. ‘When people ask me what La dolce vita is really about, I like to answer that it’s about Rome, the Internal City as well as the Eternal City. La dolce vita didn’t have to take place in Rome . . . but Rome is what I know.’5 The ideal way to see Rome, he added, was a marriage of experience of innocence, that of two pairs of eyes, one pair that knows the city well and the other that sees it for the first time. The second pair of eyes can see things overlooked by the jaded glance of the one who is too much in the know. In other words, Rome is a threshold, a place that is both physical and nonphysical, a dwelling and a transit station. A lay-over, perhaps, that lasts an entire life. Such ecumenical wisdom would not amount to much if it were not for the visual and cognitive results that Fellini was able to draw from it – a thorough review of Rome, a critique that left no stone unturned. Fellini’s provincial gaze entails a mixture of moralism and amoralism that is not easy to disentangle. In

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Divorce Italian Style (Divorzio all’italiana, 1961), Pietro Germi perfectly caught the provincial spirit of the rest of Italy by showing sex-starved Sicilian males rushing to see La dolce vita precisely because the local priest is fuming about it and the press says that it offers ‘orgies worthy of Caligula’. Yet the Catholics who lambasted La dolce vita for its alleged celebration of sin missed entirely the compulsion to moralism that motivates the film – a key factor in the film’s success with leftist critics and the working-class men and women who packed the movie houses at its release. I was six years old when La dolce vita came out and I did not accompany my parents to see it. Years later, my working-class father told me that upon leaving the movie house he spat on the ground. He had seen, to his disgust, ‘how rich people lived’. The title of the film was not ironic. Fellini seriously wanted to depict the sweetness of life, the innocence that lays dormant under the lavish spectacle of depravity. Marcello, after all, is still offered the choice between turning himself into a parasite of the leisure class or becoming a ‘serious’ writer (but do we really want to bet on his literary skills? Maybe his choice was wise after all). After La dolce vita, however, Fellini’s characters enter a space that is non-moral to the extent that it is deprived of life-changing moral choices. They are witnesses to their own life, they are not in control of what is happening around them and there is very little that they can do or want to do. True, in Fellini Satyricon, Encolpius makes up his mind. He will not eat Eumolpus’ flesh and will leave with his new companions, destination unknown. In Juliet of the Spirits, on the contrary, Juliet’s only decision is to know the truth about her husband’s infidelity, no matter the cost. But she pays it nonetheless, for her husband leaves her anyway. Her final defiance against the maternal superego strengthens her ego, no doubt, but making peace with her ‘spirits’ has no other effect than to grant her better survival skills in the years of loneliness that are in store for her. After Juliet and Satyricon, all Fellini characters exist as function of an impersonal destiny that was set up for them and is the only thing that allows them to exist within the larger canvas of the film. Fellini’s amoralism is not meant to suggest an antagonist position vis-à-vis contemporary morality. The only one who makes a choice is Fellini. He steps into the realm of fantasy and closes the door behind him. Many interesting things can still happen, after one has made this choice, but moral judgment is not one of them. We need therefore to reassess Pasolini’s opinion of Fellini after La dolce vita, namely, that Fellini introduced in the cinematic art the stylistic ideology of the European literature of decadence. Pasolini is accurate about Fellini’s ‘magicallyrical anarchism’ and the power he bestows on individual fantasy, both traits


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stemming from his fatalistic acceptance of church and state no matter how much he resents their repressive power. Pasolini is also right, albeit only to a certain extent, about Fellini’s ‘Catholic irrationalism’ which results in ‘loving and sympathetic optimism’ even when he casts in provincial, moralistic terms, the world of dolce vita. Look at the Rome he describes, Pasolini says. It is a completely arid world. All the characters are miserable, no matter their social status, from the aristocrats to the bourgeoisie and to the sub-proletarians. And yet . . . And yet there is not one of these characters that does not emerge as pure and vital, always presented in his moment of almost sacred energy. Observe. There is not a sad character who moves us to compassion. For everyone, everything is going fine, even if it is going terribly. Everyone is full of energy in managing to survive, even if burdened by death and insensitivity. I have never seen a film in which all the characters are so full of joy of being.6

True, Pasolini forgets about Steiner, a veritable doom machine from the moment he appears on the screen. The backtracking shot that moves away from dead Steiner, covered by a white sheet, is the unavoidable ‘stain’ in the movie, the first intrusion of the Real before the emergence of the fish-thing on the final scene on the beach. Aside from this relevant blind spot, Pasolini’s impression still holds, but the film he describes is neither decadent (at least not in the usual sense of the word) nor, as he says, neo-decadent. Fellini had a strong opinion about the charge of decadence often raised against him. ‘I feel that decadence is indispensable to rebirth,’ he said at the time of Fellini Satyricon. ‘I don’t see it as a sign of the death of civilization but, on the contrary, as a sign of its life . . . We must start from scratch. Make a clean sweep of everything.’7 This is not, however, the main reason why the definition of ‘decadent’ does not fit Fellini. Two key traits of Italian-Catholic Decadentism – namely, the aestheticization of sin and the eroticization of salvation – are completely absent in his work. (Pasolini is much closer to Decadentism than Fellini ever was.) In fact, in a 1960 interview, Fellini hinted at Juvenal as the classical author who was the closest in spirit to his film: Someone has mentioned Grosz or even Goya, but these are abstract references. If we want to look for illustrious comparisons, then I would say Juvenal. A classic, that is, where satire is always transfigured by life’s joyful face – transfigured by a juggler, a magician who loves life because, after all, life is not just the life of senses. It looks so obvious to me – the transparency in every object, in every face, in every figure, in every landscape. This is what I tried to say, even in a film that

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is a panorama of loss and ruins. But the light over these ruins is so magnificent, so festive and gold-like that life is sweet – even amidst the crumbling debris that obstruct your path.8

Unaware of Fellini’s reference to Juvenal, Pasolini depicts La dolce vita as a variant of Dante’s Hell where every character no matter how wretched and incapable of arousing compassion is indeed ‘presented in his moment of almost sacred energy.’ There is no need for traditional plot or conventional psychological development when the characters are ‘sculpted’ in one line or in one shot. A case could be made, in fact, for Fellini’s realism. Not neo- or post-; just Dantean realism. Not exactly what Erich Auerbach intended, perhaps, but the realism of taking one’s fantasy seriously. The success of makeshift realism is measured by our desire to know more about our favourite characters and their worlds. We even subject ourselves to the painful ritual of watching sub-standard prequels and sequels in the vain hope that they will satisfy our craving. A superior realism, however, says that which must be said and nothing more. After La strada, several producers (among them Alexander Korda) wanted to resurrect Gelsomina at any cost. Fellini always resisted. Fortunella (Eduardo De Filippo, 1958), the only film where Giulietta Masina reappears in a quasi-Gelsomina role (script by De Filippo, Fellini, Flaiano and Pinelli) is only a minor work. The real sequel of La strada is Nights of Cabiria, as well as the real sequel of Juliet of the Spirits is Ginger and Fred. This is what the ‘internal city’ is about. It cannot be found on a Google map. True, La dolce vita is unthinkable without the juxtapositions of its locations: the ruined Felice aqueduct and the imposing St Peter’s Cathedral, the monumental Baths of Caracalla and the baroque Trevi Fountain, the modern Ciampino airport and the rural outskirts where Marcello takes Sylvia on a stroll, the bristling Via Veneto and the aseptic EUR district where Marcello meets Steiner playing organ in a church. Equal space is also given to the outskirts of town. The Shrine of Our Lady of Divine Love in Castel di Leva, where the miracle episode takes place, the restaurant by the seaside where Marcello meets Paola, the castle at Bassano di Sutri where Marcello joins a party of aristocrats and the villa, the pinewood and beach at Fregene where the final party and the second meeting with Paola occur. But apart from the first and last sequences, the characters are always travelling through the intestines of a large body. The key scene occurs immediately after the beginning, when Maddalena and Marcello pick up a prostitute and end up making love in her water-flooded basement in a working-class neighbourhood (her address is in ‘Via del Cessati


Fellini’s Eternal Rome

Spiriti’, Road of the Deceased Spirits). Marcello, who has come to Rome from the air, carrying or being carried by the statue of Christ, must descend to the mushy entrails of the maternal body, guided by a priestess-whore and in the company of the ultimate Bad Woman, while the Good Woman (Emma) is waiting for him on the surface. But the prostitute and Maddalena are merely helpers. Rome borrows their bodies as ‘She’ has borrowed an infinite number of other bodies in the past. In the night that he spends amidst the primordial waters of the deceased spirits of the past, Marcello penetrates the incestuous enjoyment that is Rome and he will not free himself from that embrace. No other woman he meets will be strong enough to break that spell. The internal city is the one you cannot leave, except by being ‘born’ and therefore thrown outside, which is always the most difficult ordeal that the Fellini characters must face. They would rather be dead and therefore free to spend their eternal life in the eternal city or the eternal circus of their choice. It happens to Guido in 8 ½ after he ‘dreams’ of shooting himself. It happens to the unrealized G. Mastorna who, according to the script, feels alive and travels to an ‘eternal Florence’ only after having accepted his death. And it happens to Fru Fru, the dead clown who in the final scene of The Clowns answers from the place of death to the trumpet of his friend Fumagalli, materializes on the circus ring and departs with him. The only male characters who truly crawl out of the womb are Moraldo in I vitelloni and Encolpius in Fellini Satyricon. We are not so sure about Moraldo, however, as La dolce vita was Fellini’s replacement for Moraldo in the City (Moraldo in città), the only sequel he ever planned. Encolpius, whose story is interrupted beyond repair, escapes from the mother’s womb (Oenothea), but only because he has fully traversed his incestuous fantasy.

Attack of the sixty-foot goddess In 1936, at the peak of popular consensus surrounding the fascist regime, Mussolini began to plan the World’s Fair of Rome (Esposizione Universale di Roma, E.U.R.), which he hoped would open on 21 April 1942 as a celebration of the twenty years since the March on Rome (21 April is traditionally known as the birthday of Rome). The idea was to build a new space, an entire new neighbourhood that would stand as a vital addition to Rome after the closing of the exhibition. Senator Vittorio Cini (1885–1977) was named president of the autonomous corporation that would realize the project. Cini appointed architect Marcello

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Piacentini (1881–1960) as architectural and landscape superintendent. Piacentini tempered the rational-modernist tendencies of other architects and directed them toward a more massive and ‘imperial’ style, which looked at odds with reality in 1942, as the Italian Army was suffering defeats and the schedule at EUR construction sites fell behind. Works resumed after the war, with inevitable changes. Its imperial modernism notwithstanding, EUR has several interesting buildings to show, and none as iconic as the Palace of Italian Civilization (Palazzo della civiltà italiana), renamed Palace of the Civilization of Labour (Palazzo della civiltà del lavoro) after the war, with a nod to the first article of the new Italian Constitution (‘Italy is a democratic Republic founded on labour’). People still call it Palazzo della civiltà, however, when they do not call it simply Colosseo quadrato (Square Colosseum). The work of Giovanni Guerrini, Ernesto (Bruno) Lapadula and Mario Romano, the original design of the Palazzo della Civiltà was a cube as austere as a Bauhaus showcase. Piacentini did not like it; there was nothing visibly Roman about it. Ernesto’s brother Attilio Lapadula, and Giuseppe Perugini, suggested ‘wrapping’ the cube in a carapace of undecorated exedras of the same dimensions as the arches in the (now vanished) ancient Theatre of Pompey, the first brick and mortar theatre in Rome, completed in 55 bc. They were not sure that the idea would work, but Piacentini approved it, Mussolini liked it too, and the building was inaugurated, despite being unfinished, in 1940.9 It is the most enduring architectural dream of the fascist regime. In its immaculate travertine whiteness, shared with the entire neighbourhood, and in total contrast with the pink and light brown colours of the older city, the Palazzo is Rome from outer space, a nightmare of absolute rationality that the city never was. It is fascism as it was envisioned by its intellectuals and as Bernardo Bertolucci portrayed it in The Conformist, an unreal but great filmic achievement which, as we have seen, neither Calvino nor Fellini could relate to their experience as boys who grew up in the first years of the regime. The EUR district has been an endless source of fascination for film directors, who have found in it as a space unburdened by Rome’s past and open to constant visual reinvention. After its cameo appearance (no more than a shot, but a significant one) in Rossellini’s Open City (Roma città aperta, 1945), EUR appears in Dino Risi’s A Difficult Life (Una vita difficile, 1961), Fellini’s The Temptations of Dr Antonio (1962), Pasolini’s Mamma Roma (1962), Antonioni’s L’eclisse (1962), De Sica’s Il Boom (1963), Ubaldo Ragona’s The Last Man on Earth (1964, the first filmic adaptation of Richard Matheson’s I Am Legend), Antonio Pietrangeli’s I Knew Her Well (Io la conoscevo bene, 1965), Elio Petri’s The Tenth Victim (La decima vittima, 1965), Bertolucci’s The


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Conformist (1970), Peter Greenaway’s The Belly of an Architect (1987), Julie Taymor’s Titus (1999), Kurt Wimmer’s Equilibrium (2002) and many others.10 The EUR star has always been the Palazzo della civiltà, not so much the architectural symbol of fascism, which it never had the time to become, but rather the metonymy of an always-imminent future dystopia, a technocratic fascism to come. Fellini did not approach it that way, though, when in the early 1960s he chose it as the location for The Temptations of Dr Antonio. In a TV interview with director Luciano Emmer, shot in the EUR district in the 1970s, Fellini said: It seems like the oldest thing here is a petrol station dating back to 1965. Everything else transmits a feeling of continuous new-ness. As a city district, it is present and absent at the same time. Even the people who live here seem to share a distinctive sterile psychology. It is a fascinating area because there is something decadent about it. It was going to be called E42 and was intended to be a celebration of victory alongside Hitler. It has something about it of a mad dream that was interrupted and turned into something else. In a way, it is a comforting place because it is futuristic yet it offers a future that we know already, from metaphysical painting, from science-fiction and coming. The lines are simple, the houses look as though they were drawn by children. It is all very familiar.11

In this inchoate dream, in this city that will never be born, Fellini staged his vendetta against the conservative Catholics who wanted to excommunicate him because of La dolce vita and the right-wing newspapers that went on a crusade against the director who was bringing about the demise of ‘Italian Civilization’. The Temptations of Dr Antonio, the longest chapter in a remarkable omnibus film called Boccaccio ’70 (the other directors involved being Monicelli, Visconti and De Sica), falls short of being a great little film. Fellini’s desire to repay his detractors with the same venom they had displayed against him gets the better of him. For the first time, The Temptations is Fellini unleashed, Fellini losing the uncanny balance between lyricism and vulgarity that had sustained him so far. The satire against the sexual obsessions of conservative Catholics, and the neofascist forces that supported them, is ferocious and even in its most grotesque features it is not, historically, overblown. It remains inferior, however, to the controlled, devastating visual irony that Fellini would reach years later, in the ‘fascist’ scenes of The Clowns, Amarcord and Intervista. The power of The Temptations lies in the visual incompatibilities that it creates. The faceless nuns and novices walking in close ranks at the beginning of the film, for instance, deny not only every conceivable human desire but also the urban space that they go through. Who is the alien here? The modern EUR

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neighbourhood, with its parks and lakes where ordinarily vulgar people are enjoying their weekend, or the people of the clergy who seem to have been catapulted from another planet? And why does Antonio Mazzuolo (Peppino De Filippo) live in a part of the city where he clearly does not belong and risks being exposed to the ‘modern’ seduction of larger-than-life, sexually alluring advertising? The very presence of EUR challenges the continuity of Rome, the city’s pride of being eternal and therefore immune to historical and epistemological ruptures. The Temptations questions this façade of continuity, revealing its inconsistency. It is Fellini’s first step in his critique of the ideology of ‘sameness’ (we Italians have always been the same, Rome has always been the same regardless of whoever was emperor, pope, king, or president, etc.) that will explode in Fellini Satyricon. To be ‘identical’ with one’s past does not equal being always ‘the same thing’. A giant billboard that shows Anita Ekberg advertising milk in an alluring pose drives poor Antonio mad. He wants the billboard removed, petitions the authorities and starts a moralizing campaign that would make a Republican from the US South proud. All because he is in fact hopelessly, sinfully in love with Big Anita who comes alive, steps down from her billboard, dwarves the entire neighbourhood with her size and plays cat and mouse with him through streets reconstructed in the studio to show Anita as a giantess and Antonio as a small pet in her hands. When she leaves him high and dry, he becomes positively insane. After trying to kill her, clad in armour like a new St George, he is found draped in his underwear on top of the billboard and is taken away by an ambulance, presumably to an asylum, while a little female Eros pokes his/her tongue to the audience and life in the district resumes. Moravia’s assessment of Fellini looking at the pre-Christian world as a Medieval Christian would (as the irresistible locus of excessive enjoyment), was not entirely accurate regarding Fellini Satyricon, but it outlines the libidinal chaos poor Dr Antonio goes through. He wants to be worthy of St Anthony of the Desert (251–356) who, according to his biographer Athanasius of Alexandria, was subjected to endless ‘visions’ and temptations of the flesh during his stay in the Eastern Desert of Egypt. The uncanny space of EUR is indeed Antonio’s wilderness, where he must endure and acquire glory. His enemy is not only Anita, who gives ‘excellent milk’ like the she-rhino at the end of And the Ship Sails On. It is the little girl who narrates the story and who is in fact an androgynous Eros. That little girl who eats ice cream and shows her tongue is not an innocent narrator. She delights in Antonio’s madness like her big cousin Dionysus in Euripides’ Bacchae delights in driving King Pentheus to sexual


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ambiguity and death. In Fellini’s pantheon, the god-girl represents the second stage of the metamorphosis that begins with the angel in I vitelloni. The angel archetype takes a weird turn with the androgynous and sexually ravenous Bhishma in Juliet of the Spirits, dies the desolate death of the albino hermaphrodite in Fellini Satyricon and is resurrected in Ginger and Fred as the compassionate transvestite (Augusto Poderosi) who is eager to bring sexual solace to the inmates of the Roman prisons. The visionary strength of the film, however, is all in the sequence of the giant Anita strolling around a miniature-sized EUR that was built at Cinecittà. Instead of the twisted urban landscape of the drive-in classic, Attack of the 50-Foot Woman (Nathan H. Juran, 1958), the frame of Anita Ekberg with the Palazzo della civiltà glowing in the background like a vertical cemetery is classic Renaissance perspective. The EUR’s orthogonality is meant to evoke the ‘ideal city’ of the anonymous tempera (1480–90) now in the Galleria Nazionale delle Marche in Urbino.12 It also evokes the architectural blandness of Via della Conciliazione connecting St Peter’s Cathedral to Castel Sant’Angelo, the symbol in Mussolini’s eyes of the reconciliation between fascist Italy and the Catholic Church and which entailed the much-lamented destruction of ‘Spina’, one of the oldest neighbourhood in Rome. EUR was a ‘godless’ neighbourhood, ‘sanctified’ neither by the church nor by history. It was about time that the Goddess asserted her authority and made it her domain.

Escape from Rome As much as the ‘Square Colosseum’ is the visual centrepiece of The Temptations of Dr Antonio, Rome’s Colosseum is the vortex that attracts Toby Dammit (Terence Stamp) during his fatal adventure in the city. If EUR fascinated Fellini because it was, like so many of his characters, never truly born, the monuments of ancient and Baroque Rome fascinated him for the opposite reason, as entities who never truly die, like – again – so many of his characters. Ancient Rome is a city that is dead but keeps on going, as in the well-known dream analysed by Freud, of the son who sees his father in a dream and wonders why his father does not know he is dead.13 Toby Dammit, from the eponymous short film, part of the Spirits of the Dead omnibus (Histoires extraordinaires, 1968) is basically dead from the moment he appears on the top of the escalator at the Rome airport and sees a girl in a Victorian white dress who plays with a white ball. Perhaps she is the same

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mischievous little girl in The Temptations, now showing her devilish side. As we know, Toby Dammit ends up beheaded by a wire strung across the edge of a collapsed bridge. And, as in the E.A. Poe story, Never Bet the Devil Your Head (1841), which served as a starting point of the short film, Toby’s head will be the Devil’s new ball. But it was not the Devil who killed Toby; it was Rome. Or the absence of Rome. The absence, namely, of every recognizable plan in a city that was growing faster than at any other time in its history. Between 1961 and 1971, Rome grew by 27 per cent. Urbanists, architects, journalists and writers decried day after day the chaotic disorder, the traffic jams and the loss of the city they knew, replaced by a monstrous metropolis that had no discernible shape. The city centre was decrepit, the outskirts were squalid, the only law that the suburban proliferation obeyed was quick profit and exploitation of every square foot of building area. The new city plan, approved in 1962 (Mussolini had signed off the previous one in 1931), was never fully implemented. Unauthorized buildings were mushrooming all around the old perimeter of the Aurelian walls. They quickly reached the GRA (Grande Raccordo Anulare), the freeway loop surrounding the external ring of the city, built between 1952 and 1970, thus creating a third city, past the historic centre and the immediate periphery. The old, multi-layered Rome that the Italian state annexed in 1870 was already an urban planner’s nightmare and it showed schizoid tendencies even during the first decades of the twentieth century. The 1960s were the years of fracture, when it became clear that Rome could no longer be harmonized into any notion of growth that would respect historical and urban continuity.14 The apocalyptic cries of the 1960s must now be measured against similar development of metropoles and megalopoles in different parts of the world. Apart from the justified lamentations about the chronic inefficiency of the central administration, a new literature has emerged, which looks at the circular city around the GRA as a new and almost autonomous entity, with its own geography and its own chances for communal interaction.15 Fellini, however, focuses his attention on Rome between 1952 (The White Sheik) and 1972 (Roma), plus the decaying, trash-infested Rome of which we get a glimpse in Ginger and Fred (1986). From The White Sheik and Il bidone to La dolce vita, Rome is still a lovably asynchronous city, not entirely free of pastoralism, in which the American car of a Hollywood diva can still be stopped by a flock of sheep on its way between the airport and downtown. In Toby Dammit and Roma, on the contrary, we plunge into the city of the post-economic boom, of rapidly changing landscapes and a social anthropology in a state of unpredictable mutation. A


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disorienting city, a maze inhabited by people who do not even know that they live in a maze and have no desire to get out. In Toby Dammit, Fellini’s re-filming of the journey from the airport to the city is not the usual reprisal of a recurrent visual motif. It is a clinical survey of the changes the city went through in ten years. The camera cannot capture everything that is there (even though most of what ‘is there’ is reproduced in studio). The usually sinuous Fellini montage, which seems to follows the rhythm of the actors’ breath, is replaced by a frantic series of shots underlining the impossibility to frame even a single image. Everything is seen, if it is seen at all, through the windows of Toby’s limo, the windows of other cars, smoke, scaffoldings and veiled figures. The sight of a butchered cow from a meat truck open at the back is no more significant than a photographic set or a construction site. The city has lost its language, the camera has lost it too, and Toby is about to lose his head. The overall movement is spiral-like and it tends toward the cars and buses stuck in a jam around the Colosseum. Reaching the Colosseum, however, does not mean that one has reached the ‘centre’ of Rome. One has merely joined the deadlock of the city’s libidinal flow, as if water were endlessly circling around a giant sinkhole protected by a wall without having the chance to sink in and finally go away. In the final sequence, Toby leaves the remote location where he has been awarded a prize and where a woman, another avatar of death, has just told him that she is there for him and from now on everything will be fine. He wants to get back to Rome and nobody understands him, nobody gives him any assistance. His last trip, before his final encounter with the wire that will cut off his head, is a journey into flashes, dead-ends, false appearances and life-size cutouts advertising restaurants. The feeling is that he has never left Rome, or that he has entered the undead Rome which he can leave only by accepting his second death – which he ultimately does. Fellini completed Toby Dammit shortly before Fellini Satyricon, which in the first scenes, up to the collapse of Insula Felicles, reprises the motif of Rome as a maze of death. The larger part of Fellini Satyricon, however, takes place outside Rome. It is only in Roma that Fellini fully develops the new, unrecognizable visual syntax of the new, unrecognizable city. ‘The movie is a “founding of Rome” in which the building material is not stones but images.’16 In all films that Fellini locates in Rome or where Rome is the subject matter, beginning with The White Sheik, we never have the impression that Rome is the capital of Italy, or that there is any vital connection between Rome and the nation. People leave for Rome as if they were going to another country. It is as if

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Rome could exist without Italy and Italy without Rome. Fellini’s Rome is a plebeian city of sub-proletarians, large prostitutes, fading aristocrats and priests. People work in show business, in the media, or they do not work at all. The intellectuals in Steiner’s salon are caricatures; the owner of the party house at Fregene speaks furtively of lawyers and meetings with ministerial bureaucracy like a typical palazzinaro (an unscrupulous developer). Real intellectuals, actual power brokers, daring entrepreneurs, even serious members of the clergy, are nowhere to be found. Pasolini’s Rome is even more selective, to be sure, but as a conscious choice on the author’s part and declared as such. Fellini, on the other hand, wants to convince us that Rome is a big circus, inhabited by jugglers and clowns, even when the clowns are positively scary. In Roma, the extraordinary fashion show of Church robes climaxes when the so-called ‘black aristocracy‘ (the Roman nobility related to the Church) swoons after a simulacrum of Pius XII (Eugenio Pacelli), the ultimate White Sheik, the pope who, obliging Mussolini’s wish, destroyed the letter that his predecessor, Pius XI (Achille Ratti), had written shortly before his death to warn the cardinals against Mussolini’s alliance with Hitler.17 The strange truth about Rome is that despite what cinema and TV might have us believe, it has never been the cultural or moral capital of Italy. Other cities have played that role in the past. Even after they have lost it, they have never been happy to relinquish it to Rome, and now and then they get it back. Rome has always been the ‘belly’ of Italy. Fellini’s judgment of the city, expressed after the completion of Roma, is as affectionate as it is severe – as if he were judging his mother’s belly, so to speak. Since Rome is a mother, she’s the ideal mother because she’s indifferent . . . She welcomes you when you come and lets you go when you leave, like Kafka’s court . . . With its big, placental belly and its maternal aspect it avoids neurosis but also impedes development . . . Here there are no neurotics, but there are no adults either . . . This cancellation of reality . . . is perhaps born out of the fact that [the Roman] has something to fear from the pope, the police, or the aristocracy. He confines himself to a gastrosexual cycle . . . Rome is inhabited by an ignorant sort of person . . . the direct product of the Church, an ignorant person who loves the family . . . He’s an overgrown, grotesque child who has the satisfaction of being continuously spanked by the pope.18

Fellini describes a population that lives in a state of almost inexplicable, masochistic servitude. If his assessment seems to be over the top, let not forget that, usually, the more Fellini is judgmental, the more he is criticizing himself.


Fellini’s Eternal Rome

We need to refer to another illustrious ‘provincial’, Giacomo Leopardi, to understand the historical and political underpinnings of this psychology of perpetual defeat. Rome, the most important and most powerful city ever in the world, was also the only one destined . . . to obey foreign rule . . . It happened in ancient times, under the Emperors (Trajan, Maximinus, etc. etc.) and then again in modern times under the Popes (many of whom were not Italians), and in both periods it became a custom and fundamental principle of State, that is that the Prince of Rome could be not Roman and not Italian. So the first city of the world . . . seems by a strange contradiction and turn of fate to have been condemned . . . unlike all other states to a legitimate, peaceful, and not cruel servitude, as if it had been conquered. Bologna, 1 Dec. 182519

Leopardi came to Rome to escape the suffocating small town of Recanati, where he was born and grew up, only to find that provincialism was a widespread disease, severely affecting the capital of his state and of the Christian world. There was nothing in Rome except gossips, idle ‘men of letters’ whose only occupation was numismatics or the deciphering of obscure Roman inscriptions and sex scandals among the cardinals, of which the pope (Leo XII ) took great delight in receiving first-hand reports. By becoming a priest, as his family wished, Leopardi could stay, but that was not in his plans. Rome was never a mother to him. Fellini, on the contrary, was always caustic with the Romans but loved the city and could not leave it. Sometimes there was a familiar street appearing in a colour unknown; other times a delicate breeze made him look up and see old houses as he had never seen them before against the blue sky; or there was a musical echo, a vibration, a feeling of calm like an ‘African stillness’ as he called it – a different awareness of time, void of anxiety. ‘When Rome’s ancient charm takes hold of you, all the negative judgments you could’ve made about it disappear and all you know is that you’re lucky to live there.’20 Together with the fashion show, two other scenes in Roma (the subway excavation and the band of bikers racing about the city at night) are among the greatest achievement in all Fellini’s oeuvre. They are about sound as much as they are about vision. There is no soundtrack except the humming of the gigantic ‘mole’, churning out the earth of the lower layers of Rome and the roar of the motorcycles. The subway segment, inspired by a similar scene in She (Lansing C. Holden and Irving Pichel, 1935), sums up all we have said about the discontinuity paradigm in Fellini Satyricon. It is an archaeological primal scene. The phallic mole violates the fairy-tale rule (‘Do not open that door!’), but the punishment

Roma: Barbarians inside the Gates


the transgressors will suffer (the archaeologist, the engineer, the construction workers) is the disappearance of the primal scene itself. As soon as the tunnel air comes through the bore, the paintings that time had miraculously preserved in a sealed Roman house under the ground fade away. The Roman house from the first century ce is a time capsule that cannot be opened. It is the box where Schrödinger’s cat is put (until you open it, you do not know whether cat is dead or alive, so he can be both). It anticipates the room in Andrey Tarkovsky’s Stalker (1979), which satisfies your innermost desire – except that the incestuous desire to see your ancestors alive without being seen by them is the only desire that cannot be realized. Never had Fellini come so close to show the Real that cannot be seen. Its elegiac demise notwithstanding, the Roman room takes its legitimate place, as a vanishing, sublime object of desire, alongside the many ominous Things that Fellini has disseminated all over his films. Before the crew reaches the house, an engineer informs Fellini that the paperwork concerning the Roman subway dates to 1871. In parallel sequences, the camera explores the tunnel under construction and the 110 kilometres of documents stored in the State Archives (Archivio di Stato). Only few shots, but they serve the purpose. As screenwriter Bernardino Zapponi wrote in his diaries, it was important to show the State Archives as they are the graveyard of the country’s secrets. Everything can be found there, from the gossip garnered at the table of King Victor Emmanuel II to the reports by the fascist police naming political opponents and suggesting imprisonment or exile for them. All the letters that poor, crazy people sent to ministers and presidents without ever receiving an answer, all the annotations of deranged police officers finding conspiracies everywhere, are stored there. The State Archives are the only place, in Fellini, where Rome is the true capital of Italy, a nation that to survive in the present must fetishize its past and at the same time disavow it.21 There is more to be said about the excavation scene. It has to do with Shane Butler’s notion of ‘deep classics’, but also with a minimal clue that Fellini leaves for us to discover. As Butler points out, the goal of Foucault-inspired ‘new historicism’ or, broadly speaking, of art and literature theory, was, and is, to get to the bottom of things both genealogically and archaeologically. In other words, to go deeper, in analogy with the ‘deep time’ of geology. But the trouble with excavation, even on its own terms, can be seen already in the diagram of Schliemann’s Troy. To get fully to the bottom of this place would be to destroy (again) the very place you are looking for. In effect, that is precisely what Schliemann did: having located ‘Homer’s Troy’ in the ‘second stratum’, he


Fellini’s Eternal Rome

bored through the layers most scholars now think most likely to be those of the city of the Iliad – assuming, of course, that the Trojan War has any factual basis at all.22

If this is what Fellini is suggesting in the excavation scene, we must acknowledge that he went deeper indeed in his understanding of what classics and antiquity mean nowadays. The ‘moles’ by which we penetrate the antiquity’s secrets are our human sciences, but the objects of these sciences remain elusive. Butler again: If ‘knowledge’ (scientia) is the purported object of any science so called, then Classics poses something of a puzzle. The aggregate object of its attention, ‘antiquity’, like the single ‘antiquities’ that comprise antiquity’s remains, can be extraordinarily resistant to our efforts to know it. Can we really say, for example, that we know more about the prehistory of Rome and the Romans than we do about the Big Bang, or the birth of the planet, or the origin of our or any other species? No sooner does new science tell us that the past is ours to rediscover than more recent ‘antiquity’ steps in to say, ‘Not so fast.’23

Fellini, however, adds another layer of meaning. As soon as the crew finds out that there is an empty space beyond a wall of soil, one of the workers takes off his hard hat and rubs his face with his hands. He does not feel well. A fellow worker asks him, ‘Amerigo, what’s the matter?’ He shakes his head and does not answer. A few moments later, when the camera shows us the first painting inside the closed space of the Roman house, we see that one of the Roman men painted on the wall looks exactly like the sick worker outside. Reincarnation is out of the question. The coincidence goes even ‘deeper’ than Jungian synchronicity. The relation is one of identity. Traumatic identity, that is. The man portrayed in the soon-to-disappear fresco and the crew member outside are one and the same. The total recall of traumatic time has caught up with them both. Traumatic time is neither history nor past; it is present, but not the present moment trying to reach out to the future; it is, indeed, the present of ‘deep time’, the primeval rock that the geologist suddenly feels beneath his feet, immeasurably old yet contemporary to him. This is the crystal moment where everything is and nothing is lost – until the mole of the technological apparatus pierces it. After the cameo appearance of Anna Magnani, which we have already mentioned at the beginning of Chapter 2, the film could be over, but as it often happens in Fellini (Nights of Cabiria, 8 ½) after the narrative stops, there is still time for the true, metaphysical ending. As the band of motorcyclists advances on Ponte Garibaldi like a cavalry charge in the night, the streets jammed during the

Roma: Barbarians inside the Gates


previous motorway and Colosseum sequences are mysteriously empty. The bikers take symbolic possession of a deserted city. The barbarians have arrived and whatever they circle, Sant’Andrea della Valle, the Flaminio Obelisk in Piazza del Popolo, the Arch of Janus in Via del Velabro, the Temple of Vesta, the Forum and the Colosseum, they own. The images become pure movement and the camera bows to the implicit violence of the mental montage of Rome that the bikers see. The camera, however, does not adopt their perspective; it retains its freedom for the camera owns Rome, too. As for the bikers, they travel in time as well as in space (the time-image and the movement-image) and do not intend to keep what they own. At Porta Ardeatina, they take Via Cristoforo Colombo and disappear westward, toward Ostia and the sea. They came, they saw and they left. They did not even bother to win. There was nothing for them to conquer.



From City of Women to The Voice of the Moon Fall of the Goddess

The witch and the lawyer City of Women (La città delle donne) premiered in Italy on 28 March 1980. It was a long extension of the original conclusion of 8 ½, planned before Fellini opted for the circus ring scene. In the original ending, Guido Anselmi falls asleep on a train and meets, in a dream, all the characters of his non-realized film. The circus scene was shot as the film trailer. (Was Fellini thinking of Orson Welles’ Citizen Kane, whose original trailer does not contain footage from the film?) The switch between the conclusion and the trailer was a stroke of genius, yet Fellini could not let go of the discarded train scene and eventually built the entire City of Women around it. Snàporaz (Marcello Mastroianni), the main character, may very well be Guido Anselmi seventeen years later.Why the funny name? Fellini’s infantile relationship with language was an endless source of fascination for Pasolini at the time of their collaboration in Nights of Cabiria and La dolce vita. Fellini was never tired of inventing diminutives and nicknames for everyone he met and he liked the onomatopoeic words that punctuate American comics. Even as an adult, he could not leave baby talk behind completely. In 8 ½, Carla (Sandra Milo) reads Goofy comics and says ‘Sgulp!’. In the final scene of City of Women, Elena (Anna Prucnal) is holding a comic magazine in her hands. Fellini often invented meaningless words, signifiers whose meaning was sealed in his subconscious. In City of Women, Mastroianni repeats ‘Smick, smack’ while he climbs a ladder alongside the reproduction of a Byzantine Madonna. In 8 ½, Mario Mezzabotta (Mario Pisu) calls Guido Snàporaz; he too calls himself ‘old Snàporaz’. Therefore, Snàporaz it is. Guido-Snàporaz, asleep on a train, wakes up when a beautiful woman steps into his compartment. For no apparent reason, the train stops in the countryside. 129


Fellini’s Eternal Rome

The woman gets off and seems to invite him to follow her. After a long walk through fields and groves, Snàporaz finds himself in a hotel where a feminist convention is going on. Many things happen although one has the feeling that nothing is happening. The feeling is not dispelled when Snàporaz pays a casual visit to Sante Katzone (Holy Big Dick), an old vitellone and inveterate mama’s boy who is paranoid about lesbians (feminists) and announces to his guests, operatically, his ‘farewell to women’. In the house of this old relic of a male, Snàporaz is scolded by Elena, his drunk wife, who makes clear to him that she will not be there for him when he gets old and incontinent. Other funny or notso-funny things occur until Snàporaz is carried away in a balloon shaped as a woman dressed as a provocative bride with a halo of bulbs over her head, like the Virgin Mary in an updated 1950s procession. The balloon-woman looks like Donatella (Donatella Damiani), who during the whole film has been in and out of Marcello’s wanderings, helping him out and mocking him as well. As there were two Oenotheas, there are two Donatellas, one in the sky and the other on the ground (Venus coelestis and Venus vulgaris, if you want). The latter ends up wearing a guerrilla outfit, with a scarf over part of her face and a semi-automatic rifle in her hand. She shoots at the balloon-woman and the dream is over, for of course it was always a dream. Or maybe not. In the dream, Snàporaz’s glasses were broken. When he wakes up in the train compartment, his ‘real’ glasses are broken too. Glasses and eyes play a significant role in the film (the eyes painted on a cracked egg – a huge poster looming over the feminist convention – are Fellini’s) but the reappearance of the dream-glasses in the real world is no more than a cheap narrative solution, worthy of a minor Twilight Zone episode. Sitting across Snàporaz, his wife asks him why he has been blabbering incoherent things for two hours while asleep. Three women walk in the compartment and sit down, giggling at him. One is the woman who lured him out of the train; the others are Donatella and a girlfriend of hers from the dream. Perplexed but reassured, Snàporaz falls asleep again while the train enters a tunnel that after the credits shows a feeble light at the end. As noted in the Preface to this volume, City of Women marked the first and perhaps the only time that I could not relate to a Fellini movie. I had to admit, reluctantly, that the Master had become too worried about himself. The conspicuous sexophobia disguised as woman-worshipping, the endless self-pity that transpired from the film (‘Poor me, traumatized by teachers and priests, poor me for I had my sexual awakening in a brothel, unlike you, young revolutionaries, who can have all the sex you want’) got on a lot of people’s

From City of Women to The Voice of the Moon


nerves, including mine. Frankly, if that was his problem, it was his problem and that was it. It is remarkable that for all the talk about sex, there is hardly one single sex scene in all of Fellini films (in Fellini Satyricon, the threesome between Encolpius, Ascyltos and a freed slave in the villa of the suicides is quite chaste). There is not one love scene either, just as in all Rossini operas there is never a convincing love duet. Neither Rossini nor Fellini fall into the standard trope of the ‘passionate’ Italian. The real subject matter in Fellini is the inability of male fantasy to catch up with male desire. They never match; one of the two is always missing or not strong enough. There were good moments, no doubt. The feminist convention looks like a parody, but there are parts worthy of the feminist plays that Franca Rame and Dario Fo were putting on stage in the same years. Among the best segments, however, I would include neither the insufferable Sante Katzone, too grotesque to be funny, nor the mock-Bergmanian hate duet between Elena and Snàporaz (Scenes from a Marriage without the niceties), which belies that the reconciliation of Guido and Luisa at the end of 8 ½ could ever work. I would rather single out the few snapshots of the Real. The moment before Snàporaz enters the arena of his final fight, for instance, when the enormous shadow of a mantis appears at the end of a corridor. The implied threat of maternal castration does not match the horror show of vaginae dentatae that Fellini puts on display in Fellini’s Casanova, but it is powerful enough. Or the female audience silently leaving the stadium as soon as Snàporaz approaches the ring, as in those dreams where one is terrified of being naked in the street but no one seems to notice. And Donatella, the guerrilla soubrette shooting down the balloon, visualizes one of Fellini’s most famous dreams, one that had enjoyed circulation long before the posthumous publication of his Book of My Dreams. Dressed as a boy, Fellini is in a basket with Pope Paul VI , who has a red camauro on his head. With no balloon to sustain them, they are flying over the beach of Riccione, not far from Rimini, where many people are looking up. An immense woman stands in mid-air, in a bathing suit, ‘taller than Mount Blanc’. She looks at the blue sky while a white stream comes from her nostrils and spins into a cloud that fills up the sky. Without looking at her, the pope points his finger in her direction and says: ‘There she is, Fefè, the great fabricator and dissolver of clouds. She’s all there!’1 The archetypical symbolism is easy to decipher. We do not even need Jung and his fascination for Maya, the Spinning Woman of Hindu mythology. A brief passage from Freud concerning the Horae (goddesses of fertility) and the Morae (goddesses of fate) will suffice.


Fellini’s Eternal Rome

The Horae were originally goddesses of the waters of the sky, dispensing rain and dew, and of the clouds from which rain falls; and, since the clouds were conceived of as something that has been spun, it came about that these goddesses were looked upon as spinners, an attribute that then became attached to the Moerae.2

Fellini had already used the same dream in the final scene of Fellini’s Casanova. The pope and Casanova’s mother ride in a golden coach on the ice of the frozen lagoon. The coach stops and the pope, wearing a red hat, points toward Isabella, the mechanical doll, adding a gesture and a facial expression that means, ‘Behave, Casanova. I know you are a naughty boy’. In fact, the pope makes two gestures. The first one, very quick, towards the ground, and the second towards Isabella, as if saying, forget about the goddess down under (Casanova was looking at the drowned head of Reitia-Venus-Venice through the ice before the coach arrived), the mechanical doll is all you can have. In City of Women, the balloon-Donatella, creator and dissolver of clouds, is Hora and Moira, and so is Donatella on the ground. Maybe it was about time that somebody shot down the goddess, if she was only an excuse for the poor boy Fefè never to grow up. Except that the goddess reappears in The Voice of the Moon (La voce della luna, 1990) and again someone shoots her, as we will see, but for more regressive reasons. The plain truth is that dreams, per se, are boring. In their crude form, they are interesting only to the person who dreams them. The manifest dream accompanied by its secondary revisions is not what matters. The dream-thoughts below the dream’s surface are the point, and the dreamer alone cannot provide them. Sitting through City of Women for more than two hours was like witnessing a very long nocturnal emission or, possibly, one of Fellini’s acts of self-therapy. Perhaps it was helpful to him. It got some of his obsessions out of his system, which made it possible for him to realize And the Ship Sails On and Ginger and Fred. They may not be masterpieces, but they fully belong to Fellini’s canon. The Voice of the Moon, unfortunately, was his final return to the pleasures of impotence. My reaction to City of Women was complicated by the fact that I had some inside knowledge. In my role as a music critic, I was a friend of Meri Lao (America Franco Lao, 1928–2017), the first feminist musicologist in Italy, an expert in Latin American music, tango, and, among many other things, the symbolism of sirens. Meri Lao appears twice in City of Women. The first time, she is in the yoga scene at the feminist conference, dressed in green and doing the turtle position. She is also in the panel scene, where she speaks but we do not hear her voice. She composed, however, the ‘feminist hymn’ that the women sing during the convention, ‘A Woman without a Man’ (‘Una donna senza uomo’). In

From City of Women to The Voice of the Moon


the film, the song is cut short, but I had heard it in its entirety from Meri (I do not think a complete recording has ever been released). The lyrics are inspired by the feminist slogan, ‘A woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle’, possibly coined by Australian feminist Irina Dunn as a variation of the popular saying, ‘A needs a B like a C needs a D’. A woman without a man, therefore, ‘is like a dwarf without a workshop, a somersault without a mitre (the Pope’s headgear), a dictionary without gasoline, a lightning rod without powder, a thong without a saucepan, a bat without the base ring (of a cannon), a tomato without a slipper, a thorough-bred horse without a tie’, etc.3 The pay-off line is not included in the film: ‘But a man without a woman, who the fuck is he?’ (‘Mentre un uomo senza donna, che cazz’è?’) Contrary to the reactions of some women involved in the convention scene, who felt that Fellini had manipulated their presence and words (although he claimed he invented nothing), Meri Lao had no qualms about the film and her participation in it. Fellini had approached her in his usual unconventional manner. ‘I know that you are some kind of a witch,’ he said. ‘Why don’t you write me something that I can use?’ She did not mind that Fellini had not used the whole song. I am building a puzzle, and I crave the reader’s indulgence. In 1980, Luigi Granetto, a Rome-based painter and independent publisher, was about to print a second edition of Filò, the sequence of rhymes in Venetian dialect that Fellini had commissioned from poet Andrea Zanzotto for Fellini’s Casanova. Zanzotto’s poems are heard in several key moments of the film, with or without Nino Rota’s music, less as lines than as verbal music, yet they stand on their own and are in fact a small modernist masterpiece (Italian contemporary dialect poetry is often more daring, on a linguistic and expressive level, than poetry written in standard Italian). The invocation to Venice recited in the initial scene is based on Zanzotto’s paronomastic coupling, ‘aàh Venessia, aàh Venùsia’, which establishes the analogy Venice-Venus. The Venetians try to raise the head of Venice-Venus above the water of the lagoon, but the ropes snap, the poles fall, the head sinks and this anti-Botticellian, failed ‘birth of Venus’ intimates that Casanova is doomed from the start, he will never be truly born. In the final dream sequence, as I said, he still looks at the head of Venice-Venus through the ice, while her counterpart, the full moon, is in the sky.4 Granetto had also talked Andrea Zanzotto and Nico Naldini, a cousin of Pier Paolo Pasolini, into editing a selection of Pasolini’s unpublished writings. I knew Granetto as publisher of a music books series, and he invited me to


Fellini’s Eternal Rome

take part in a panel on poetry and music that would precede the award ceremony of the Comisso Literary Prize in Treviso, not far from Venice. Giovanni Comisso (1895–1969), was a writer known for his memoirs of the First World War and his descriptions of Parisian artistic life in the 1930s. Nico Naldini hosted the event. Zanzotto, who lived in Pieve di Soligo, a small town nearby, was a member of the jury and there were rumours that Fellini and Masina might drop by. Naldini had been Fellini’s assistant, Zanzotto was one of Fellini’s poets (the other was Tonino Guerra) and Masina was the ‘godmother’ of the prize. The event took place on 4 October 1980. The panel included novelist Piero Chiara, who had published his translation of Petronius’ Satyricon concurrently with the release of Fellini’s film, Meri Lao, who had composed the theme song for City of Women and Zanzotto, who soon would start working on the choruses the sailors sing in And the Ship Sails On. Luca Canali, Fellini’s Latinist-in-residence during the shooting of Fellini Satyricon, was among the three finalists for the literary prize, which he eventually won. I must have been the only one out of place. While I was reading my paper on poetry and music in the Renaissance, I sensed a commotion in the hall: Federico Fellini and Giulietta Masina had made their entrance and were finding their seats in one of the rows near the front. The dinner was held at Villa Emo near Treviso, one of Palladio’s neoclassical masterpieces, with a magnificent park surrounding it. Meri Lao and Luigi Granetto’s mother called my girlfriend and me to their table. Without having begged or bribed for it, we found ourselves facing Federico and Giulietta, the most coveted seats in the room. Then a man in his fifties with a pencil moustache, dressed in black, who introduced himself as a local lawyer, took the last chair. He did not waste time in informing the table that he had just finished writing a novel. A novel about adultery, he said. A small-town adultery, he explained, looking Fellini in the eyes and stressing his words as if he wanted to reassure all of us that he knew exactly what he was talking about. He was pitching his novel to Fellini like poor Leopoldo (Leopoldo Trieste) in I vitelloni tries to pitch his hopeless play to Sergio Natali (Achille Maieroni), the cunning director of the variety theatre company. I was not the only one to feel both irritated and sorry for the lawyer and I was expecting the dreadful moment when Fellini would crush him with a sarcastic line or tell him to shut up, but that moment never came. With his big black eyes, as round as the buttons of his coat, Fellini was really listening to him, or perhaps he was just watching him, studying him as a spaghetti-western director might be considering an extra to play the mortician in a Texas town.

From City of Women to The Voice of the Moon


We heard people talking excitedly from a distant table. The rumour reached us that House Representative and sometime Minister of Finance, Bruno Visentini, had joined our company. Visentini (1914–95), a native of Treviso, was a well-known figure in town and a supporter of the Comisso Prize. As soon as he knew that Fellini was among the guests, he asked the famous director to sit at his table. Fellini did not look happy, but he complied and for the rest of the evening we saw him from afar, engulfed in a conversation that perhaps he would have rather avoided – except that Visentini was both respectable and well connected, and Fellini was in constant need of good leads and state funds to finance his films. Giulietta did not even raise a eyebrow, but the little lawyer saw his lifetime chance vanish in a puff of smoke and could hardly contain his outrage. ‘That was disrespectful,’ he hissed. ‘One never, ever leaves his table to join other guests. One does not behave this way. I am amazed that Mr Fellini, such a great personality, such a genius, lacks basic manners.’ Meri Lao and Mrs Granetto tried to console him, but to no avail. They had to let him sink into his mutterings until he slipped into nothingness. During the remaining part of the dinner, my girlfriend and I became engaged in a perfectly harmless conversation with Giulietta Masina about good vacation spots in various parts of Europe. She started it and we went along, nodding as appropriate and adding names of places that we had never seen and where we could not afford to go. Six years later, when I saw Ginger and Fred, I recognized the mask of the perfect petite bourgeois, middle-aged wife that Masina was wearing at that dinner in Treviso. A question remained, however. Not so much what was a small-town adultery to Fellini, given that he had already dealt with it in I vitelloni, but what was bourgeois adultery to him, not on a personal level, but on a mythic level.

Fellini on Mount Olympus The question is not gratuitous. Recently, a Fellini treatment dating back to 1981 has surfaced. Written between City of Women and And the Ship Sails On, Olympus: The Greek Myths (L’Olimpo. I miti greci) was supposed to become a TV mini-series. One wonders how Fellini would even dream that Rai, the stateowned TV, would be willing to fund such a project. The amount of money and work necessary to visualize, Fellini-style, a good part of Hesiod’s Theogony and the tale of Theseus and the labyrinth was way beyond any available TV budget. And finance would not have been the major problem either.


Fellini’s Eternal Rome

The text is detailed enough to let us ‘see’, between the lines, the quality and intensity of light that Fellini wanted to achieve. After The Temptations of Dr Antonio, whose exteriors lack the Fellini palette, he had chosen sharp, clearly distinct colours in Juliet of the Spirits, partially inspired by the first colour comics of the 1930s. Subsequently, he often settled for a pervasive hue that could be described as a ‘neither night nor day’: not so much the dark tone of Toby Dammit or the funereal blue of Fellini’s Casanova, but the ‘uncertain hour’, to quote Coleridge, of Fellini Satyricon, Roma, City of Women and And the Ship Sails On. A quite uncertain light, neither night nor day, entirely artificial because ‘outside of time.’ The place too is uncertain; it seems a mountaintop, or a ravine, with clouds that drift away. Or it could be fog, very thick fog, or smoke, or incense from sacrifices. Giant bodies climb the mountain through the fog and the smoke, led by Chronos (Time). No words are heard; only the vibrating halo of an immense, primordial void, in sound effects . . . They are the Titans on their way to kill Uranus. Chronos, son of Uranus, leads them. Two words pass from one to another, fading away in the fog. We do not see who pronounces them, but they repeat them obsessively: ‘Uranus,’ ‘Father,’ ‘Uranus,’ ‘Your father,’ ‘Uranus,’ ‘My father,’ ‘Kill,’ ‘Uranus.’5

Fellini mistakenly identifies the son of Uranus as Chrónos (time) when in fact it is Cronus (Krónos). Aside from that, we cannot but notice that Uranus in Italian is Urano and the name of Fellini’s father was Urbano. A coincidence? Fellini is not known for strong oedipal violence. His fathers are usually dead, hysterical, or lacking in authority. The strongest father figure in all Fellini is the childless Signor Michele in I vitelloni (Carlo Romano) the shop-owner who gives Fausto (Franco Fabrizi) a piece of his mind. In Olympus, however, Fellini intends to represent the time (or no time) of the primal horde, when getting rid of Father meant that you did not sit and wait until he died. With Olympus, as Gérald Morin has said, Fellini tries to break the chains of the Judeo-Christian civilization and find a world that was no less violent, but at least it preceded the current state of humanity, oppressed by endless dogmas. Wishful thinking, perhaps, but what strikes the reader of Olympus is not so much the violence as the bestial, inhuman, cosmic and radiant sex of the gods. Did Fellini seriously think that he could get away with representing Chronos-Cronus sucking the phallus of his father Uranus and spitting the sperm over the mountains and the sea, where a goddess (an early Aphrodite) is born from the ripples of semen and flies away in the shape of a cloud? Fellini claims that everything he wrote was ‘according to the literal, precise and symbolic narrative of the myth’.6 Yes, but which one? Where Hesiod says ‘aphrós’, Fellini replaces the usual translation (‘foam’) with the strongest analogy,

From City of Women to The Voice of the Moon


‘sperm’.7 At times, his revision of classic mythology has the same bluntness of Emilio Villa’s controversial translation of Odyssey (1964), which totally dispenses with neoclassical good manners.8 But Hesiod makes no mention of sucking and spitting. In fact, the myth Fellini refers to is older than the Greek mythology. It is Hittite and it is likely that he found it in Robert Graves. ‘The Hittites make Kumarbi (Cronus) bit off the genitals of the Sky-god Anu (Uranus), swallow some of the seed, and spit out the rest on Mount Kansura where it grows into a goddess.’9 That Fellini was inclined to incorporate more archaic and less polished versions of the Greek myths explains perhaps the triumph of semen and blood, generation and multiplication, efflorescence and metamorphosis, and again testicles and aphrós in endless supply that populate the first pages of Olympus. Nothing like that could ever have been filmed. Fellini seems to overcompensate for all the sex he had never had the courage to show hitherto. Perhaps it is no big deal that he could not realize his project. Literature still has the power to suggest what is otherwise impossible to represent, and the eighty-six-page manuscript of Olympus is a magnificent piece of prose. Fellini wanted a two-part series of two hours each and the text can be easily divided into four episodes. The number of pages that I list here corresponds to the 2016 print edition. Chronos (pp. 27–52). It is the story of Chronos’ (Cronus’) rebellion, the castration of Uranus, the birth of Aphrodite and Chronos devouring his children. Rhea manages to hide Zeus from him, until the grown-up Zeus leads a successful battle against Chronos with the help of Titans, Cyclops and Centimanes (hundred-handed giants). The episode ends with Zeus’ victory, the founding of the temple at Delphi and the prophecy of the Sybil announcing the end of the world, which is concurrent with the completion of the creation (Fellini stresses that it is also a prophecy for our world in our time). As for the scenery, Fellini thought of the island of Ponza in the Tyrrhenian Sea, with its breath-taking white cliffs and volcanic formations. Zeus (pp. 52–71). In a solar-lunar light where the characters appear as gigantic as Anita Ekberg in The Temptations of Dr Antonio, Zeus stalks Oceanid Metis, copulates with her (even more emphasis on sperm), then devours her and gives birth to Athena. He then pursues Hera, who runs away from him, sticks her tongue out at him and even farts to keep him away. Gods do not need manners, but Fellini makes clear that Zeus behaves like a ‘pappagallo’ (a parrot, common Italian term for a vain womanizer) and Hera acts like a tourist. After he rapes her (Fellini does not mince words), they celebrate a shotgun marriage whose first night lasts 300 years. Fights and quarrels follow until Hera gives up and allows


Fellini’s Eternal Rome

Zeus a divine right to adultery, threatening, however, to pay him back. Fellini specifies that they must act like a bourgeois couple reassessing their bourgeois marriage. (One could think of Wagner’s Ring cycle that Pierre Boulez and Patrice Chéreau staged at Bayreuth in 1976 and the shock of seeing the gods of the Nordic saga in nineteenth-century clothes, with all the bourgeois underpinnings of the myth in plain sight). Dionysus (pp. 71–101). Zeus appears now as a ‘cunning young man with blond hair and a blond, curly beard’ (much like Fellini in ‘The Miracle’).10 Enjoying his many identities as Casanova, Don Juan, unrepentant vitellone and flower child, Zeus proceeds to court Semele or Selene, the moon who can change into a woman. When Zeus manifests himself to her in all its glory, however, she dies. Hermes intervenes, performs a post-mortem abortion procedure, sews up the foetus in Zeus’ thigh and in due time Dionysus is born, a beautiful boy with small horns and little serpents as hair. Hera sends the Titans against Dionysus and they tear him apart, but Grandmother Rhea resuscitates the boy and hides him in a place where he grows up among girls and moves like a girl (Fellini refers here to Renato Zero, the first glam-rock, androgynous pop star in Italy). Hera finds Dionysus’ whereabouts and causes him to go mad (the birth of Dionysian cult and frenzy is portrayed as a punk concert). Healed from his madness, he is still a terrible god, yet he ascends to Mount Olympus and takes his place among the older gods, regardless of what Hera may think of her husband’s bastard son. Theseus (pp. 101–24). The sea god Poseidon, who has grievances against Minos, king of Crete, causes Pasiphae, Minos’ chaste and faithful wife, to go mad and fall in love with a bull. After Pasiphae gives birth to the Minotaur, Daedalus builds the labyrinth where Pasiphae and her monstrous son are confined, but Pasiphae curses Minos’ seed, so much so that every time he makes love to his servant girls his ejaculation is made up of centipedes and scorpions. The story proceeds with Daedalus and Icarus escaping the labyrinth, Icarus plunging into the sea and the fourteen children Minos asks from Athens every nine years to be sacrificed to the Minotaur. Enter Theseus, who is the only human hero of the entire cycle (Fellini glosses over his rogue behaviour before and after he defeats the Minotaur). He starts a skilful campaign to become Athens’ champion – not unlike a US presidential campaign, Fellini says. Yet there is no doubt that Theseus represents ‘the heroic deed of the man who runs the risk to lose himself into the mysterious meanders of his own unconscious and even more of the collective subconscious, to acknowledge and kill the monsters created by his own archaic depths’.11 When Theseus reappears outside the labyrinth, covered with the Minotaur’s blood, he has become old and white-haired, as if he had spent

From City of Women to The Voice of the Moon


thousands of years within the labyrinth. But he is wise now. He has been endowed with a centuries-old wisdom that he will never lose. If that sounds like an introductory course to C.G. Jung’s individuation and Joseph Campbell’s myth of the hero, that’s because it is. Perhaps Fellini wished that he could identify with Theseus and get out of his personal labyrinth, but that was not going to happen. Aside from the spermatic creation of the world, which we are unfortunate not to see, the bourgeois treatment of Zeus and Hera is however worth of attention. Greeks and Romans had already exploited the couple theme, but Fellini puts forward a different, broader analogy. We draw it from Walter Benjamin’s Critique of Violence and the difference that he posits between mythic violence, which creates right, and divine violence, which establishes sovereignty.12 From the castration of Uranus to the marriage of Zeus and Hera we can speak therefore of ‘mythic sex’ while the further erotic adventures of Zeus belong to the dimension of ‘divine sex’. Mythic sex creates the world. Divine sex discombobulates it, bringing back the chaos that the hierarchized world had suppressed. Mythic sex obeys to Eros; divine sex mixes up Eros and Thanatos, the pleasure principle and death drive. Mythic sex is a need and gives pleasure; divine sex is desire and gives jouissance. There is more. Zeus and Hera are bourgeois because the bourgeois are gods. This is neither a metaphor nor an exaggeration. Fellini’s encounter with ‘true’ Christianity happened thanks to the mediation of Rossellini and their mutual involvement with Franciscanism. That remained perhaps the only aspect of Christianity with which Fellini felt a sincere affinity. Gelsomina is the most Franciscan and perhaps the only true Christian character he has created. His working-class and middle-class characters are essentially pagan, but of a paganism that came after Christianity and is therefore a slightly hypocritical compromise. The middle class is observant to the Church, but the Church, at its core, is an institution whose goal is to protect the world from the most radical traits of Christ’s message. Besides, Fellini’s middle class is Roman; it knows no Protestant renunciation, no postponement of gastrosexual desire, as he has called it, and the split between public Christianity and private paganism is its raison d’être. He does not call himself out. The divine right to adultery claimed by Zeus is likely to be rather more complex than the small-town adultery buried in the novel of the little lawyer at the dinner, yet to Fellini they might have been ‘the same thing’, on a level that is difficult to understand without investigating his private life – not something we want to do here. Yet, if Zeus is a divine vitellone, every vitellone is a little Zeus.


Fellini’s Eternal Rome

Shooting at the moon A fragment of the Olympus project – an outtake, for it is not in the manuscript – gives us a hint about how myths survive amidst contemporary trivialization. In The Voice of the Moon, Fellini’s last film, Ivo Salvini (Roberto Benigni) wanders through the countryside at night, looking for wells that ‘speak’ to him, from which he hears voices calling his name. A group of men gather under the window of a typical Romagna farm to watch a woman who stripteases in her apartment while her pimp nephew collects the money. It is not clear whether the woman is aware that her relative is exploiting her habit for cash, but stripteasing housewives were a fixture of the trash-TV invasion at the end of the 1970s, and a TV showing static is in the woman’s room. Ivo joins the men but he has no money to pay for the entertainment and the woman’s nephew roughs him up to the amusement of the others. Ivo is a male Gelsomina, dim-witted, candid, a childman who lives in his imagination, but he was good in school, he knows things the other men have no idea about and do not care for. He has not seen a pathetic sex show; he has seen Juno. As he explains, June, the wife of Jupiter, had gigantic tits just like this lady here. Once she fell asleep under a tree with her breasts exposed. The infant Hercules came by. When he saw those giant tits, he started sucking them . . . As I was saying, Juno woke up, and the milk spurted into the sky. That’s how the Milky Way was formed. The Voice of the Moon

Fellini refers to a passage of Hyginus’ Fabulae (A, 2, 43) that he found, most likely, in Károly Kerényi’s account of Greek mythology. Hermes put Herakles to the breast of Hera while she was sleeping. The boy sucked with such force that she could not endure the pain and took the boy away from her breast, but the milk kept flowing and created the Milky Way.13 With no hope of being understood, Ivo resumes his wandering through the world of his favourite fairy tales. He is a little, peaceful Dionysus who has gone ‘slightly mad.’ For a large part of the film, in fact, his only companionship seems to be his grandmother, who ‘puts him back together’ every time he needs a safe place to stay, as Rhea did with Dionysus. He is also a grown-up Pinocchio, his grandmother replacing both his father Geppetto and the Blue Fairy, as well as a destitute prince who wants to see Aldina, his Cinderella (Nadia Ottaviani) while she is asleep. (In a reversal of roles, Ivo is Psyche and Aldina is sleeping Cupid.) Thinking he is a pervert, Aldina throws a shoe at him, which he will carry throughout the film, trying it on several girls. The shoe always fits, until Ivo

From City of Women to The Voice of the Moon


realizes that Aldina (the same name of the girl with whom Ciccio Marconi was in love in Amarcord) is all women and all women are Aldina. He likes to quote from Giacomo Leopardi’s ‘moon poems’ such as Night Song of a Wandering Shepherd in Asia, ‘What are you doing, Moon, up in the sky; / what are you doing, tell me, silent moon?’14 In the end, he is a failed Endymion, whom Selene (the Moon) has rejected after seducing him. In the second part of the film, we learn that Ivo has a home. The room where he grew up is still there for him and he has a sister and a brother-in-law who are very fond of him. The grandmother was likely to be a creature of his imagination. The brief moments that we spend with Ivo’s ‘real’ family are among the most tender and compassionate in all Fellini. It is not enough to save a film too long for what it has to say, but the human warmth of those moments stands out. The family scene, however, is only the prelude to the kidnapping of the moon, the most significant segment and perhaps the only one deserving careful analysis. It is Fellini’s invention, not derived from Ermanno Cavazzoni’s novel on which the film is based.15 Yet The Voice of the Moon is perhaps the most faithful literary adaptation that Fellini ever attempted. Perhaps it helped that Cavazzoni was part of the screenwriting process, as it helped that Cavazzoni, coming from the Celati circle, has always been a Fellinian writer, with a strong sympathy for characters who live at the margins of their own mind. Marisa (Marisa Tomasi), the ‘steam-engine woman’ (making love to her is like being run over by a train), is taken verbatim from the novel. So is Nestore (Angelo Orlando), Marisa’s husband, who is less interested in sex than in climbing on the rooftops and look at the city below, and so is ‘Prefect Gonnella’ (Paolo Villaggio), a public officer sent into forced retirement because of his increasingly paranoid behaviour. The moon is in the novel too. Ivo is in love with a girl who is at the same time the moon and a rooster because, after all, love is strange. In the last chapter, Ivo contemplates the moon rising over the motorway. She looks heavy, old, wrinkled and stained with mildew. ‘Such a tiresome moon, she seemed to me.’16 This is where Fellini leaves the novel and takes off. But he has already inserted his voice in the scene where a series of statues of the Virgin Mary are unloaded from a truck and taken inside the horrible Plexiglas church that overlooks the town’s main square. In the novel, there are many Madonnas, indeed a multiplication of Madonnas, and we are never sure whether they are birds or bugs. Some have claws and a sharp beak, and sometimes they leave a smell. They are spongy, electric, and buzz like a neon light or a bee trapped inside a tin can. In the film, the serial Madonnas are as bland and anonymous as soap bars. A lawyer (Eraldo Turra), who is also the president of the local beauty contest, says,


Fellini’s Eternal Rome

‘It’s a coincidence, but it’s symbolic of the fact that Madonnas are a unique race’. As the young priest expresses his outrage, the lawyer replies that he is not being blasphemous. He did not say ‘a people’. He said ‘a race’, like an animal race. Madonnas live alone, in solitary places, where they haunt travellers, shepherds and shepherdesses. Why do they never appear to people with an education, who could ask them thoughtful questions? The exchange between the lawyer and the priest seems inconsequential, except that if we think at the many Madonnas in previous Fellini films and the false hopes that the Marian cult invariably generates (the superstitious frenzy in La strada, Nights of Cabiria and La dolce vita), we must conclude that to Fellini the Virgin Mary business (not the Virgin Mary per se) has always been a fraud. The moon could be a fraud as well – a pagan fraud. In the film, the three Micheluzzi brothers grab the moon out of the sky with their gigantic threshing machine because, after all, she is a woman and therefore likes to be grabbed. The Micheluzzis are strange creatures, city dwarves, perhaps akin to elemental spirits. Giuanin (Nigel Harris) works underground, in the sewers of the city that he calls Inferno, and his language is as unintelligible as Nimrod’s post-Babelic speech in Dante’s Inferno XXXI , 67–69; 76–81. Terzio (Dominique Chevalier) is the one who is most serious about grabbing the moon. He befriends Ivo, embracing him and kissing him fondly to Ivo’s surprise (for a moment, he seems to think that Terzio wants to kiss him on the mouth). Of the third brother, played by ‘Vito’ (no other information is available), we get just a glimpse. In classical literature, the task of bringing down the moon is for witches. In Petronius, the maid Chrysis tells Encolpius that Kroton is a city ‘where the women can even draw down the moon from the sky’ (‘in qua mulieres etiam lunam deducunt’, 129, 10) and Oenothea may be one of them. As we read in Plutarch, ‘the women of Thessaly are said to draw down the moon’. The sorceress Aglaonicê, ‘who was skilled in astronomy, always pretended at the time of an eclipse of the moon that she was bewitching it and bringing it down’.17 The fear that the moon might fall to Earth is documented too. Plutarch stages a debate between Academics and Stoics about the matter of which the moon is made. The Stoics, represented by Pharnaces, deny that it is made of the same matter as earth ‘on account that it therefore could fall on the earth’, to which Lucius, who defends the Academics, replies that if that were the case, not even the Earth could sustain itself in space.18 A more recent reference, however, comes from another ‘moon poem’ by Leopardi, namely, Canto XXXVII , in which Alceta tells Melisso he has dreamt that the moon ‘unhooked herself ’ from the sky and fell in the meadow facing his window, looking ‘big as a bucket’. She ‘vomited / a cloud of sparks that shrieked

From City of Women to The Voice of the Moon


as loud / as when you dunk a live coal in the water / and drown it’. Then, looking up into the sky, Alceta saw ‘the niche that she’d been torn away from, / which made me cold with fear’. Melisso reassures him that many stars fall, but there is only one moon and nobody saw her fall, ‘except in dreams’.19 As the miracle in La dolce vita was televised, so is the capture of the moon. The whole episode is a mise en abyme. Fellini never gives an objective shot of the captive moon. She is tied to the ground in a farm outside the town, surrounded by the police and army tanks as if she were a terrorist while the subjective eye of the camera, ‘our’ eye, moves amidst the people gathered on the main square in front of a big screen where the TV news is unfolding in real time. We see the moon on TV, not in the ‘reality’ of the film. Initially, the moon is just a glow coming out of the farm. Then we see the ropes holding her to the ground. The moon is a white, resplendent sphere. She has not turned into a piece of coal as it happened in Leopardi’s dream. A captive goddess, but still a goddess, she takes her place among the ‘Things’ that populate Fellini’s films. The list includes the sea monster in La dolce vita, the scaffolding in 8 ½, the whale in Fellini Satyricon (which reappears in Fellini’s Casanova), the Rex ocean liner in Amarcord, the head of Venice-Venus in Fellini’s Casanova, the wrecking ball in Orchestra Rehearsal and the she-rhino in And the Ship Sails On. But can one really be in awe of a televised goddess? A typically inane TV debate follows. The Professor quotes a line from Fernando Pessoa, ‘Nothing is known, everything is imagined’.20 The Minister declares the position of the government, ‘unequivocal and courageous’ (sounding like so many empty declarations in the years of right-wing and left-wing terrorism, 1969–82). The TV reporter asks the High Priest, ‘What would you ask the Moon if she could speak?’ His Eminence, in close-up on the big screen, answers: ‘The Moon has nothing to reveal, as everything, for us, has already been revealed.” It sounds like a line that Father Angelo Arpa, Fellini’s controversial Jesuit friend, could have suggested. The crisis explodes when a man in the crowd, Amelio (uncredited), wants to know ‘who’s to blame’, ‘what’s my purpose in this world’, ‘why no one ever explains what they want us to do’, ‘why do we have to be born’, ‘what are we doing here’. Even the local priest is dumbfounded. He admits that there has been no news from Paradise in a long time and people are complaining. In the meantime, up on the screen, an old woman falls on her knees. Her Tomasio is sick and she asks the moon for a miracle, as Cabiria and Uncle did at the Sanctuary of Divine Love. Even when the anonymous Madonnas were being taken into the church, a woman was following them, asking for a grace. The merging of Christianity and paganism


Fellini’s Eternal Rome

is now complete, or perhaps it is now clear that the two worlds were never afar in the first place. When there is need, any deity will do. It will not matter who she or he is, because no deity ever answers. A police officer drags the woman away. Amelio gets angry and screams to the moon, ‘Speak, answer, you stone-ass!’ He draws a gun and shoots at the screen, leaving one black hole in the high left corner. The police arrests Amelio, cars take the authorities away, scaffolds crumble, sirens blare, people run away and the only thing that we see is the darkened screen with the hole in it. It is a crushing moment. After all those years of devotion to the Goddess, is this acting out, this psychotic outburst, all that remains? Is it the resentment, the repressed hostility toward the Great Mother, the mysterious ‘asa-nisi-masa’ that spurred Guido’s memory in 8 ½, now turned into the archetypal Bad Object? Is it the hatred toward the Mother-Thing, which begins when she stops spoiling her children? In the Jungian terms that were familiar to Fellini, Amelio has shot his own anima (asa-nisi-masa) his projectionmaking process, the crumpled imago he can no longer return to for protection and solace.21 The full moon is back in the sky, as it was in the final scene of Fellini’s Casanova. She does not answer prayers, but maybe good things happen thanks to her. Two minor characters, two outcasts, have found each other in the deserted square. And Ivo, the man-child, can hear the moon’s voice. It is Aldina’s voice, telling him that he has a funny face (as the Fool tells Gelsomina in La strada). ‘You do not have to understand the voices, you just have to listen.’ Then the moon remembers ‘the most important thing’ and screams ‘Commercial break!’ while Aldina’s face appears briefly on her surface. Fellini fought a long battle against the Berlusconi media empire to keep films on TV uninterrupted by advertising, the same battle that George Stevens fought in the US against the networks at the beginning of the 1950s. They lost (Fellini was a little more successful). Years later, DVD s, cable TV and streaming services vindicated their struggle, but it was too late for them both. Ivo says, ‘if there was a little silence, we might be able to understand something’, but perhaps it is too late for him too. In 8 ½, Daumier wished for some silence and Guido answered with his noisy, fantastic circus. Ivo has no circus at hand and only silence remains. Fellini did not end with a bang, but with a whimper. As Andrea Zanzotto’s wrote in his eulogy to his friend: Perhaps the prevailing negative tone [of the last films] was due to ageing. . . . We sensed that a new West was being born – scientific, diabolic, mirific, but too much ahead of us though I suppose that Fellini could have made a magnificent Blade Runner, one perhaps even darker.22

From City of Women to The Voice of the Moon


Conclusion: Rome’s extensive and in-tensive space In his assessment of the presence of classical tradition in Italian culture, Renaissance scholar David Marsh has pointed out, ‘The most striking feature of the classical tradition in Italy is its continuity’.23 The physical record of Roman civilization, the persistence of Latin-based culture in the liturgy of the Catholic Church and in the sectorial languages of law and medicine testify to the impossibility, for Italy, of cutting ties with the classical past. Italy’s classicizing trends, Marsh adds, progressed from the Renaissance and the CounterReformation to the birth of anthropology (Giovanni Battista Vico) and archaeology (the excavation of Pompeii) as means to gain a new understanding of the Roman world. Establishing Rome as capital of Italy in 1871 was the culmination of a process that the advocates of Rome’s ‘destiny’ could trace all the way back to antiquity. But Mussolini and the fascist regime then exploited the symbolism of Rome to such an extent that after their demise, the continuity of the classical tradition was in danger. Latin literature and Roman art was not forgotten, not by any means, but artists preferred to find inspiration in ancient Greece as it was not compromised with the legacy of the fascist period and its failed imperial stint. In Italian cinema, in fact, an undeclared separation took place: Rome was popular culture (sword and sandals films, pepla, Hollywood productions shot in Cinecittà as the Americans seemed willing to claim Rome for themselves) while Greece was both popular culture (some pepla were based on Greek mythology – never on Greek history) and serious art. We may look at the parallel involvement with the classical tradition in the careers of Vittorio Cottafavi (1914–98), perhaps the most skilled practitioner of the peplum genre, and Pier Paolo Pasolini. When spaghetti westerns replaced Roman epics in popularity, Cottafavi moved to serious TV theatre (Shakespeare’s Roman plays and a successful 1967 adaptation of Euripides’ Trojan Women). In 1963, Pasolini translated Plautus’ Miles gloriosus in romanesco Italian to connect Roman popular theatre with his explorations of contemporary Suburra, but he had no interest in classical Rome per se and was intensely drawn to Greek tragedy, as demonstrated by his translation of Oresteia (1960), his play Pilade (1965) – intended as a sequel to the Oresteia – and of course Oedipus Rex (1967), Medea (1969), and Notes Towards an African Orestes (1970), a documentary that substituted for a postcolonial-Greek-African epic that was too ambitious even for him. Franco Rossi’s Odissea (1969), a Rai TVproduced mini-series, was both a huge success and at the same time a swansong. It is no coincidence that Franco Rossi’s Eneide (1971) did not duplicate the


Fellini’s Eternal Rome

success of Odissea and in fact went almost unnoticed. By the 1970s, filmic or TV renditions of Greek and Roman classics were out of fashion, gone, a thing of the past. Continuity was in serious trouble. In other words, when Fellini completed his Satyricon in 1969, the earth around classical Rome was already scorched, and he scorched it even more. The vanishing of the Roman frescoes in Roma (1972) were the final nail in the coffin. In the years ahead, the only attempt to resurrect in film the glory and the horror that was Rome was Tinto Brass’ Caligula (1979), disowned by the director when producer Bob Guccione of Penthouse magazine turned Brass’ political satire into a pornographic feast (Brass himself moved to soft-core pornography shortly thereafter). More recent Roman and Greek epics (Troy, The Gladiator, 300, the Rome TV series) belong to Hollywood alone, no matter where they are shot. From the fantastic universe they inhabit, they make a claim for the eternal pliability of the classical tradition, but they have nothing to say about its internal space, and this is where we must reconnect with Fellini. In a long 1965 interview already quoted in the Introduction to this volume, Tullio Kezich, asked him, ‘You know that Freud calls the unconscious “the internal foreign country”, that is, the personal foreign country of each of us?’ Fellini answered: I think this identification of the unconscious with a foreign country is very valid. The most disturbing dream or daytime fantasy, at home, or anyway in the great maternal womb of Rome, can leave me with a perspiring forehead, or a heavily beating heart, but they are always stimulating. Here I feel I can enjoy even fear, but far away, in the middle of an unknown world, fear can become worrisome.24

The immediate connection that Fellini establishes between the internal foreign country and the maternal womb of Rome cannot be underestimated. What makes Fellini’s Rome alive is its extension in time, from the Mediterranean Goddess to Petronius and early Christianity all the way up to Italy amid its biggest economic boom in modern history, but it is also its in-tension in space – a space of which we cannot gauge the size, since it has no physical boundaries. Besides, if Rome is both maternal womb and internal country, then it partakes of two orders of space at the same time. It is the womb that Marcello, Guido and Fellini inhabit, but it is also the city they carry inside wherever they go. In the 1920s, after the end of his early metaphysical period, Giorgio de Chirico painted a series of mannequins with fragments of classical buildings emerging from their stomachs (see for instance The Painter’s Family, 1926, at the Tate Gallery). De Chirico’s visual motif comes in handy as the perfect icon of Fellini’s rapport

From City of Women to The Voice of the Moon


with Rome – a maternal space internalized, whose continuity in time is no longer guaranteed by a tradition, but by the ‘impossible’ equivalence of its topology. Fellini is inside Rome and Rome is inside Fellini. Rome (or, to be precise, the Studio 5 at Cinecittà) is the boundary that Fellini cannot trespass, and Fellini is the limit that post-Fellinian films such as The Belly of an Architect (Peter Greenaway, 1987) and The Great Beauty (La grande bellezza, Paolo Sorrentino, 2013), with all their scattered fragments of classical ruins in display, cannot move past. Ancient Rome – albeit Shakespeare’s Rome – returns to life in Paolo and Vittorio Taviani’s Caesar Must Die (Cesare deve morire, 2012), a stripped-down filmic adaptation of Shakespare’s Julius Caesar, played by immates of the Rebibbia prison in Rome under the stage direction of Fabio Cavalli. The camera never leaves the prison’s enclosed space except for a few external shots of the compound. There are no ruins in sight, no monuments whose demise we are supposed to mourn. For all we know and see, the assassination of Caesar could be a dispute between rival gangs. Yet the tragedy of Rome is there, relocated in time yet eternally present. If Cinecittà’s Studio 5 was Fellini’s ‘prison’, which he did not want to escape, the Taviani brothers use the Rebibbia prison as a studio. The truth of what Rome was, must be found inside Rome’s prison, the ultimate metaphor of Rome as an infinite myse en abyme. There are no visual references to Fellini in Caesar Must Die, yet his lesson is there, the eternal and internal cities are still one inside the other, and there is no end in sight to their reciprocity.


Notes Author’s Preface 1 Paolo Bertetto, Il più brutto del mondo. Il cinema italiano oggi (Milan: Bompiani. 1982). 2 Federico Fellini, ‘Amarcord: The Fascism within us. An Interview with Valerio Riva’, trans. Peter Bondanella, in Federico Fellini: Essays in Criticism, ed. Peter Bondanella (New York: Oxford University Press, 1978), 21. 3 Real Dreams into the Dark with Federico Fellini (Gavin Millar, 1988), quoted in Peter Bondanella, The Cinema of Federico Fellini (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1992), 317. 4 ‘I’d have the immediacy of a bad movie, / not just the sleeper, but also the big, / overproduced first-run kind. I want to be / at least as alive as the vulgar.’ Frank O’Hara, My Heart, in The Selected Poems of Frank O’Hara, ed. Donald Allen (New York: Vintage, 1974), 99. 5 Clive James, ‘Mondo Fellini.’ The New Yorker, 21 March 1994. Accessible at [http://www.clivejames.com/books/even/fellini]. 6 Alessandro Carrera, La voce di Bob Dylan. Una spiegazione dell’America (Milan: Feltrinelli, 2001, new ed. 2011).

Introduction 1 The anecdote is included in Luigi Fontanella’s autobiographical novel, Controfigura (Venice: Marsilio, 2009), 37. 2 Federico Fellini’s Juliet of the Spirits, ed. Tullio Kezich, trans. Howard Greenfield (New York: Ballantine Books, 1966), 32. 3 Tullio Kezich, Federico Fellini: His Life and Work, trans. Minna Proctor with Viviana Mazza (London: Faber & Faber, 2006), 10. 4 John Baxter, Fellini: The Biography (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1993), 76. 5 Federico Fellini’s Juliet of the Spirits, ed. Kezich, 50. 6 Gianfranco Angelucci, Segreti e bugie di Federico Fellini (Cosenza: Pellegrini Editore, 2013), 289. 7 Federico Fellini’s Juliet of the Spirits, ed. Kezich, 48–49. 8 Peter Bondanella, The Films of Federico Fellini (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002), 163.



Notes on pp. 5‒16

9 Bondanella, The Films of Federico Fellini, 163. 10 See Umberto Eco, The Limits of Interpretation: Advances in Semiotics (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1994), 50–51. 11 Frank Burke, Fellini’s Films: From Postwar to Postmodern (New York: Twayne, 1996), 311–42. 12 Todd McGowan, The Real Gaze: Film Theory after Lacan (Albany: State University of New York Press, 2008), 63–65. 13 ‘Veramente per la noia non credo si debba intendere altro che il desiderio puro della felicità; non soddisfatto dal piacere, e non offeso apertamente dal dispiacere.’ Giacomo Leopardi, Dialogo di Torquato Tasso e del suo genio familiare, in Operette Morali. In Poesie e prose, Vol. II , Prose, ed. Rolando Damiani (Milan: Mondadori, 1988), 72–73, my translation. On this issue, see also Alessandro Carrera, ‘ “I Can’t Get No Satisfaction.” Giacomo Leopardi’s Theory of Pleasure’, in Mapping Leopardi: Poetic and Philosophical Intersections, eds Emanuela Cervato, Mark Epstein, Giulia Santi and Simona Wright (Newcastle, UK: Cambridge Scholars Press, 2019).

Chapter 1 Fellini, Dante and the Gaze of Medusa 1 ‘tutti fanno bello il primo giro, / e differentemente han dolce vita’ (IV, 34–35); ‘per l’esperïenza / di questa dolce vita e de l’opposta’ (XX , 47–48); ‘e la sua terra è questa dolce vita’ (XXV, 93). Dante Alighieri, The Divine Comedy. Paradiso, trans. Allen Mandelbaum (New York: Bantam, 1984), 32–33, 178–179, 228–229. 2 ‘facilius esse Herculi clavam quam Homero versum subripere’, Suetonius, Life of Virgil, in Suetonius Vol. II , trans. J.C. Rolfe (Cambridge, MA : Loeb Classical Library, Harvard University Press, 1914), 482–483. 3 Tullio Kezich, Federico Fellini: His Life and Work, 348. 4 Charlotte Chandler, I, Fellini (New York: Random House, 1995), 288–89. 5 Federico Pacchioni, Inspiring Fellini: Literary Collaborations Behind the Scene (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2014), 93. 6 ‘Tu sei l’intero creato, la rosa mistica, il centro del Paradiso.’ Jacqueline Risset, L’incantatore. Scritti su Fellini (Milan: Scheiwiller, 1994), 95, my translation. 7 Gilles Deleuze, Cinema 2. The Time-Image, trans. Hugh Tomlinson and Robert Galeta (London: The Athlone Press, 1989), 90. 8 Deleuze, Cinema 2, 91. 9 ‘O voi ch’avete l’intelletti sani, / mirate la dottrina che s’asconde / sotto ‘l velame de li versi strani.’ Dante Alighieri, The Divine Comedy. Inferno, trans. Allen Mandelbaum (New York: Bantam, 1980), 78–79. 10 See Amilcare A. Iannucci, ‘Canto IX : The Harrowing of Dante from Upper Hell’, in Allen Mandelbaum, Anthony Oldcorn and Charles Ross (eds), Lectura Dantis.

Notes on pp. 16‒26

11 12





Inferno: A Canto-by-Canto Commentary (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1998), 123–35. See John Freccero, Dante: The Poetics of Conversion, ed. Rachel Jacoff (Harvard: Harvard University Press, 1986), 304. On Shelley and the Uffizi Medusa, see Mario Praz, The Romantic Agony, trans. Angus Davidson (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1951), 25–26. See also Sigmund Freud, ‘Medusa’s Head’ in Writings on Art and Literature from The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud, ed. James Strachey (Stanford: Stanford California Press, 1997), 264–65. Friedrich Theodor Vischer, ‘Das Symbol’, in Philosophische Aufsätze. Eduard Zeller zu seinem fünfzigjährigen Doctor-Jubiläum gewidmet (Leipzig 1887), 151–93. Quoted in Giorgio Agamben, Ninfe (Turin: Bollati Boringhieri, 2007), 33. The point is finely made in Freccero, Dante, 125–26. It is not by chance that Shelley, awestruck by Medusa in Florence, also translated masterfully the Matelda episode into English. On the difficulty of maintaining a strict monotheism, see H. Richard Niebuhr, Radical Monotheism and Western Culture (New York: Harper, 1960), On the simultaneous presence of paganism and Christianity in Dante see Franco Ferrucci, Le due mani di Dio. Il cristianesimo e Dante (Rome: Fazi, 1999).

Chapter 2 Fellini and Rossellini 1 ‘Vedi, facendo un film su Roma io non posso lasciare fuori la tua faccia. Tu sei Roma. Hai quel che di materno, di amaro, di mitologico, di devastato . . .’ Patrizia Carrano, La Magnani. Il romanzo di una vita, introduction by Federico Fellini, 2nd ed. (Torino: Lindau, 2004), 260. 2 Federico Fellini in William Whitebait (ed.), International Film Annual, (1959), 29–35. Now in Peter Bondanella (ed.), Federico Fellini: Essays in Criticism, (New York: Oxford University Press, 1978), 4. A different translation is given in Tag Gallagher’s The Adventures of Roberto Rossellini: His Life and Films (New York: Da Capo, 1998), 190. 3 Quoted in Baxter, Fellini, 74. 4 Warshow’s comment is quoted in Hollis Alpert, Fellini: A Life (New York: Marlowe & Company, 1988), 61. Baldelli, Rondi, and Vazio are quoted in Baxter, Fellini, 74, and in Gallagher, The Adventures of Roberto Rossellini, 191, 214. 5 Giovanni Boccaccio, The Decameron, trans. Mark Musa and Peter Bondanella (New York: Mentor, 1982), 36–38. 6 Bondanella, The Cinema of Federico Fellini, 44–45. 7 Gallagher, The Adventures of Roberto Rossellini, 191.


Notes on pp. 26‒37

8 Gallagher, The Adventures of Roberto Rossellini, 193. 9 Bondanella ed., Federico Fellini: Essays in Criticism, 3. 10 Federico Fellini, Making a Film, with an autobiographical essay by Italo Calvino and afterword by Liliana Betti, trans. Christopher Burton White (New York: Contra Mundum Press, 2015), 96. 11 The 1897 Adega becomes Ádega in the 1904 novel. See Ann Frost, The Galician Works of Ramón Del Valle-Inclán: Patterns of Repetition and Continuity (Bern: Peter Lang, 2010), 52–55. 12 Baxter, Fellini, 79. 13 Alpert, Fellini: A Life, 67. 14 Bosley Crowther, ‘The Strange Case of “The Miracle” ’, Atlantic Monthly, April 1951, 35; Alan F. Westin, The Miracle Case: The Supreme Court and the Movies. Tuscaloosa, AL : Inter-University Case Program Series (ICP ) No. 64, Indianapolis (IN ): Bobbs-Merrill, 1961); Ellen Draper, ‘ “Controversy Has Probably Destroyed Forever the Context”: The Miracle and Movie Censorship in America in the Fifties’, The Velvet Light Trap, 25 (1990): 69–79. See also Bondanella, The Cinema of Federico Fellini, 49–50, and Gallagher, The Adventures of Roberto Rossellini, 367–69. 15 On Rossellini’s sublime see Alessandro Carrera, ‘Rossellini’s Holy Mountain: Cinema and the Aesthetics of the Sublime’ in Fulvio Orsitto and Simona Wright (eds), Attraversamenti culturali. Cinema, letteratura, musica e arti visuali nell’Italia contemporanea (Florence: Franco Cesati Editore, 2016), 23–53. 16 Both documents are accessible at vatican.va. 17 Carl Gustav Jung, Answer to Job, in Joseph Campbell (ed.), The Portable Jung, trans. R.F.C. Hull (New York: Penguin, 1976), 640–41. 18 Baxter, Fellini, 80. 19 See Francis and Clare: The Complete Works, trans. R.J. Armstrong and I.C. Brady (New York: Paulist Press, 1982); Chiara Frugoni, Francis of Assisi: A Life (New York: Continuum, 1998); and William J. Short, Poverty and Joy: The Franciscan Tradition (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis, 1999). 20 Virgil, Aeneid III , 522–23, trans. Allen Mandelbaum (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1971), 74. 21 ‘Di quella umile Italia fia salute / per cui morì la vergine Cammilla, / Eurialo e Turno e Niso di ferute.’ Dante, Inferno I, 106–8, 6–7. 22 See Erich Auerbach, Dante, Poet of the Secular World (New York: New York Review of Books, 2007), 92. 23 Liber viginti quattuor philosophorum I, 5, ed. Françoise Hudry (Turnhout: Brepols, 1997), 1–2. See also Paolo Lucentini, ‘Il Liber viginti quattuor philosophorum nei poemi medievali: il Roman de la rose, il Granum sinapsis, la Divina Commedia’, in John Marenbom (ed.), Poetry and Philosophy in the Middle Ages: A Festschrift for Peter Dronke (Leiden: Brill, 2001), 131–53.

Notes on pp. 37‒46


24 On Francis’ hilaritas see Massimo Cacciari, Dell’inizio (Milan: Adelphi, 1990), 662–78. On the Franciscan notion of poverty as a form-of-life and its transformations in time see Giorgio Agamben, The Highest Poverty: Monastic Rules and Form-of-Life, trans. Adam Kotsko (Stanford, CA : Stanford University Press, 2013), 123–43.

Chapter 3 La dolce vita 1 Homer, The Iliad, 21, 470, trans. Robert Fagles, introduction by Bernard Knox (New York: Penguin, 1990), 535. 2 M. Esther Harding, Woman’s Mysteries: Ancient and Modern (1971), introduction by C.G. Jung (Boston & Shaftesbury: Shambhala, 1990), 101. 3 Fabio Vighi, Sexual Difference in European Cinema: The Curse of Enjoyment (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009), 20. 4 On the struggle of Medieval poets and theologians to reconcile the Christian male pantheon with the Goddesses (Sapientia, Philosophia, Ecclesia, Frau Minne, Dame Nature, Lady Reason, and of course Mary), see Barbara Newman, ‘God and the Goddesses: Vision, Poetry, and Belief in the Middle Ages’, in John Marenbom (ed.), Poetry and Philosophy in the Middle Ages: A Festschrift for Peter Dronke (Leiden: Brill, 2001), 173–96. For a Freudian interpretation of courtly love, see Henri Rey-Flaud, La névrose courtoise (Paris: Navarin, 1983). On Lacan’s interpretation of courtly love see Jacques Lacan, The Seminar of Jacques Lacan Book VII: The Ethics of Psychoanalysis 1959–1960, ed. Jacques-Alain Miller, trans. Dennis Potter (New York: Norton, 1992), 139–54, and Slavoj Žižek, The Metastases of Enjoyment: Six Essays on Woman and Causality (London: Verso, 1994), 89–112. 5 It is true, however, that in Petrarch’s final recantation of his amorous folly, Laura is cast again as the ancient mythological figure that had terrified Dante: ‘Medusa and my error made a stone of me’ (‘Medusa e l’error mio m’han fatto un sasso’, Canzoniere CCCLXVI , 111), my translation. 6 For these definitions of need, demand, and desire, see Jacques Lacan, ‘The Signification of the Phallus’, in Écrits: The First Complete Edition in English, trans. Bruce Fink (New York: Norton, 2006), 580. 7 Lacan, The Seminar of Jacques Lacan Book VII , 253. 8 Longinus, On the Sublime, Ch. 7, in Aristotle, Horace, Longinus, Classical Literary Criticism, trans. with an introduction, T.S. Dorsch (London: Penguin, 1965), 107. 9 ‘. . . è presente una vibrazione, una trasparenza, qualcosa che è ancor meno di un’ombra, di una luce, qualcosa che non si può esprimere sul piano dei sensi . . . Si tratta di percezioni indicibili, intraducibili, a meno di non fare uno sforzo per ricostruire la memoria di quell’attimo . . . ’ , in Risset, L’incantatore, 79, my translation.


Notes on pp. 46‒51

10 On the ‘entre-deux-morts’ theme in Fellini, especially in the context of his unfinished Mastorna project, see Alessandro Carrera, ‘Il viaggio di G. Mastorna: Fellini “EntreDeux-Morts” ’, in Frank Burke, Marguerite Waller and Marita Gubareva (eds), The Wiley Blackwell Companion to Federico Fellini (London: Wiley-Blackwell, 2019). 11 Lacan, The Seminar of Jacques Lacan Book VII , 253. Sigmund Freud introduces Das Ding in Project for a Scientific Psychology (1895), in The Standard Edition of the Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud Vol. I 1886–1899, trans. and ed. John Strachey with Anna Freud, A. Strachey and A. Tyson (London: The Hogarth Press and the Institute of Psycho-analysis, 1950), 347–445. 12 Jacques Lacan, The Seminar of Jacques Lacan Book X. Anxiety, ed. Jacques-Alain Miller, trans. A.R. Price (Cambridge, UK : Polity, 2014), 254. 13 André Bazin, What Is Cinema? Vol. 2, trans. Hugh Gray (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1971), 92; Frank Burke, Fellini’s Films, 97; Tom Brown, Breaking the Fourth Wall: Direct Address in the Cinema (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2012), 78–115; and Karl Schoonover, ‘Histrionics Gestures and Historical Representation: Masina’s Cabiria, Bazin’s Chaplin, and Fellini’s Neorealism’, Cinema Journal, 53, 2 (2014): 93–116. 14 John P. Welle, ‘Fellini’s use of Dante in La dolce vita’, Studies in Medievalism 2, 3 (1983): 49–65, reprinted in Peter Bondanella and Cristina Degli-Esposti (eds), Perspectives on Federico Fellini (New York: G.K. Hall /Maxwell Macmillan Intl., 1993), 110–18; Barbara Lewalski, ‘Federico Fellini’s Purgatory’, Massachusetts Review 5 (1964): 567–73, reprinted in Peter Bondanella (ed.), Federico Fellini: Essays in Criticism (New York: Oxford University Press, 1978), 113–20. Massimiliano Chiamenti, ‘Effigi di Dante e Leopardi in Fellini’, The Italianist, 24, 2 (2004): 224–37. See also Bondanella, The Cinema of Federico Fellini, 144–45. 15 Peter Bondanella, The Films of Federico Fellini (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002), 75. 16 ‘Tu mi fai rimembrar dove e qual era / Proserpina nel tempo che perdette / la madre lei, ed ella primavera.’ Dante Alighieri, The Divine Comedy. Purgatorio XXVIII , 49–51, trans. Allen Mandelbaum (New York: Bantam, 1982), 248–49. 17 Ovid, Metamorphoses V, 391–94, trans. and introduction Horace Gregory (New York: Signet, 1958), 134. 18 Giorgio Agamben, The Unspeakable Girl: The Myth and Mystery of Kore, with images by Monica Ferrando, trans. Leland de la Durantaye (Calcutta: Seagull Books, 2014).

Chapter 4 8 ½ 1 For the translation of Thomas Aquinas’ claritas as ‘radiance’, I refer to Joyce: ‘You see that it is that thing which it is and no other thing [emphasis mine]. The radiance is the

Notes on pp. 51‒58

2 3

4 5 6


8 9 10


12 13 14 15 16


scholastic quidditas, the whatness of a thing.’ James Joyce, Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, ed. Chester G. Anderson (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1977), 213. Oriana Fallaci, The Egotists (Chicago: Regnery, 1968), 196. Between 1972 and 1973, I had the opportunity to work as an intern in the library of the Centro Studi Cinematografici in Milan, a Catholic institution similar in name but distinct from the Centro Cattolico Cinematografico. I read hundreds of reviews and recommendations in La rivista del cinematografo, the official magazine of the Centro Cattolico Cinematografico. If I remember correctly, the only film of the 1960s to receive no negative feedback was A Man for All Seasons (Fred Zinnemann, 1966), a biopic of St Thomas More, who stood up to King Henry VIII and his decision to reject the Catholic Church to obtain a divorce from his first wife. That does not mean that other films were prohibited. The recommendations served as moral guidelines for local priests and ‘debate directors’. For an overview, see Daniela Treveri Gennari, Post-War Italian Cinema: American Intervention, Vatican Interests (New York: Routledge, 2009). Kezich, Federico Fellini, 184–186; Bondanella, The Cinema of Federico Fellini, 130–131. Angelucci, Segreti e bugie di Federico Fellini, 91–95; Io sono la mia invenzione. L’Europa, Fellini e il cinema italiano negli scritti di Padre Angelo Arpa, ed. Simone Casavecchia (Rome: Edizioni Studio 12, 2003), 307–10. See Angelo Arpa, Fellini, persona e personaggio (Naples: Parresìa, 1996); La dolce vita. Cronaca di una passione (Naples: Parresìa, 1996, then Rome: Edizioni Sabinae, 2010); L’Arpa di Fellini (Rome: Edizioni dell’Oleandro, 2001), which includes all the major reviews of La dolce vita. Ovid, The Metamorphoses XIV, 506–9, 406. Fellini, Making a Film, 129. In Lombardy, as I recall from my maternal grandfather’s stories, the saracca was a herring. Grilled with one single drop of oil and eaten with plenty of polenta, it was the juiciest part of poor families’ standard fare up until the 1940s. Pacchioni, Inspiring Fellini, 57. Pacchioni quotes Suso Cecchi D’Amico and Margherita D’Amico, Storie di cinema (e d’altro) (Milan: Garzanti, 1996), and Jean Gili’s contribution to Ennio Flaiano, Media Museum. Le arti e lo spettacolo (Sambuceto: Ediars, 2009). Fellini, Making a Film, 130. José-Luis de Villalonga, Ho sognato Anita Ekberg. Intervista con Federico Fellini (1994), trans. Diego Varini, introduction by Rosita Copioli (Milan: Medusa, 2014), 58–69. D.H. Lawrence, Studies in Classic American Literature (London: Penguin, 1971), 8. Fellini, Making a Film, 131. ‘. . .nasconde sempre un essere vinto in anticipo. Un essere rassicurante.’ Villalonga, Ho sognato Anita Ekberg, 66, my translation.


Notes on pp. 58‒65

17 Karl Felix Wolff, The Pale Mountains: Folk Tales from the Dolomites, trans. Francesca Raimonde La Monte (New York: Minton, Balch & Company, 1927), 175–82. 18 Ovid, The Metamorphoses XIV, 25–28, 389–90. 19 ‘C’è l’Uomo. C’è la Donna. E c’è questo Terzo Sesso: il prete, i suoi gesti furtivi, il suo sguardo impossibile da definire, il suo odore particolare. Questo odore di cui tanto ho sofferto, da bambino. Rancido, agro. . .’ Villalonga, Ho sognato Anita Ekberg, 90–91, my translation. 20 Fr. Giovanni Bosco, Life of Dominic Savio, Young Pupil at the Oratory of St. Frances de Sales, trans. from the sixth edition (Turin: Tipografia e libreria salesiana, 1880), no indication of translator, no pages but Chapter 16, ‘Mortification of the senses’, retrieved from bosconet.aust.com. 21 My translation. My father, who at the end of the 1930s attended a Catholic boarding school in Lodi, south of Milan, told me that while the boys ate in the refectory the nuns would read them the same passage. In Amarcord, we see a statue of Aloysius de Gonzaga while Father Balosa (Gianfilippo Carcano) tells Titta (Bruno Zanin), ‘Do you know that St. Luigi weeps when you touch yourself?’ 22 Quoted in Suzanne Budgen, Fellini (London: British Film Institute, 1966), 99. 23 Io sono la mia invenzione, ed. Simone Casavecchia, 290. 24 ‘Dei tipi hanno deciso, così, semplicemente, che io ero ateo . . . Ma cosa vuol dire, da noi, ateo? . . . Ma dev’esserci senz’altro da qualche parte la formula “fuori dal grembo della Chiesa”. Ed è a questo punto, vedi, che comincia il ridicolo della cosa. . . . Io sono italiano . . . italiano prima di tutto . . . Si può essere italiano e ateo? . . . Certamente. È l’Italia che ospita gli atei più aggressivi . . .Ma se tu mi domandi: si può essere italiano, ateo . . . e vivere completamente al di fuori del grembo della Chiesa? La mia risposta sarà: no. Mille volte no! . . . La Chiesa non mi ha mai dato vera sicurezza, né vera gioia . . . Ho, della Chiesa, una grande e sorda paura . . . Sono cristiano. Credo nella necessità di Dio . . . per il fatto che credo nell’uomo. E Dio, è l’amore dell’uomo.’ Villalonga, Ho sognato Anita Ekberg, 76–80, my translation. 25 Gianfranco Angelucci, Giulietta Masina. Attrice e sposa di Federico Fellini (Rome: Edizioni Sabinae, 2014), 17. 26 Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Faust, trans. Walter Arndt, ed. Cyrus Hamlin (New York: Norton, 2001), 229. See also Friedrich Creuzer, Symbolik und Mythologie der Alten Völker besonders der Griechen. Zweiter Theil, Ch. 6 (Leipzig und Darmstadt: Heyer und Leske, 1810–1812), 303; Robert F. Brown, Schelling’s Treatise on ‘The Deities of Samothrace’: A Translation and an Interpretation (Missoula, Montana: Scholars Press for American Academy of Religion, 1977), 7–55. Because ‘Kabir’ is not only the name of the major Indian poet and mystic of the fifteenth century but also a Qur’anic title of Allah meaning ‘great’ (see Arvind Krishna Mehrotra, Partial Recall: Essays on Literature and Literary History, Delhi: Permanent Black, 2012, 277), we may perhaps assume that the Kabiri were indeed ‘great’ gods.

Notes on pp. 65‒75


27 Carlo Sini, Del vivere bene (Milan: Jaca Book, 2011), 41. I have translated Sini’s ‘semplice vivere’ as ‘life pure and simple’ to avoid an overlapping with the notions of ‘mere life’ and ‘bare life’ in Walter Benjamin (Critique of Violence, in Reflections: Essays, Aphorisms, Autobiographical Writings, ed. and with an introduction by PeterDemetz, trans. Edmund Jephcott, New York: Schocken Books, 1978, 277–300), and Giorgio Agamben Homo sacer: Sovereign Power and Bare Life, trans. Daniel Heller-Roazen (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1998). Similarities abound, but Sini’s concepts of ‘life pure and simple’ and ‘eternal life’ are perhaps closer to Michel Henry’s radical immanence of life than they are to the abovementioned authors. See Michel Henry, Philosophy and Phenomenology of the Body, trans. Girard Etzkorn (The Hague: Nijhoff, 1975). 28 I quote the title of Luciano Bianciardi’ s novel La vita agra (1962) which Carlo Lizzani turned into a film using the same title (1964). The English title is It’s A Hard Life, but ‘agra’ means ‘sour’, clearly a counterpart to Fellini’s ‘sweet life’. 29 The protagonist of The Woman in the Window (Fritz Lang, 1944) ‘awakens [from the dream in which he is a murderer] in order to continue his dream (about being a normal person like his fellow men), that is, to escape the real (the ‘psychic reality’) of his desire’, which is indeed a murderous fantasy. See Slavoj Žižek, Looking Awry: An Introduction to Jacques Lacan through Popular Culture (Cambridge, MA .: The MIT Press, 1991), 16. 30 Kezich, Federico Fellini, 159. 31 ‘Symbol and Language as Structure and Limit of the Psychoanalytic Field’, in Lacan, Écrits, 264. 32 Lacan, The Seminar of Jacques Lacan Book VII , 292. 33 Lacan, The Seminar of Jacques Lacan Book VII , 319.

Chapter 5 Fellini Satyricon I 1 2 3 4

Fellini, Making a Film, 159. See also Kezich, Federico Fellini, 257–77. Fellini, Making a Film, 274. See also Kezich, Federico Fellini, 287. Chandler, I, Fellini, 171. Giorgio Vasari, The Lives of the Artists, trans. Julia Conaway Bondanella and Peter Bondanella (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1991), 146. 5 Sigmund Freud, Civilization and Its Discontent, trans. James Strachey, introduction by Peter Gay (New York: Norton, 1989), 18. 6 Jacques Lacan’s notion of forclusion in relation to Freud’s ‘wolf man’ is introduced in ‘Response to Jean Hyppolite’s Commentary on Freud’s Verneigung’, in Écrits, 387. 7 Fellini, Making a Film, 162.


Notes on pp. 75‒79

8 Federico Fellini, Preface, in Fellini’s Satyricon, ed. Dario Zanelli, trans. Eugene Walter and John Matthews (New York: Ballantine, 1970), 46, reprinted in Federico Fellini: Essays in Criticism, ed. Peter Bondanella (New York: Oxford University Press, 1978), 16–19. 9 Fellini, Making a Film, 163–64. The addition ‘and of Christianity’ (‘e di cristianesimo’) is in the original Italian edition, Federico Fellini, Fare un film, with Italo Calvino’s Autobiografia di uno spettatore and a note by Liliana Betti (Turin: Einaudi, 1980), 104. 10 Fellini, Making a Film, 163. 11 Chandler, I, Fellini, 171–72. 12 Fellini, Preface, in Fellini’s Satyricon, ed. Zanelli, 45, and in Federico Fellini: Essays in Criticism, ed. Bondanella, 18. 13 Petronio, Satyricon, ed. Vincenzo Ciaffi (Turin: UTET, 1951, rep. 1967); Jérôme Carcopino, Daily Life in Ancient Rome, ed. Henry T. Rowell, trans. E.O. Lorimer (Harmondsworth, UK : Penguin, 1941); C.W. Ceram, The World of Archaeology (London: Thames & Hudson, 1965); Joseph Vogt, The Decline of Rome: The Metamorphosis of Ancient Civilisation, trans. Janet Sondheimer (London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1967); René Ménard’s and Claude Sauvageot, Les peuples dans l’antiquité (1880–1883), ed. Édouard Rouveyre (Paris: Flammarion, 1928–30); Enzo V. Marmorale, La questione petroniana. La lingua di Petronio (Naples: Morano, 1947). See Dario Zanelli, From the Planet Rome, in Fellini’s Satyricon, 3–4. 14 See Italo Calvino, Gianni Celati, Carlo Ginzburg, Enzo Melandri, Guido Neri, ‘Alì Babà’. Progetto di una rivista 1968–1972, ed. Mario Barenghi and Marco Belpoliti, Riga 14 (1998), monographic issue. 15 Paolo Valesio, ‘The Language of Madness in the Renaissance’, Yearbook of Italian Studies I (1971): 199–234. 16 Gianni Celati, ‘Sull’archeologia’, in Alì Babà, cit., 153–56. As a first draft, the article was submitted to Calvino, Ginzburg, Melandri and Neri. Celati then revised it for publication in Il Verri, 12 (1975) and in Gianni Celati’s Finzioni occidental (Turin: Einaudi, 1986) with the new title, ‘Il Bazar archeologico’, 185–215. The latter version is included in Alì Babà, ed. Barenghi and Belpoliti, 200–22. 17 ‘Allegorie . . . sono sempre allegorie del dimenticato: il loro vero oggetto è l’oblio.’ Renato Solmi, Introduzione in Walter Benjamin, Angelus novus, trans. Renato Solmi (Turin: Einaudi, 1962), XIX , my translation. 18 Italo Calvino, ‘Lo sguardo dell’archeologo’, in Italo Calvino, Gianni Celati, Carlo Ginzburg, Enzo Melandri, Guido Neri, Alì Babà, 197–99; Gianni Celati to Italo Calvino, February 6, 1972, in Alì Babà, 145–49. 19 Italo Calvino, Saggi Vol. I, ed. Mario Barenghi (Milan: Mondadori, 1995), 324–27. ‘Lo sguardo dell’archeologo’, is not included in The Uses of Literature: Essays, trans. Patrick Creagh (San Diego: Harcourt, Brace & Jovanovich, 1986), English edition of Una pietra sopra (Turin: Einaudi, 1980).

Notes on pp. 79‒85


20 Carlo Ginzburg, ‘Clues: Roots of an Evidential Paradigm’, in Clues, Myths, and the Historical Method, trans. Anne C. Tedeschi and John Tedeschi (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1992), 96–125. 21 Michel Foucault, History of Madness, ed. Jean Khalfa, trans. Jonathan Murphy and Jean Khalfa (London & New York: Routledge, 2006), xxvii–xxviii. 22 Jacques Derrida, ‘Cogito and the History of Madness’ (1964), in Writing and Difference (London: Routledge, 1979), 31–63. 23 Foucault, History of Madness, 573. 24 Mario Tobino, Women of Magliano, trans. Archibald Colquhoun (New York: Putnam, 1954). 25 Enzo Melandri, La linea e il circolo. Studio logico-filosofico sull’analogia (Bologna: il Mulino, 1968), then reprinted with a new introduction by Giorgio Agamben, ‘Archeologia d’un archeologia’, (Macerata: Quodlibet, 2004). An abridged version of the first chapter, ‘L’archeologia’, is included in Alì Babà, 282–301. 26 Stéphane Mallarmé, The Demon of Analogy, in Collected Poems, trans. Henry Weinfield (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1994), 93–94. One could say that psychoanalysis came into existence with the aim to take care of that cognitive failure. For the relevance of the archaeological paradigm in Freud, see Richard H. Armstrong, A Compulsion for Antiquity: Freud and the Ancient World (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2005). 27 Melandri, La linea e il circolo (2004 edition), 810. 28 Àngel Quintana has made a (concise) case for a Foucauldian reading of Roma, The Clowns, and Intervista. Like in Velásquez’s painting, Las Meninas, which Foucault analysed in the first chapter of The Order of Things (Les Mots et les choses, 1966), Fellini substitutes representation with ‘the system by which a subject is represented’. See Àngel Quintana, Masters of Cinema. Federico Fellini, trans. Matthew Clarke (London: Cahiers du Cinema, 2011), 89. 29 Picasso is also the nickname of the painter played by Richard Basehart in The Swindle (Il bidone, 1955). The painter appears three times, always as a friendly figure, in Federico Fellini, The Book of My Dreams, Vol. 1, 1960–1964 (dream of 1/22/1962); Vol. 2, 1965–1970 (dream of 1/18/1967); Vol. 3, 1973–1990 (dream of July 1980). I have consulted the digital edition (Rimini: Guaraldi, 2013), based on the print edition, ed. Paolo Fabbri and Mario Guaraldi (Milan: Rizzoli, 2007). 30 Carl Gustav Jung, Picasso (1932), in The Collected Works of C. G. Jung Vol. 15, ed. Herbert Read et al., trans. R.F.C. Hull (New York: Pantheon Books, 1954), 135–41. 31 Gianni Celati, Comiche (1971 and 1972–73 drafts), in Marco Belpoliti and Nunzia Palmieri (eds), Romanzi, cronache e racconti (Milan: Mondadori, 2016), 3–172. See also Rebecca J. West, Gianni Celati: The Craft of Everyday Storytelling (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2000).


Notes on pp. 85‒90

32 Pietro Citati, ‘Fellini, la Venezia mai vista’, Corriere della Sera, 22 December 2016. See also ‘Appunti e temi per un filmato su Venezia (per Federico Fellini)’, in Andrea Zanzotto, Il cinema brucia e illumina. Intorno a Fellini e altri rari, ed. Luciano De Giusti (Venice: Marsilio, 2011), 111–13. 33 Italo Calvino, ‘Serpents and Skulls’, in Mr. Palomar, trans. William Weaver (San Diego: Harcourt, Brace & Jovanovich, 1985), 95–98. 34 ‘Il desiderio si rivolge sempre ad una rappresentazione per darle significato, mentre gli impulsi primari appartengono alla mobilità della materia. Non appena gli impulsi vengono elevati al livello del desiderio in cui “i sogni devono realizzarsi”, entriamo in un sistema di confusione mentale. È per questo motivo che lo zio matto vien giù dall’albero e parte con la suora nana senza proferire parola, come sbalordito.’ Gianni Celati, Fellini e il maschio italiano. The lecture was delivered in English. Stefania Conte translated it into Italian. I have retranslated the paragraph quoted (my emphasis). Celati’s text is accessible at [http://www.zibaldoni.it/wsc/ default.asp?PagePart=page&StrIdPaginatorMenu=7&StrIdPaginatorSezioni= 153&StrIdPaginatorNomeSezione=GIANNI +CELATI %2F+Fellini].

Chapter 6 Fellini Satyricon II 1 See Petronio, Satyricon, in Italian translation with facing Latin text, ed. Andrea Aragosti (Milan: Rizzoli, 1995), 46–74; Petronius; Seneca, ‘Apocolocyntosis’, trans. Michael Heseltine, Loeb Classical Library (London: Heinemann, 1925); Petronius, Satyricon Reliquiae, ed. Konrad Müller, Münich 1961, 1983 (Tusculum series, trans. Wilhelm Ehlers), then Stuttgart and Leipzig 1995 (Teubneriana 1257), now Berlin, Walter de Gruyter, 2004. See also Edward Courtney, A Companion to Petronius (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001), ix–xi, 1–14; Gian Franco Gianotti, ‘Petronio e gli altri nel Satyricon di Federico Fellini’, Lexis, 30 (2012): 565–83, and Beth Severy-Hoven, The Satyrica of Petronius: An Intermediate Reader with Commentary and Guided Review (Norman, OK : University of Oklahoma Press, 2014). 2 On the oneiric ‘imagism’ of Fellini Satyricon, in a sense that relates to both Sigmund Freud and Ezra Pound, see Richard H. Armstrong, ‘Eating Eumolpus: Fellini Satyricon and the Dreaming Tradition’, in Jan Parker and Timothy Matthews (eds), Tradition, Translation, Trauma: The Classic and the Modern (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011), 109–27. On the colour palette of Fellini Satyricon, from blue (Vernacchio’s theatre) to red (Trimalchio’s dinner), and from white (Lichas and the hermaphrodite) to brown (the labyrinth and Oenothea) see Stephen Snyder, ‘Color, Growth, and Evolution in Fellini Satyricon’, in Federico Fellini: Essays in Criticism, ed. Bondanella, 168–87. On the pictorial references in the film, including Pieter Bruegel (the Insula felicles and all the ‘infernal’ scenes), Gustav Klimt (Tryphaena), Pablo Picasso (the Minotaur), Giorgio De Chirico (the reclining Ariadne), and Fabrizio

Notes on pp. 90‒98


4 5 6 7



10 11 12 13



Clerici (the labyrinth), see Hava Aldouby, Federico Fellini: Painting in Film, Painting on Film (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2013), 85–110. Bondanella, The Cinema of Federico Fellini, 253–61. See Petronius, The Satyricon, trans. and with an introduction by William Arrowsmith (Ann Arbor, MI : The University of Michigan Press, 1959, then New American Library, 1960, and Meridian, 1983). For a detailed comparison of text and film see also Axel Sütterlin, Petronius Arbiter und Federico Fellini: Ein strukturanalytischer Vergleich (New York: Peter Lang, 1996). Bondanella, The Cinema of Federico Fellini, 242, 246. Italo Calvino, ‘A Spectator’s Autobiography’, in Fellini, Making a Film, xliv. Calvino, ‘A Spectator’s Autobiography’, in Fellini, Making a Film, xliv. ‘. . .l’opera di Fellini è una delle più intellettuali del cinema italiano. L’intellettualismo di Visconti è una cosa diversa, ha qualcosa di aristocraticamente ricercato (ad esempio, quel pretendere sempre i mobili d’epoca . . .); Fellini invece inventava tutto, ma attenendosi sempre a un suo progetto intellettuale di altissimo livello.’ Nicola Pace, ‘Colloquio con Luca Canali su Fellini-Satyricon,’ in Raffaele De Berti, Elisabetta Gagetti and Fabrizio Slavazzi (eds), Fellini Satyricon: L’immaginario dell’antico. Scene di Roma antica, l’antichità interpretata dalle arti contemporanee. 1a giornata di studio, Milano, 6 marzo 2007 (Milan: Cisalpino, 2009), 43–58, my translation. De rerum natura, III , 58. For the English translation, Lucretius, On the Nature of Things, trans. with introduction and notes by Martin Ferguson Smith (Indianapolis and Cambridge: Hackett, 2001), 69. For the Latin text, Tito Lucrezio Caro, La natura, ed. Armando Fellin (Turin: Utet, 1997), 202. Carl Gustav Jung, ‘The Relations between the Ego and the Unconscious’, in The Collected Works, Vol. 7. Two Essays on Analytical Psychology, 2nd edition, ed. Herbert Read et al., trans. R.F.C. Hull, (London and New York: Routledge, 1966), 192. On Fellini and Pirandello, see Manuela Gieri, Contemporary Italian Filmmaking: Strategies of Subversion. Pirandello, Fellini, Scola, and the Directors of the New Generation (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1995). Jung, ‘The Relations between the Ego and the Unconscious’, 158. Jacques Lacan, Le Séminaire de Jacques Lacan. Livre VI . Le désir et son interpretation, ed. Jacques-Alain Miller (Paris: Editions de la Martinière, 2013), 339. Fellini, Making a Film, 168. Sigmund Freud, New Introductory Lectures on Psycho-Analysis, Lecture XXXI , The Standard Edition, ed. and trans. James Strachey, introduction by Peter Gay (New York: Norton, 1989), 100. Suetonius, Lives of the Caesars, trans. with an introduction and notes by Catharine Edwards (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000), 209–10. See also Tacitus, Annals XV, 37, 8. Some of Trimalchio’s traits are lifted from Suetonius’ life of Nero. Trimalchio keeps his first beard shavings in a cup. Nero kept them in a golden casket (201).


Notes on pp. 98‒107

15 Suetonius, Lives of the Caesars, 162–63. See also the biography of Elagabalus attributed to Aelius Lampridius (in Historia Augusta), and Antonin Artaud’s 1934 Héliogabale ou l’anarchiste couronné (Paris: Gallimard, 1979). 16 Calvino, ‘Autobiography of a Spectator’, xliv–xlv. 17 Misogynistic fury aside (which requires a specific discussion), the best introduction to fascism as a priapic cult is Carlo Emilio Gadda’s Eros e Priapo (Milan: Garzanti, 1967). See also the 1944–45 unabridged first draft (Milan: Adelphi, 2016). Affinities between Fellini and Gadda still need to be thoroughly researched. 18 Some of these portraits and heads can be seen in the documentary by Vanessa Roghi and Alessandra Tantillo, Mussolini: The Story of a Personality Cult, Part 3: Mussolini after Mussolini (University of Warwick, Arts and Humanities Research Council, 2011). Bargellini has claimed no interest in fascism, only in in the representations of Mussolini. 19 Georges Bataille, ‘The Sacred Conspiracy,’ in Visions of Excess: Selected Writings 1927–1939, ed. and with an introduction by Allan Stoekl, trans. Allan Stoekl et al. (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1985), 178–81. 20 ‘Perché dovrei, visto che l’ermafrodito . . . sono io?! Lo sanno tutti’, Gian Franco Gianotti, ‘Petronio e gli altri nel Satyricon di Federico Fellini’, 576, my translation. 21 John Webster Spargo, Virgil the Necromancer: Studies in Virgilian Legends (Cambridge, MA : Harvard University Press, 1934), 136–206. The magician and the emperor’s daughter will reappear as Klingsor and Kundry in Wagner’s Parsifal (1882). The whole legend (with a happy ending) is the theme of Richard Strauss’ Feuersnot (1901). 22 Gian Franco Gianotti, Petronio e gli altri, 578–79. 23 Ernst Bernhard, ‘Il complesso della Grande Madre. Problemi e possibilità della psicologia analitica in Italia’, originally published in Tempo presente, December 1961. Reprinted in Ernst Bernhard, Mitobiografia, ed. Hélène Erba-Tissot, trans. Gabriella Bemporad (Milan: Adelphi, 1969), 168–79. Quotes at 169–71, my translation. Also in electronic edition, www.doppiozero.com, 2012. 24 See Marjia A. Gimbutas, The Language of the Goddess: Unearthing the Hidden Symbols of Western Civilization, introduction by Joseph Campbell (New York: Harper & Row, 1989); The Living Goddesses, ed. and supplemented by Miriam Robbins Dexter (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2001); Kurgan. Le origini della cultura europea, anthology, ed. and trans. Martino Doni, preface by Carlo Sini (Milan: Medusa, 2010). 25 Herodotus in Four Volumes, Vol. II , Book III , 38, 3, trans. A.D. Godley, The Loeb Classical Library (London: Heinemann, 1921), 51. 26 See Aragosti in Petronio, Satyricon, 536. 27 See Károly Kerényi, Die Heiligkeit des Mahles (1944) in Werke in Einzelausgaben, Vol. 7, Antike Religion (Münich: Langen Müller, 1971), 218–23. See also Mario Bacchiega, Il pasto sacro (Padua: C.I.D.E.M.A., 1971), 55–63.

Notes on pp. 107‒118


28 Sigmund Freud, Dostoevsky and Parricide, in Writings on Art and Literature, 243. 29 My paraphrase of Plutarch, On the Obsolescence of Oracles (De defectu oraculorum) 419, 17 b–e, in Moralia Vol. V, trans. Frank Cole Babbitt, Loeb Classical Library 306 (Cambridge, MA : Harvard University Press, 1936), 400–3. 30 Friedrich Nietzsche, The Birth of Tragedy and Other Writings, ed. Raymond Geuss and Ronald Speirs (Cambridge, UK : Cambridge University Press, 1999), 54–55. 31 Fellini, Documentary of a Dream: A Dialogue between Alberto Moravia and Federico Fellini, in Fellini’s Satyricon, 28. 32 Fellini, Documentary of a Dream, 30.

Chapter 7 Roma 1 Federico Fellini, Fellini on Fellini, trans. Isabel Quigley (New York: Da Capo, 1996), 47. 2 Alpert, Fellini: A Life, 14. 3 Baxter, Fellini, 38. 4 Fellini, Fellini on Fellini, 154. 5 Chandler, I, Fellini, 122. 6 Pier Paolo Pasolini, ‘The Catholic Irrationalism of Fellini’, in Peter Bondanella and Cristina Degli Esposti (eds), Perspectives on Federico Fellini (New York: G.K. Hall, 1993), 101–9 (quote p. 107). 7 Fellini, Fellini on Fellini, 157. 8 ‘I richiami che qualcuno ha fatto, a Grosz o a Goya addirittura, mi paiono astratti. Se proprio bisogna fare questi paragoni illustri, allora direi Giovenale. Cioè un classico dove anche la satira è sempre trasfigurata dal viso gioioso della vita; da giocoliere, da mago che ama la vita perché la vita non è solamente quella che viviamo con i sensi insomma. Mi sembra sia talmente ovvio questo: la trasparenza che c’è in ogni oggetto, in ogni faccia, in ogni figura, in ogni paesaggio. È questo che ho tentato di dire, pur raccontando un film che è tutto un panorama di lutti e di rovine. Su queste rovine, però, c’è una luce così fastosa, così festosa e così dorata che la vita è dolce, è dolce lo stesso anche se le macerie crollano, ti ingombrano il cammino.’ The excerpt from the interview is printed on the back cover of Federico Fellini, La dolce vita, original screenplay (Milan: Garzanti, 1981). My translation. 9 See Peter Bondanella, The Eternal City: Roman Images in the Modern World (Chapel Hill and London: The University of North Carolina Press, 1987), 201–6; Alberto Zambenedetti, ‘Filming in Stone: Palazzo della Civiltà Italiana and Fascist Signification in Cinema’, in Cristina Mazzoni (ed.), Capital City: Rome 1870–2010, monographic issue, Annali d’Italianistica, Vol. 28 (2010), 199–215.


Notes on pp. 120‒133

10 See EUR, si gira. Tra cinema, architettura, fiction, e pubblicità la storia e l’immagine di un set unico al mondo, ed. Laura Delli Colli (Milano: Lupetti, 2005). 11 In Fellini e l’EUR , Rai documentary (Luciano Emmer, 1973). The quoted segment, with subtitles, is included in Vanessa Roghi and Alessandra Tantillo, dir. Mussolini: The Story of a Personality Cult, Part 3: Mussolini after Mussolini. 12 Zambenedetti, Filming in Stone, 204. 13 Sigmund Freud, The Interpretation of Dreams, ed. and trans. James Strachey (New York: Basic Books, 1955), 438–39. 14 Filippo Trentin, ‘Rome, the Dystopian City: Entropic Aesthetics in Fellini’s Toby Dammit and Roma and Pasolini’s Petrolio’, Forum Italicum, Vol. 50, 1 (2016): 222–43. The author quotes from Italo Insolera, Roma moderna. Un secolo di storia urbanistica (Turin: Einaudi, 1971, 1st ed. 1962); Antonio Cederna, Mirabilia Urbis. Cronache romane 1957–1965 (Turin: Einaudi, 1965) and Vittorio Vidotto, Roma contemporanea (Bari: Laterza, 2006). 15 On the ring city around the GRA and its representation in literature and film, see Letizia Modena, ‘ “Senza raccontarli i luoghi non esistono”: Il GRA di Roma tra urbanistica e transmedia storytelling’, Forum Italicum, Vol. 50, 1 (2016): 194–219. 16 Walter C. Foreman, ‘Fellini’s Cinematic City: Roma and Myths of Foundation’, in Bondanella and Degli Esposti (eds), Perspectives on Federico Fellini, 151. 17 David I. Kertzer, The Pope and Mussolini: The Secret History of Pius XI and the Rise of Fascism in Europe (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014), xxix–xxxiii. 18 Fellini, Making a Film, 226–30. 19 Giacomo Leopardi, Zibaldone, ed. Michael Caesar and Franco D’Intino, trans. Kathleen Baldwin et al. (New York: Farrar Straus Giroux, 2013), 1804–5. 20 Fellini, Making a Film, 234. 21 See Andrea Minuz, Political Fellini, trans. Marcus Perryman (New York: Berghahn, 2015), 94. 22 Shane Butler, Introduction: On the Origin of ‘Deep Classics’, in Shane Butler (ed.), Deep Classics: Rethinking Classical Reception (London: Bloomsbury: 2016), 12. 23 Butler, Introduction: On the Origin of ‘Deep Classics’, 12.

Chapter 8

From City of Women to The Voice of the Moon

1 ‘Eccola, lì, Fefè, la grande fabbricante e dissolvitrice di nubi. Eccola tutta lì!’ Fellini, The Book of My Dreams, Vol. 3, 1973–1990. Dream of December 1974, my translation (the captions within the drawings are not translated). 2 Sigmund Freud, ‘The Theme of Three Caskets’, in Writings on Art and Literature, 116. 3 ‘Una donna senza uomo è / è come un naso senza officina / un capitombolo senza la mitria / un dizionario senza benzina / un parafulmine senza la cipria. / Una donna

Notes on pp. 133‒138



6 7

8 9


senza uomo è / un perizoma senza pignatta / un pipistrello senza culatta / un pomodoro senza ciabatta / un purosangue senza cravatta’, Meri Lao, ‘Una donna senza uomo’. My translation is literal. The complete lyrics with rhythmic translation in several languages are accessible at [http://www.geronimocarbono.org/archivio/ una-donna-senza-uomo/]. Andrea Zanzotto, Peasants Wake for Fellini’s Casanova, ed. and trans. John P. Welle and Ruth Feldman, drawings by Federico Fellini and Augusto Murer (Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1997), 10. The Granetto edition is Andrea Zanzotto, Filò e altre poesie (Rome: Lato Side Editori, 1981). The English edition is based on the subsequent Mondadori edition (Milan, 1988). On Andrea Zanzotto’s use of dialect and baby talk as a ‘trace’ of ‘maternal logos’, see Alessandro Carrera, Lo spazio materno dell’ispirazione. Agostino Blanchot Celan Zanzotto (Fiesole: Cadmo, 2004), 125–82. On the musical, pre- or post-verbal use of Zanzotto’s poetry in Fellini, see Victoria Surliuga, ‘Simulation and Ekphrasis: Zanzotto’s Poetry in Fellini’s Casanova.’ Literature and Film Quarterly, 37, 3 (2009): 224–33. On Zanzotto’s Filò and the Leopardi references in The Voice of the Moon, see Joseph Luzzi, A Cinema of Poetry: Aesthetics of the Italian Art Film (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2014), 124–41. See also Zanzotto’s insightful essay, ‘Ipotesi intorno a ‘La città delle donne’ di F. Fellini’, in Il cinema brucia e illumina, 41–51. ‘Una luce incertissima, né di giorno né di notte, completamente artificiale perché “fuori del tempo”; anche il luogo è incertissimo, la cima d’una montagna, sembra, o una cava franosa, tra nuvole che scorrono via; o potrebbe essere nebbia, fittissima, o fumo, od incenso di sacrifici. Alcuni giganteschi corpi scalano la montagna nella nebbia e nel fumo, guidati da Crono (il tempo). Non si odono parole ma solo come l’alone vibrante d’un immane vuoto primordiale, realizzato nel “sonoro” . . . Sono i Titani, che vanno ad uccidere Urano, guidati da Crono, figlio di Urano. Passano solo due parole portate via nella nebbia senza che si veda da chi sono pronunciate, ma ripetute come ritornello ossessivo: “Urano,” “Padre,” “Urano,” “Tuo padre,” “Urano,” “Mio padre,” “Uccidere,” “Urano.” ’ Federico Fellini, L’Olimpo (I miti greci), ed. Rosita Copioli and Gérald Morin, introduction by Sergio Zavoli (Milan: Società Editrice Milanese, 2016), 27–28, my translation. ‘Secondo il letterale, preciso e simbolico dettato del mito’, Fellini, L’Olimpo, 29, my translation. Theogony 197. See Hesiod, Theogony, Works and Days, Testimonia, ed. and trans. Glenn W. Most, Loeb Classical Library 57N (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006), 18–19. Omero, Odissea, ed. and trans. Emilio Villa, introduction by Aldo Tagliaferri (Milan: Feltrinelli, 1964). Robert Graves, The Greek Myths, Vol. 1 (London: Penguin, 1955), 39.


Notes on pp. 139‒144

10 ‘malizioso giovanotto coi capelli e la bionda barbetta arricciati’, Fellini, L’Olimpo, 72, my translation. 11 ‘la vicenda eroica dell’uomo che accetta il rischio di disperdersi nei meandri enigmatici del proprio inconscio, e soprattutto del collettivo subconscio, per andare ad uccidere, riconoscendoli, i mostri creati dalle sue stesse ataviche profondità’, Fellini, L’Olimpo, 122, my translation. 12 Walter Benjamin, Critique of Violence, in Reflections: Essays, Aphorisms, Autobiographical Writings, 276–300. 13 Karl [Károly] Kerényi, Die Mythologie der Griechen. Götter, Menschen, und Heroen. Teil II , Die Heroengeschichten (Stuttgart, Klett-Cotta, 1958), 111. Fellini owned a copy of the Italian edition, Gli dèi e gli eroi della Grecia. Il racconto del mito, la nascita della civiltà, trans. Vanda Tedeschi (Milan: Il Saggiatore, 1963). 14 ‘Che fai tu, luna, in ciel? dimmi, che fai, / Silenziosa luna?’, Giacomo Leopardi, Canti, trans. and annotated by Jonathan Galassi (New York: Farrar Straus Giroux, 2010), 192–193. 15 Ermanno Cavazzoni, Il poema dei lunatici (Turin: Bollati Boringhieri, 1987). 16 ‘Una luna, mi sembrava, così faticosa’, Cavazzoni, Il poema dei lunatici, 297, my translation. 17 Plutarch, On the Obsolescence of Oracles (De defecto oraculorum), Moralia Vol. V, 417. 13, 389. 18 Plutarch, Concerning the Face which Appears on the Orb of the Moon (De facie quae in orbe lunae apparet), 6. 923 b–d, in Moralia Vol. XII , trans. Harold Cherniss and William C. Helmbold, The Loeb Classical Library (Cambridge, MA : Harvard University Press, 1957), 58–59. 19 Leopardi, Canti, 316–19. On Leopardi’s Canto XXXVII (‘Odi, Melisso . . .’) see Alessandro Carrera, La distanza del cielo. Leopardi e lo spazio dell’ispirazione (Milan: Medusa, 2011), 51–81. 20 ‘Nada se sabe, tudo se imagina’ (from Tão Cedo Passa Tudo Quanto Passa), in Ricardo Reis (a heteronym of Pessoa), Odes. Fellini found the quote in the Italian anthology, Fernando Pessoa, Una sola moltitudine, Vol. II , ed. Antonio Tabucchi, trans. Maria José de Lancastre and Antonio Tabucchi (Milan: Adelphi, 1984), 45. In the ‘Unfinished Preface to His Odes’, Ricardo Reis writes, ‘I was born believing in the gods, I was raised in that belief, and in that belief I will die, loving them. I know what the pagan feeling is. My only regret is that I can’t really explain how utterly and inscrutably different it is from all other feelings. Even our calm and the vague stoicism some of us have bear no resemblance to the calm of antiquity and the stoicism of the Greeks.’ Fernando Pessoa, A Little Larger than the Entire Universe: Selected Poems, ed. and trans. Richard Zenith (London: Penguin Books, 2006), 81.

Notes on pp. 144‒146


21 Carl Gustav Jung, Aion: Researches into the Phenomenology of the Self, in Collected Works, Vol. 9, II , ed. Herbert Read et al., trans. R.F.C. Hull (New York: Pantheon Books, 1959), 13. On Fellini’s use of anima see Carolyn C. Geduld, ‘Juliet of the Spirits: Guido’s Anima’, in Federico Fellini: Essays in Criticism, ed. P. Bondanella, 137–15; John C. Stubbs, Federico Fellini as Auteur: Seven Aspects of His Films (Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 2006), 57–69; Victoria Surliuga, ‘Blurring the Archetypes: Fellini’s Reconfiguration of C. G. Jung’s Animus and Anima’, in Frank Burke, Marguerite Waller and Marita Gubareva (eds), The Wiley Blackwell Companion to Federico Fellini (London: Wiley-Blackwell, 2019). 22 ‘Il prevalere di una tematica negativa . . . si deve forse anche all’età . . . Sentivamo che stava per nascere un nuovo occidente, scientifico, diabolico, mirifico, a cui noi non potevamo tener dietro, anche se immagino che Fellini avrebbe potuto fare un magnifico Blade Runner, forse ancora più cupo di quello.’ Andrea Zanzotto, Il cinema brucia e illumina, 122, my translation. 23 David Marsh, ‘Italy’, in Craig W. Kallendorf (ed.) with Ward Briggs, Julia Gaisser and Charles Martindale, A Companion to the Classical Tradition, (Oxford: Blackwell, 2007), 220. 24 Federico Fellini’s Juliet of the Spirits, ed. Kezich, 28. The definition of the repressed (not the unconscious) as ‘internal foreign territory’ is in Sigmund Freud, New Introductory Lectures on Psycho-Analysis, Lecture XXXI , 71.


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Index Aeneid (Eneide), 16, 35, 55, 58, 89, 145, 152n Agamben, Giorgio, 50, 151n, 153n, 154n, 157n, 159n Aimée, Anouk, 41, 63 Alberti, Guido, 59 Aldouby, Hava, 160n Alighieri, Dante, 9–11, 13–19, 34–6, 42, 49–51, 95, 108–9, 115, 142, 150n, 151–4n Alighieri, Pietro (Pietro di Dante), 17 Aloysius de Gonzaga, St. (S. Luigi Gonzaga), 61, 156n Alpert, Hollis, 151, 152, 163, 169 Amarcord, xi, 12, 55, 57, 86, 87, 95, 97–8, 109, 118, 141, 143, 149n, 156n Amidei, Sergio, 23, 27, 29 L’amore, 7, 19, 27, 29, 30, 42 Anceschi, Luciano, 78 And the Ship Sails On (. . .e la nave va), x, 58, 102, 119, 132, 134–6, 143 Anderson, Lindsay, 83 Angelucci, Gianfranco, 149n, 155n, 156n Anthony, St (Anthony of the Desert), 119 Antonioni, Michelangelo, ix, 78, 117 Appennino emiliano, 21, 24, 27–9, 34–5, 37 Apuleius (Lucius Apuleius Madaurensis), 3, 76, 83 Argentieri, Simona, 67 Ariosto, Ludovico, 2, 86 Aristotle, 36, 65, 153 Armstrong, Richard H., 159n, 160n Arnheim, Rudolf, 24 Arpa (Arpád), Angelo, 53–4, 62–3, 143, 155n Arrowsmith, William, 90, 160n Artaud, Antonin, 161n, 169n Athanasius of Alexandria, 119 Attack of the 50-Foot Woman, 120 Auerbach, Erich, 115, 152n Augustine of Hippo, St, 3 Bacchiega, Mario, 162n Bachofen, Johann Jakob, 103

Baldelli, Pio, 24, 25, 151n Barbiani, Ida, 111 Bargellini, Giulio, 98, 162n Barker, Lex, 40 Basehart, Richard, 64, 159n Bataille, Georges, 99, 162n Baudelaire, Charles, 78 Baxter, John, 24, 32, 149n, 151n, 152n, 163n Bazin, André, 154n Bellissima, 21 Bellocchio, Marco, ix The Belly of an Architect, 118, 147 Ben Hur, 74 Benigni, Roberto, 86, 140 Benjamin, Walter, 77, 78, 81, 139, 157n, 158n, 166n Bergman, Ernst Ingmar, ix, 9, 131 Bergman, Ingrid, 27, 51 Berlusconi, Silvio, 85, 109, 144 Bernhard, Ernst, 57, 102–3, 162n Bertelli, Renato, 98 Bertetto, Paolo, 149n Bertolucci, Bernardo, ix, 98, 117, 118 Bianciardi, Luciano, 157n Blade Runner, 144, 167n Boccaccio, Giovanni, 18, 25, 34, 67, 151n Boccaccio ’70, 118 Bogart, Humphrey, 83 Bolognini, Mauro, x Bondanella, Peter, 5, 25, 28, 90, 149n, 150n, 151n, 152n, 154n, 155n, 157n, 158n, 160n, 161n, 163n, 164n, 166n Book of the 24 Philosophers (Liber XXIV philosophorum), 37, 152n Il Boom, 117 Born, Max, 92 Bosch, Hieronymus, 10 Boulez, Pierre, 138 Bracciolini, Poggio, 89 Brass, Tinto, 146 Bresson, Robert, ix, 9




Brignone, Guido, 74 Bringing Up Father, 72, 90 Brown, Robert F., 156n Brown, Tom, 154n Bruegel, Pieter, 160n Brunelleschi, Filippo, 73 Bryant, Boudleaux, 67 Bücheler, Franz, 89 Budgen, Suzanne, 156n Buñuel, Luis, 65, 67 Burckhardt, Jacob, 73 Burke, Frank, 5, 150n, 154n, 166n Burstyn, Joe, 30 Burton, Robert, 77, 78 Butler, Shane, 125, 126, 164n Butor, Michel, 78 Cabiria, 64, 74, 94 Cacciari, Massimo, 153n Caesar Must Die (Cesare deve morire), 147 Caligula (Gaius Julius Caesar Augustus Germanicus, Emperor), 97, 113 Calvino, Italo, 77–9, 84–5, 91–2, 98, 117, 152n, 158n, 160n, 161n Camerini, Mario, ix Campbell, Joseph, 139, 152n, 162n Canali, Luca, 76, 91, 93, 134, 161n Carcano, Gianfilippo, 156n Carcopino, Jérôme, 76, 158n Cardinale, Claudia, 42, 51 Carné, Marcel, 66 Carrano, Patrizia, 151 Casablanca, 83 Casanova, Giacomo, xi, 60, 109, 132, 133, 138 Caserini, Mario, 74 Castellani, Renato, ix Catozzo, Leo, 54 Cavalcanti, Guido, 42 Cavalli, Fabio, 147 Cavani, Liliana, x Cavazzoni, Ermanno, 85, 86, 141 Cecchi D’Amico, Margherita, 155n Cecchi D’Amico, Suso, 155n Cederna, Antonio, 164n Celano, Tommaso da, 34 Celati, Gianni, 77–9, 84–7, 141, 158–60n Ceram, C. W. (Kurt Wilhelm Marek), 76, 158n Cervantes, Miguel de, 86

Chandler, Charlotte, 10, 72, 112, 150n, 157n, 158n, 163n Chéreau, Patrice, 138 Chevalier, Dominique, 142 Chiamenti, Massimiliano, 154n Chiara, Piero, 134 Chirico, Giorgio de, 146, 160n Ciaffi, Vincenzo, 77, 158n Ciangottini, Valeria, 42 Cini, Vittorio, 116 Cino da Pistoia, 42 Citati, Pietro, 159 City of Women (La città delle donne), x, 8, 54, 57, 60, 63, 109, 129–30, 132, 134–6 Clare, St (S. Chiara), 34, 35, 152n Claudius (Tiberius Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus, Emperor), 94 Cleopatra, 74 Clerici, Fabrizio, 160n Clift, Edward Montgomery, 80 The Clowns (I clowns), 35, 40, 57, 60, 77, 86, 99, 116, 118, 159n Cocteau, Jean, 27 Coleridge, Samuel Taylor, 136 Colli, Giorgio, 50 Comencini, Luigi, x Comisso, Giovanni, 134, 135 The Conformist (Il conformista), 98, 117, 118 Conocchia, Mario, 59 Conrad, Joseph, 2 Contempt (Le Mépris), 105 Cornelia Salonina, Julia, 73 Corsini, Gianfranco, 2 Cottafavi, Vittorio, 145 Courtney, Edward, 160n Crawford, Broderick, 64 Creuzer, Friedrich, 64, 156n Crowther, Bosley, 152n Cuny, Alain, 50, 96, 97 Cyprian of Carthage, St, 63 Damiani, Donatella, 130 D’Annunzio, Gabriele, 64 Darius (Dareîos, Emperor of Persia), 104 Davoli, Ninetto, 37 A Day in the Country (Partie de champagne), 30 Debord, Guy, 4 Deleuze, Gilles, 4, 11, 13, 18, 78, 150n

Index Derrida, Jacques, 78, 79–80, 159n De Santis, Giuseppe, ix De Sica, Vittorio, ix, 52, 117, 118 Diaghilev, Sergei Pavlovich, 84 A Difficult Life (Una vita difficile), 117 Dijon, Alain, 40 A Director’s Notebook (Block-notes di un regista), 54, 74, 77 The Divine Comedy (La Divina Commedia), 9, 10, 14–15, 150n, 152n, 154n Divorce Italian Style (Divorzio all’italiana), 113 La dolce vita, vii, 3, 6–7, 9, 13–14, 18, 39–50, 51–2, 54, 57, 59–60, 62, 65, 67, 71, 91, 96, 104, 112–16, 118, 121, 129, 142–3, 154n, 155n, 163n Dominic Savio, St (S. Domenico Savio), 61, 156n Doryphorus, 97 Dostoyevsky, Fyodor, 2 Draper, Ellen, 152n Dreyer, Carl Theodor, ix Dunn, Irina, 133 Dylan, Bob, 12, 149n Easy Rider, 83 L’eclisse, 117 Eco, Umberto, 5, 150n 8 ½, 3, 5–7, 11–12, 14, 40, 46, 48, 51–69, 91, 97–8, 116, 126, 129, 131, 143, 144 Elagabalus or Heliogabalus (Marcus Aurelius Antoninus Augustus, Emperor), 97, 161n Ekberg, Anita, 13, 39–40, 102, 119–20, 137, 155–6n Emmer, Luciano, 118, 163n Les Enfants du Paradis, 66 Equilibrium, 118 Escape by Night (Era notte a Roma), 54 Euripides, 119, 145 Europe ’51 (Europa ‘51), 37, 51 Fabrizi, Aldo, 36, 72 Fabrizi, Franco, 46, 136 The Fall of the Roman Empire, 74 Fallaci, Oriana, 51, 155n Fanfulla (Luigi Visconti), 96 Favaro, Arcangelo, 52 Feldman, Elmer, 23


Felix the Cat, 72, 90 Fellini, Maddalena, 111 Fellini, Pierfederico, 54 Fellini, Riccardo, 56 Fellini, Urbano, 111, 136 Fellini e l’EUR, 163n Fellini’s Casanova (Il Casanova di Fellini), ix, 1, 6, 11, 13–14, 57, 84, 87, 100, 131–3, 136, 143–4, 165n Fellini Satyricon, 1, 3–7, 13–14, 18, 57, 71–87, 89–109, 113–14, 116, 119–20, 122, 124, 131, 134, 136, 143, 160–1n Ferreri, Marco, 10 Ferrucci, Franco, 151n Filippo, Eduardo, De, 115 Filippo, Peppino, De, 119 Flaiano, Ennio, 56–7, 115, 155n The Flowers of St. Francis (Francesco, giullare di Dio), 7, 24, 27, 29, 34–7, 53 The Flowers of St. Francis (I fioretti di San Francesco), 34 Fo, Dario, 34, 131 Fontanella, Luigi, 149n Foreman, Walter C., 164n Fortunella, 115 Foucault, Michel, ii, 76–82, 85, 125, 159n Fourneaux, Yvonne, 41 Frambotti, Pietro, 89 Francis of Assisi, St (Giovanni di Pietro di Bernardone), 34–7, 152–3n Frazer, James George, 40, 49 Freccero, John, 151n Freud, Sigmund, 4, 17, 46, 57, 73, 76, 80, 96, 105, 108, 120, 131, 146, 151n, 153–4n, 157n, 159–62n, 164n, 167n Freud: The Secret Passion, 80 Frost, Ann, 152n Frugoni, Chiara, 152n Gadda, Carlo Emilio, 162n Gallagher, Tag, 26, 151–2n Gallienus (Publius Licinius Egnatius Gallienus Augustus, Emperor), 73 Gallone, Carmine, 74 Geduld, Carolyn C., 166n Geiger, Rodney E., 22–3 George, St, 119 Germany Year Zero (Germania anno zero), 27



Germi, Pietro, 9, 113 Ghirri, Luigi, 86 Gianni, Lapo, 42 Gianotti, Gian Franco, 160n, 162n Gieri, Manuela, 161n Gili, Jean, 155n Gimbutas, Marjia A., 103, 162n Ginger and Fred (Ginger e Fred), 94, 100, 109, 115, 120–1, 132, 135 Ginzburg, Carlo, 77, 79, 158n Giovanni Bosco, St, 61, 156n Godard, Jean-Luc, 9, 72, 105 Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von, 64, 156n González de Salas, José Antonio, 89 Gospel of Mark, 30, 104 Gospel of Matthew, 16, 26 Goya, Francisco José, 114, 163n Granetto, Luigi, 133–5, 165n Graves, Robert, 3, 12, 137, 165n The Great Beauty (La grande bellezza), 147 Greenaway, Peter, 118, 147 Grimaldi, Alberto, 71 Grosz, Georg, 114, 163n Guccione, Bob, 146 Guerra, Tonino, 134 Guerrini, Giovanni, 117 Guinizzelli, Guido, 42 Hadrian (Publius Aelius Traianus Hadrianus, Emperor), 91, 107 Hadrianides, Michael, 89 Hamlet, 59–60, 86, 94 Harding, M. Esther, 153n Harris, Nigel, 142 Hawks and Sparrows (Uccellacci e uccellini), 37 Hayes, Alfred, 23 Hegel, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich, 68, 81 Heliogabalus (see Elagabalus), 97 Henry VIII Tudor, 155n Henry, Michel, 157n Herodotus, 103, 162n Hesiod, 3, 8, 12, 58, 135–7, 165n Historia Augusta, 161n Hitchcock, Alfred, 7, 101 Hitler, Adolf, 118, 123 Holden, Lansing C., 124 Homer, 2–3, 7, 9, 12, 40, 59, 125, 150n, 153n

Hopper, Dennis, 83 Horace (Quintus Horatius Flaccus), 76, 153n Huston, John, 80 Hyginus, 140 Iamblichus, 104 Iannucci, Amilcare A., 150n If . . ., 83 I Knew Her Well (Io la conoscevo bene), 117 The Iliad, 9, 126, 153n I’m a Born Liar, 45 Innocent III , Pope (Lotario di Segni), 34 In girum imus nocte et consumimur igni, 4 Insolera, Italo, 164n Intervista, 10, 13, 40, 45, 118, 159n James, Clive, xii, 149n Jesus Christ, 13–14, 16, 26, 30, 32, 39–40, 47, 54, 65, 95, 107 Joseph, St, 28, 31–3, 39 Jofroi, 30 Joyce, James, 2–3, 154–5n The Journey of G. Mastorna (Il viaggio di G. Mastorna), 71, 74, 116, 154n Juliet of the Spirits (Giulietta degli spiriti), 45–6, 50, 56–7, 71, 113, 115, 120, 136, 149n, 166–7n Jung, Carl Gustav, 3, 12, 31–2, 41, 49, 57, 83, 93–4, 102, 103, 126, 131, 139, 144, 152–3n, 159n, 161n, 166n Juran, Nathan H., 120 Kabir, 156n Kafka, Franz, 2, 123 Kant, Immanuel, 45, 78 Keller, Hiram, 76 Kerényi, Károlyi (Karl), 3, 12, 49, 140, 162n, 166n Kertzer, David I., 164n Kezich, Tullio, 2, 3, 146, 149–50n, 155n, 157n, 167n Klee, Paul, 108 Kojève, Alexandre, 68 Korda, Alexander, 115 Koster, Henry, 74 Kublai Khan (Qubilai Qaghan), 84 Kubrick, Stanley, 74 Kurosawa, Akira, 9–10, 45

Index Lacan, Jacques, 41, 44–7, 68, 150n, 153n, 154n, 157n, 161n Lampridius, Aelius, 161n Lang, Fritz, 157n Lao, Meri (America Franco Lao), 132–5, 164n Lapadula, Attilio, 117 Lapadula, Ernesto (Bruno), 117 The Last Man on Earth (L’ultimo uomo della terra), 117 Lattuada, Alberto, ix Lawrence, David Herbert, 57, 68, 155n Leibniz, Gottfried Wilhelm von, 90 Leo XII , Pope (Annibale Della Genga), 124 Leone, Sergio, 10, 54 Leopardi, Giacomo, 6–7, 86, 124, 141–3, 150n, 154n, 164–6n LeRoy, Mervyn, 74 Lippi, Filippo, 44 The Life of Brother Ginepro (La vita di frate Ginepro), 34–7 Lisandrini, Antonio, 53 Lizzani, Carlo, ix Lucan (Marcus Annaeus Lucanus), 15 Lucentini, Paolo, 152n Lucretius (Titus Lucretius Carus), 92–4, 161n Luzzi, Joseph, 165 Luna, Donyale (Peggy Ann Freeman), 101 Lynch, David, 7 Maciste in Hell (Maciste all’inferno), 74 Magnani, Anna, 21–2, 27–8, 31, 33, 51, 126, 151n Maieroni, Achille, 134 Mallarmé, Stéphane, 81, 159n Mamma Roma, 117 A Man for All Seasons, 155n Mankiewicz, Joseph, 74 Mann, Anthony, 74 Mann, Klaus, 23 Marriage Agency (Agenzia matrimoniale), 82 Marsh, David, 145, 167n Marx, Karl, 81, 108 Mary (Holy Mary, Virgin Mary), 12, 18, 22, 26, 29, 31, 33, 42–3, 48, 64, 96, 130, 141–2, 153n Mary Magdalene, 32


Masini, Tito, 52 Masson, André, 99, 100 Matheson, Richard, 117 Marchesi, Marcello, 72 Marmorale, Enzo V., 76, 158n Masina, Giulietta, 2, 37, 42, 45, 51, 65, 115, 134–5, 154n, 156n Mastroianni, Marcello, x, 4, 6, 39, 63, 100, 129 Matarazzo, Raffaello, 18 Maximinus (Gaius Julius Verus Maximinus Augustus, Emperor), 124 Mazzarino, Santo, 76 McGowan, Todd, 5–6, 150n Mehrotra, Arvind Krishna, 156n Melandri, Enzo, 77–8, 80–3, 158–9n Ménard, René, 76, 158n The Messiah (Il messia), 29 Miceli Picardi, Cesarino, 66 Michelet, Jules, 73 Mida, Massimo, 26 Millar, Gavin, 149n Miller, George, 75 Milo, Sandra, 129 Minuz, Andrea, 164n The Miracle (Il miracolo), 18–19, 22, 27–34, 37, 40, 42, 51–2, 138, 152n Modena, Letizia, 164n Mondrian, Piet, 108 Monicelli, Mario, x, 118 Montaldo, Giuliano, ix Montefiori, Luigi, 100 Moraldo in the City (Moraldo in città), 116 Moravia, Alberto, 107–9, 119, 163n Morin, Gérald, 136, 165n Morlion, Félix Andrew, 53 Moro, Aldo, x Müller, Konrad, 89, 160n Mussolini: The Story of a Personality Cult, 162–3n Mussolini, Benito, 97–8, 116–17, 120–1, 123, 145, 162–4n Naldini, Nico, 133–4 Nazarin, 65, 67 Neri, Guido, 77, 158n Nero (Nero Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus, Emperor), 94, 96–7, 98, 104, 161n



Newell, Jones, 23 Newman, Barbara, 153n Niebuhr, H. Richard, 151n Nietzsche, Friedrich, 107, 163n Nights of Cabiria (Le notti di Cabiria), 3, 11, 14, 18, 27, 34, 42, 43, 45–6, 48, 51, 53, 65, 115, 126, 129, 142 Ninchi, Annibale, 59 Nodot, François, 89 Noschese, Alighiero, 21 Notes toward an African Orestes (Appunti per un’Orestiade Africana), 106, 145 The Odyssey (Odissea), 50, 137, 145–6, 165n O’Hara, Frank, xii, 149n Olmi, Ermanno, ix Olympus: The Greek Myths (L’Olimpo. I miti greci), vii, 3, 107, 135–40 Open City (Roma città aperta), 2, 22, 27, 72, 117 Orchestra Rehearsal (Prova d’orchestra), x, 143 Orfei, Nando, 98 Origen (Origen Adamantius), 62 Orlando, Angelo, 141 Ottaviani, Nadia, 86, 140 Ovid (Publius Ovidius Naso), 3, 7, 12, 49, 55, 58–9, 76, 154–6n Pacchioni, Federico, 150n, 155n Pace, Nicola, 161n Pagliero, Marcello, 23 Pagnol, Marcel, 30 Paisà, 7, 19, 22–4, 28, 34, 86 Paratore, Ettore, 76 Pasolini, Pier Paolo, ix, 2, 18, 36–7, 45, 54, 106, 113–15, 117, 123, 129, 133, 145, 163–4n Pastrone, Giovanni, 64–5, 74, 94 Paul VI , Pope (Giovanni Battista Montini), 31, 131 Peirce, Charles Sanders, 78 Périer, François, 45 Perugini, Giuseppe, 117 Perugino, Pietro, 44 Peter, St, 39–40, 60, 104 Petri, Elio, 10, 117 Petronius Arbiter, Gaius (Titus Petronius Niger), 2–3, 12, 71–2, 76, 83, 89–90, 92–4, 97–8, 104, 106, 134, 142, 146, 160–1n

Petrarca (Petrarch), Francesco, 18, 34, 42, 153n Pettigrew, Damian, 45 Pessoa, Fernando, 143, 166n Piacentini, Marcello, 117 Picasso, Pablo, 83, 100, 159–60n Pichel, Irving, 124 Pietrangeli, Antonio, 10, 117 Pinelli, Tullio, 27, 29, 33, 80, 115 Pirandello, Luigi, 93, 161n Pisu, Mario, 129 Pius IX , Pope (Giovanni Mastai Ferretti), 31, 61 Pius XI , Pope (Achille Ratti), 123, 164n Pius XII , Pope (Eugenio Pacelli), 31, 123 Plautus (Titus Maccius Plautus), 145 Plutarch (Lucius Mestrius Plutarchus), 106, 107, 142, 162n, 166n Poderosi, Augusto, 120 Poe, Edgar Allan, 2, 71, 121 Polo, Marco, 84 Pompey, 117 Porphyry, 84 Potter, Martin, 76 Pound, Ezra, 84, 160n Praz, Mario, 151 Provincial Road of the Souls (Strada provinciale delle anime), 86 Prucnal, Anna, 129 Pythagoras of Samos, 104 Quintana, Àngel, 159n Quintilian (Marcus Fabius Quintilianus), 36 Quo Vadis?, 74 Ragona, Ubaldo, 117 Rains, Claude, 83 Rame, Franca, 131 Randone, Salvo, 82 Rashomon, 45 Real Dreams into the Dark with Federico Fellini, 149n Renoir, Jean, 7, 13, 30 Rey-Flaud, Henri, 153n Risi, Dino, x, 117 Risset, Jacqueline, 10, 150n, 153n Riva, Valerio, 149n Robbe-Grillet, Alain, 78 The Robe, 74

Index Roghi, Vanessa, 162n, 163n Rohde, Erwin, 50 Rolfe, Frederick (Baron Corvo), 84 Roma (also Fellini’s Roma), Romagnoli, Mario (Il Moro), 72 Romano, Carlo, 136 Romano, Mario, 117 Rondi, Brunello, 2, 24, 151n Rosi, Francesco, ix Rossellini, Roberto, ix, 2, 7, 11, 13, 19, 22–37, 45, 51–4, 72, 86, 112, 117, 139, 151–2n Rossi, Franco, 145 Rossini, Gioacchino, 131 Rota, Nino, 133 Rougeul, Jean, 4 Ruskin, John, 84 Sade, Marquis de, 67 Santesso, Walter, 39 Satyricon (novel), 2, 3, 12, 71–2, 76, 89–90, 93, 104, 106, 134, 158n, 160n, 162n Sauvageot, Claude, 76, 158n Scala, Cangrande della, 36 Scenes from a Marriage, 131 Schelling, Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph von, 64, 83, 156n Schoonover, Karl, 154n Schrödinger, Erwin, 125 Scipio Africanus (Scipione l’Africano), 74 Scola, Ettore, ix, 161n Seneca, Lucius Annaeus, 12, 160n Septimius Severus, Lucius, 73 Sereni, Vittorio, 78 Servadio, Emilio, 67 Severy-Hoven, Beth, 160n Shakespeare, William, 59, 145, 147 She, 124 Shelley, Percy Bysshe, 17 Short, William J., 152 Sini, Carlo, 157, 162 Siri, Cardinal Giuseppe, 53 Snyder, Stephen, 160n Solmi, Renato, 78 Sophocles, 46 Sordi, Alberto, 95 Sorrentino, Paolo, 147 Spargo, John Webster, 162n Spartacus, 74 Spellman, Cardinal Francis, 30, 33


Spirits of the Dead (Histoires extraordinaires), 120 Sporus, 97 Stalker, 125 Stamp, Terence, 98, 120 Statileus, Marinus (Pierre Petit), 89 Stevens, George, 144 La strada, ix, 3, 6, 14, 18, 42, 67, 80, 86, 95, 96, 109, 115, 142, 144 Strauss, Richard, 162n Stravinsky, Igor, 84 Stroheim, Erich von, 84 Stubbs, John C., 166n Suetonius (Gaius Suetonius Tranquillus), 3, 4, 9, 62, 63, 76, 94, 97, 150n, 161n Surliuga, Victoria, 165n, 166n Sütterlin, Axel, 161 The Swindle (Il bidone), 64, 159n Tacitus (Publius Cornelius Tacitus), 104, 161n Tantillo, Alessandra, 162–3n Tarkovsky, Andrey, 125 Tati, Jacques, 9 Taviani, Paolo, ix, 147 Taviani, Vittorio, ix, 147 Taymor, Julie, 118 The Temptations of Dr Antonio (Le tentazioni del dottor Antonio), 8, 57, 102, 117–21, 136–7. The Tenth Victim (La decima vittima), 118 Thomas Aquinas, St, 154n Thomas More, St, 155n Tiberius (Tiberius Claudius Nero), 106, 107 Titus, 118 Tobino, Mario, 80, 86, 99, 159n Toby Dammit, 54, 71, 75, 95, 98–9, 121–2, 136, 164n Tomasi, Marisa, 141 Tonti, Aldo, 31–2 Trajan (Marcus Ulpius Nerva Trajanus, Emperor), 124 Trentin, Filippo, 164n Treveri Gennari, Daniela, 155n Trieste, Leopoldo, 134 Troyes, Chrétien de, 41 Truffaut, François, 78 Tubbs, William, 23 Turra, Eraldo, 141 Twilight Zone, 130



Valesio, Paolo, 77, 158n Valle-Inclán, Ramón María del, 28–9, 152n Vancini, Florestano, x Vasari, Giorgio, 72, 157n Vazio, Marcello, 24, 151n Vico, Giovanni Battista, 145 Victor Emmanuel II (Vittorio Emanuele II , King), 125 Vidal, Gore, 100 Vidotto, Vittorio, 164n Vighi, Fabio, 41, 153n Villa, Emilio, 137, 165n Villaggio, Paolo, 141 Villalonga, José Luis de, 57–8, 60, 63, 155–6n Vinci, Leonardo da, 17 Virgil (Publius Vergilius Maro), 9–10, 12, 14–16, 35–6, 50–1, 55, 101, 150n, 152n, 162n Vischer, Friedrich Theodor, 17–18, 151n Visconti, Luchino, ix, 21, 71, 92, 118, 161n Visentini, Bruno, 135 I vitelloni, xi, 3, 14, 48, 75, 95, 98, 100, 111, 116, 120, 134–6 La voce umana (La voix humaine), 27 The Voice of the Moon (La voce della luna), 4, 6, 8, 35, 58, 86, 94, 132, 140–1, 165n Vogt, Joseph, 76, 158n

Wagner, Wilhelm Richard, 138, 162n Warshow, Robert, 24, 151n Watson, Gene, 67 The Ways of Love, 30 Welle, John P., 154n, 165n Welles, Orson, 7, 112, 129 Wertmüller, Lina, x West, Rebecca J., 159n Westin, Alan F., 152n Whitebait, William, 151 The White Sheik (Lo sceicco bianco), 65, 121–2 Wimmer, Kurt, 118 Wolff, Karl Felix, 156 The Woman in the Window, 157n Wyler, William, 74 Zambenedetti, Alberto, 163–4n Zampa, Luigi, ix Zanelli, Dario, 157–8n Zanin, Bruno, 156n Zanzotto, Andrea, 133–4, 144, 159n, 165n, 167n Zapponi, Bernardino, 10, 71, 76, 93, 125 Zero, Renato (Renato Fiacchini), 138 Zinneman, Fred, 155n Žižek, Slavoj, 153n, 157n Zurlini, Valerio, x