Federico Fellini created many unforgettable worlds in his films, starting with early work influenced by his provincial youth, which would inform the multi-award winning ‘La Strada’ (1954), with its portrayal of the harsh life of travelling entertainers in post-war Italy.
Rome, however, would become the all-consuming subject of his later work, first portrayed as a seductive world of illusion in ‘The White Sheik’ (1952), followed by its seamy underworld of prostitution in ‘The Nights of Cabiria’ (1957). After the international success of ‘La Dolce Vita’, Fellini would turn increasingly to flamboyant fantasy, with that film’s star, Marcella Mastroianni, playing the director’s own alter-ego in ‘8 ½’ (1963). Ancient Rome, as chronicled by Nero’s courtier Petronius, became a lurid spectacle in ‘Satyricon’ (1969), while ‘Roma’ (1972) allowed Fellini to take viewers on a very personal tour of the city as he had experienced it. However, it was a nostalgic return to the Rimini of his youth in ‘Amarcord’ (1973) that gave Fellini has last resounding critical and commercial success.
Like Kubrick’s ‘Barry Lyndon’, made the year before, ‘Casanova’ (1976) disconcerted many of the director’s admirers, with its disenchanted approach to historical portrayal. Yet it has found many supporters, who maintain that the pessimism of later Fellini is as admirable as his earlier optimism. Marking the director’s centenary, Ferruccio Castronuovo’s behind the scenes documentary, ‘Fellinopolis’, offers a chance to revisit many of the extraordinary worlds conjured from Fellini’s self-mythologisation. - Ian Christie