Federico Fellini: Intuitive Visual Art


A “semihumourous introduction” to the world of Federico Fellini in a “documentary” made for US television, illustrating dedication to cinema as an intuitive visual art that transcends mere illustrative storytelling.

Federico Fellini, Italian cinema

Directed by Fellini himself at the request of NBC producer Peter Goldfarb, the fifty-minute experimental documentary has him consorting with hippies in a field, taking a spirit medium down into the “catacombs” of the Rome Metro, dropping in on favorite actor/counterpart Marcello Mastroianni, and receiving a stream of visiting eccentrics in his office.

Federico Fellini: A Director’s Notebook

Commissioned by NBC television producer Peter Goldfarb in 1968 to do an hour-long program on his work, Fellini filmed a “sort of semihumourous introduction” to past and future plans: the recently abandoned project, The Voyage of G. Mastorna, and his latest work-in-progress, Satyricon.

Fellini opines on his Felliniesque creative process: “I think almost exclusively in images, which explains why an actor’s face and body are more important to me than plot structure . . . . The key word to understanding my kind of cinema is vitality. What I seek is to live the expression itself.”

Federico Fellini, A Director’s Notebook,  in his own images…

from Fellini - A Director's Notebook

Michael Rowin on Damian Pettigrew’s “Fellini: I’m a Born Liar,”: Fellini was such a good interview subject largely because he reveled in creating his own myth, even outside film (“I invented everything, including my birth”), and, in keeping with its title, the book presents a host of wonderful Fellini yarns, including his childhood abduction via wolf, his mysterious encounter with Carlos Castaneda, and several experiences involving magic and paranormal visions.

The main curios come from projects that never got off the ground: not only the well-known cursed production “Voyage of G. Mastorna” (the funereal mood of which pervaded Fellini’s films from Satyricon onward), but also a WWII version of “Tarzan,” written by Marcello Mastroianni; “Visions of Italy,” a collaboration with Italo Calvino inspired by the latter’s Italian Folktales, dealing with “fables as prophetic dreams”; a story concerning a man who metamorphoses into a woman after a heart transplant; and The Voyage to Tulum, a sort of Fellini Que Viva Mexico! documenting the director’s search for Castaneda, the infamous “Mescaline Man.”

STORY: Pier Paolo Pasolini: A Subversive Champion of the Disinherited

Interview with Federico Fellini. BBC, 1965.

Michael Rowin continues: Perhaps the greatest surprise, however, comes from Fellini’s sincere humility, not only in his role as an artist (“My films are based on fragile, half-digested ideas propped up with contradictory information and infused with nonexistent memories. If I’m lucky, I manage to get a few laughs”) and his success (“I do not recognize any particular acts of will on my part that can be described as personal ambition”), but also in his approach to life, in his belief that observation and improvisation, rather than aggressivity and hubris, can foster attentiveness to reality while transforming it at the same time.

This was the brilliance of Fellini’s vision – an eye that searches patiently for people and places, essences and oddities. As the maestro himself so elegantly explained it, “To believe is part and parcel of that vague yet fundamental sentiment in which I recognize an essential part of myself – the feeling of waiting for something.” The images in Born Liar attest to the boundless creativity and beauty generated during this wait. – MICHAEL ROWIN (FILM COMMENT)
© 2004 by The Film Society of Lincoln Center

H-T Open Culture 

Updated 30 September 2022

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

About The Outpost

WilderUtopia.com regularly posts articles, photo essays, features, and documentaries from around the web that illuminate the challenges to coexistence between city and wild, developed and developing, human and other. To reach out, write to jack (dot) eidt (at) wilderutopia (dot) com. Follow us on Twitter @WilderUtopia