Thursday, 6 June 2013

Review #622: 'Amarcord' (1973)

Translated as 'I Remember', the great Italian director Federico Fellini's Amarcord is a series a comedic vignettes that look back at his childhood in a 1930's coastal town. Apart from the intertwining inhabitants, there is nothing thematically or even tonally linking the stories together, much like memory itself. The film takes places over the course of a year, with nothing signifying the passage of time apart from the subtle changes in seasons. Apart from the film's brief focus on the rise of fascism, this is Fellini at his most satirically light, with his usual mocking of the bourgeoisie making way for some amusingly childish humour and some beautifully photographed scenes.

True to Fellini's style, Amarcord is occasionally outrageous and always flamboyant. We see the majority of the film through the eyes of the closest thing there is to a protagonist, the young, rosy-cheeked Titta (Bruno Zanin), and therefore everything in the film feels exaggerated. The sexual aspects especially are often juvenile, but true to the experiences of a young, hormonal man, so when Titta shows off his strength by lifting the large, buxom tobacconist (Maria Antonietta Beluzzi) he so often fantasises about, he is rewarded by having a grope of her ridiculously large breasts in a scene that could have been called Carry on Fellini. There is also the local nymphomaniac Volpina (Josiane Tanzilli), who seems to hover around touching herself and growling hungrily at any man who glances in her direction. These are true Fellini grotesques.

The comedy aside (and special mention must go to the hilarious segment in which Titta's crazy Uncle Teo (Ciccio Ingrassia) comes to stay and escapes into a tree), there are as many touching and profound moments that display Fellini's outstanding talent. The scene in which Titta must watch his mother's final moments on a hospital bed is brutal in its simplicity, with Titta's naivety failing to grasp the seriousness of the situation while his father Aurelio (Armando Brancia) lingers in tragic silence. There's also moments of beauty, namely the arrival of a peacock in the winter snow displaying it's covert feathers, or the sight of a giant ocean liner, seemingly meaningless moments that stuck with Fellini for decades. For me, this is not Fellini's finest moment - that would lie with 8 1/2 (1963), arguably one of the finest films ever made - but this is still one of the most accurate depictions of memory and beautiful ode's to nostalgia I've seen.

Directed by: Federico Fellini
Starring: Armando Brancia, Pupella Maggio, Bruno Zanin, Magali Noël
Country: Italy/France

Rating: *****

Tom Gillespie

Amarcord (1973) on IMDb

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