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March 28, 1996 - Image 19

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The Michigan Daily, 1996-03-28

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The Michigan Daily - #uce4e., 4e. - Thursday, March 28, 1996 - 58

Fellini film festival hits Michigan Theater
Italian director's spirit lives on through restored films

By Neal C. Carruth
Daily Arts Writer
The spirit of Federico Fellini has
descended upon Ann Arbor in the
form of a month long retrospective of
the late director's fascinating and i-
fluential work. The Michigan Theater
is one of just a handful of venues in
the country to screen the carefully-
restored prints spanning Fellini's en-
tire career.
Local audiences were given their
first taste of the restored oeuvre last
Friday with a screening of the Acad-
emy Award winning "Amarcoiii"
(1974). And this was but the first of
the over 20 Fellini films that will be
shown from the end of March to te
middle of April at the Michigan The-
ater.
The restoration was initiated by
Fellini, near the end of his life, be-
cause of the poor condition of the
original prints of his films. In particu-
lar peril were prints from the 190s,
like "Amarcord," whose once vibant
colors had become dreary and washed-
out. To undertake this monumetal
and time-consuming task, which f-
ten included returning to the origitnal
negatives, Fellini enlisted his long-
time friend, collaborator and adviser,
Dr. Gianfranco Angelucci. Angelucci
served as the dying director's surro-
gate, returning the prints to their in-
tended splendor and, in his words,
"regenerating the Fellini inside rue."
Sadly, the entire project was com-
pleted only days after Fellini's death.
In honor of Fellini's contribution to
the art of film, Cinecitta Internatimnal,
the Italian studio that produced most
of his work, spearheaded this rtro-
spective - which has already visited
cities, including New York and Bos-
ton. It was the work of the Italian
Consulate in Detroit and othergrups,
such as the University's Program in
Film and Video Studies and the Michi-
gan Theater Film Institute, that helped
secure Ann Arbor's place as a stop on
the tour.
The Ann Arbor leg of the tour was
distinguished by the presene of
Angelucci, who attended the sceeen-
ing of "Amarcord" and delivered re-
marks, before the film, about his rela-
tionship with Fellini.
Earlier Friday afternoon, Angelucci
spoke to me about Fellini's signifi-
cance. "Fellini is a saint," he said.
"The miracles of Fellini were the
films. They were given to each of us
to live our lives freer and more avare."
Angelucci talked with reverence about
Fellini, characterizing him not only
as a saint, but also as a wizard and a
magician.
Angelucci first met "il maestro"
after completing his thesis on the films
of Fellini at the Art Institute of Bolo-
gna in 1969. He assisted in the riting
of several sequences of Felini's
"Roma" (1972). From that time for-
ward, he had an intimate role in the
production of Fellini's films, contrib-
uting both ideas and dialogue.
Angelucci says this gave him fain op-
portunity to share my life with Fadlini."
Even while pursuing his own side
projects in television, film and teach-
ing, Angelucci was always closely
involved with Fellini's work. This
collaboration reached its pinnacle in
1987 when Angelucci wrote the en-
tire screenplay for "Intervista."
Both Angelucci and Fellini grew

Director Federico Fellini is shown here working his magic on the film "Intervista."

up in eastern Italy, Fellini in the sea-
side resort town of Rimini. He was
born there in 1920 and experienced a
strict Catholic upbringing under the
specter of Benito Mussolini's fascist
regime. Fellini's childhood was domi-
nated by an active imagination that
manifested itself in interests in the
circus, movies, comic strips and draw-
ing. After aborted careers as a car-
toonist and journalist, Fellini entered
the film industry as a gag writer and
script doctor.
It was following the Allied libera-
tion of Italy that Fellini began his
collaboration with Roberto Rosselini
on works such as "Open City" (1945).
This partnership made it clear to
Fellini that films have the potential
for extraordinary power. He realized
that he wanted to spend the rest of his
life'in the cinema.
Over the course of his career, Fellini
won four Academy Awards for Best
Foreign Film: For"La Strada" (1956),
"The Nights of Cabria" (1957), "8 1/
2" (1963), and "Amarcord" (1974).
And in 1993, less than a year before
his death, Fellini was honored by the
Academy with a Lifetime Achieve-
ment Award. He had developed a care-
fully cultivated visual world that be-
spoke the co-existence of an enchant-
ing, lost innocence and a jaded, aloof
sophistication.
Fellini's work precipitated the ad-
dition of the term "Fellini-esque" to
the vocabulary of film. This notion
gets at the sublime moments in his
work when a startling or unusual ele-
ment invades the taken-for-granted
order of everyday life. One such in-
stance in "Amarcord" is when a pea-
cock suddenly displays its plume in
the middle of a snow storm.
In many ways "Amarcord" was the
ideal film with which to start the fes-
tival. This largely autobiographical
tale of coming-of-age in fascist Italy
has the mark of many traits that iden-
tify Fellini's distinctive style. In full

effect is Fellini's concern with vital-
ity, an attribute notably missing in the
work of some of the director's more
self-consciously cerebral contempo-
raries (i.e., Bergman).
Also present is the aforementioned
interest in images that have a phantas-
magoric or hallucinatory power. And
perhaps most telling is the extent to
which the narrative is drawn from
Fellini's own adolescence in pre-war
Italy. Fellini, who once said that "the
pearl is the autobiography of the oys.
ter," saw all art as inextricably bound
up with the artist's life. He therefore
created numerous works that must
have resonated for him in personal
ways.
Despite the intimacy of theme in
Fellini, there are universal concerns
present with which all viewers can
relate. Indeed, his stature in Italy, at
the time of his death, was unlike that
which we generally accord artists in

the United States.
It is best evoked by Angel ucci, who
said, that for 16 hours, more than
100,000 people filed through Fellini's
favored Cinecitta studio, where his
funeral was held. The music of Nino
Rota, a longtime Fellini collaborator,
resounded while the mourners
"walked slowly to have only a mo-
ment to stop and express their grati-
tude to this big soul that was disap-
pearing."

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