Monday, January 21, 2008

Fellini - 1-20-08

It's the birthday of filmmaker Federico Fellini, born in Rimini, Italy (1920). Fellini was a perfectionist who oversaw all the details of a film's production. He wrote all of his scripts, with help from dialogue writers, and was even involved in the final editing of his films. He said he approached making movies the way Marco Polo sailed for the Orient — not really knowing what may happen along the journey or where the end may lie.

Fellini spent his early childhood at a strict boarding school run by priests. One of the regular punishments was to make a student kneel for half an hour on grains of maize. As a treat on Sundays they marched to the beach, where they would say prayers while kneeling and looking at the sea. The only thing he seemed to be any good at while in school was drawing, and he and his friends would frequently miss their classes.

When he was 12, he ran away and joined a traveling circus, but the police eventually found him and brought him back. At 17, he moved to Florence, and later to Rome, and he went on to support himself as an actor, a newspaper cartoonist, and a radio scriptwriter. He wrote for a serial program about Cico and Pallina, the Italian version of "Blondie and Dagwood."

Fellini had to move frequently when he first left school because he would often have romantic affairs with his landladies, and he'd have to move when they ended. Fellini went on to have what he called "the most important year of his life" in 1939, when he traveled with his friend, the comedian Aldo Fabrizi, all across Italy with a vaudeville troupe.

Fellini earned a reputation as a good sketch writer, scenery painter, bit player, and "company poet." It was during this trip that Fellini saw his country and experienced the variety of what he called its "human landscape." He said, "A different language is a different vision of life."

When Fabrizi was offered the lead role in a film comedy, Fellini provided the film's storyline, beginning his film career. He went on to marry Giulietta Masina, an actress, after a four-month courtship that began when he became intrigued by her voice. She had taken over as the voice of Pallina. She went on to star in several of his films. She said of her husband, "The only time Federico blushes is when he tells the truth."

One of his best-known films is La Dolce Vita (1960). In 1993, he was awarded the Academy Award for Lifetime Achievement. He had a massive heart attack later that year and he died soon afterward of heart and lung failure.

He said, "All art is autobiographical. The pearl is the oyster's autobiography."

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