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I vitelloni

Director: Federico Fellini

Italy-France| 1953. Subtitles. Black and white. 103 mins. New 35mm print.


‘Vitelloni’ literally means ‘overgrown calves’, a typical Fellini coinage to describe a group of petit bourgeois, stay-at-home young men in a provincial seaside town, kidding themselves they’ve grown out of adolescence. They think they’re something, and the ?lm manages to be both pitiless and sympathetic in showing that they’re not. Leopoldo (Leopoldo Trieste) thinks he’s a writer but spends his time eyeing the girl next door and believing a famous old actor is interested in him for his mind. Alberto (Alberto Sordi) struts about (and drags up), unable to see that he’s utterly dependent on his mother and sister. Franco (Franco Fabrizi) has to get married but just can’t stop womanising, even when he’s working in a shop selling rosaries and plaster saints. I vitelloni is like the neo-realism that Fellini ?rst worked in, observational and episodic as well as poignant and down-to-earth. But it is also distinctly his, able to be inward with characters and situations and yet also ironic, even critical. Above all, there is everything that makes Fellini Fellini: the strains of Nino Rota’s insinuating, melancholy music, the haunting sound of wind, subtly ?owing camera movement, seedy imagery of small-town life, a perfectly chosen cast and a disconcerting sense of point of view. It wraps you up blissfully in a world at once enchanting and second-rate, heart-warming, comic, recognisable and, just occasionally, ?ercely sentimental.

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