I Fellini — Essay


Federico Fellini’s I Vitelloni and Amarcord are often called autobiographical films but that is only partially true. They are inspired by actual events but those are merely the jumping off points for his creations. Take Rimini, a 4 hour drive to the Northeast of Rome on the Adriatic Sea. Fellini’s hometown. But he never shot a single frame of film there. He would return only at night and for brief periods. He didn’t want a flood of emotions to take over his imaginings. 

A Fellini character is not present in I Vitelloni. The characters depicted in the film are in their late 20’s. Fellini himself left Rimini at age 19. But he would have seen the vitelloni hanging out all night in the cafe. He would have personally known a few, even if just in passing. He would have heard their stories and legends.

He does share a similarity with one of the characters —the one who leaves. Otherwise, I Vitelloni can be considered a snapshot in time. It’s similar to the buddy movies that would come along later, Levinson’s Diner, Linklater’s Slacker, Noah Baumbach’s Kicking and Screaming, Ben Stiller’s Reality Bites. People, frozen in time and place, making due with their dreams and the best they can to reach them. Even if the rest of the world looks at their efforts and finds it not much.

If the world of Fellini were represented in a Dadaist connect the dots, the numbers to connect would be 1, 24, -52, 19, -8, 107 and then the images: a cross, a woman’s tush in a tight dress, a lonely soul walking in the night, a race car driver tearing through a town square, an exasperated, screaming adult, a naive newlywed, a little person, a strong man, an alluring acrobat, a circus clown and finally dots in a shape to make the face of Fellini himself, the ringmaster of dreams. 


Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown — Essay


Thanks to you film fans, including D!, who came out to the Almodóvar Series opener Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown at the 602 Club here in Appleton, Wisconsin. It was a cool evening paired with another 6 oh 2 event, Noche de Español. We ate well to say the least and even the “despacito” sign wasn’t enough to stop the sangria from spilling. Oh well.

The version of Women on the Verge that I screened was a pristine Criterion Collection copy, a remastered version with wonderful liner notes from Elvira Lindo which I picked up at the equally wonderful Appleton Public Library. They do have a top notch collection that I find difficult to stump, which is saying something. And the APL is also great at digging up more obscure titles for me. Doing research for my little pre-screening spiel I discovered that a lot of early Almodóvar came about from something called La Movida Madrileña. A time after the death of ironclad dictator Francisco Franco’s 40 year rule of dogmatic, machiavellian inspired Roman Catholicism. Franco himself died only in 1975. It shocked me to realize that the rapid societal attitude changes toward individual freedom that have happened in Spain occurred during my lifetime. It made me consider how I take a lot of the freedoms we have here in the West for granted. So what happened in Spain? As I mentioned in my little film intro, people went ballistic with this new found freedom in a kind of non-gendered “Ding-Dong! The Witch is Dead” kind of way. Maybe it’s a similar feeling a first year college student has in the dorms after deciding they are not fit for religious vows of chastity after all—“Sorry mom and dad!…and hey! Stop bogarting the bong!” And it was within this zeitgeist of personal freedom, art, music, fashion and yes filmmaking, La Movida, that the person — the film auteur— we know as Almodóvar was truly born.

We shouldn’t take our freedoms lightly. I don’t necessarily think we do but I think that there is nothing like a threat to shake us from our complacency. One thing I love about film is its ability to illuminate history like this and light us along in our path to being fully human, warts and all and respecting one another. Now if you can do this with bright primary colors, amazingly painted on fake eyelashes and totally barbiturate spiked gazpacho, as in the world of Almodóvar and Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, better still.

— The next installment in The 602 Club Almodóvar Series is Saturday January 6th, 2017 at 9:PM, when I’ll screen, All About My Mother. Preceded by a Noche de Español event. Save the date and leave room for tapas.



Last night was the 2nd installment of the Werner Herzog Film Series at The 602 Club in Appleton. The event was in reasonable doubt earlier in the week as an unscrupulous individual was hanging on to the Appleton Public Library’s copy of Strosczek way past its due date. But luckily for the L and D, the D was able to get a hold of the title at the Lawrence University Library. He even showed up and gave tips on cooking brats as the L was making pork brats and chorizo. Cheese curds were also served. The menu also included chips, dip, New Glarus and Beaujolais.

A slight technical snafu at the start of the film, namely the Director’s commentary would not turn off, was figured out by one of the guests, who suggested hitting the audio button during playback, which worked! Once that bullet was dodged and as the final stragglers scuttled in we were all able to sit back and enjoy Strosczek. It had been decades since I last saw this film and like our offering last month, Burden of Dreams, this film from 1975 has stood the test of time. It tells the tale of Berliners: Bruno, Eva and their eccentric upstairs neighbor, Scheitz. Scheitz has a nephew in Wisconsin who writes to invite his Uncle to move. Trying times at home and looking to get rich quick in the promised land has the trio flying to NYC, buying a station wagon for $450 and moving onward to Wisco. It’s a touching story, at times extremely humorous, at times heartbreaking, at times absurdist but always compelling and beautiful. Definitely worth watching if you are in the market for a solid foreign film, that also takes place in the United States. …Next month we will follow up this narrative with the documentary “Little Deiter Needs to Fly”.  About a boy who grows up in post-war Germany and eventually becomes a pilot for the U.S. Navy during the Vietnam War. He is shot down over Laos and becomes a POW.