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.