It is not memory that dominates my films. To say that my films are autobiographical is an overly facile liquidation, a hasty classification. It seems to me that I have invented almost everything: childhood, character, nostalgias, dreams, memories, for the pleasure of being able to recount them
Federico Fellini was an Italian film director and screenwriter. Known for his distinct style that blends fantasy and baroque images with earthiness, he is recognized as one of the greatest and most influential filmmakers of all time.
Born to middle-class parents in Rimini, a small Italian town on the Adriatic Sea, Fellini would end up enrolling in law school at the University of Rome to please his parents – though there is no record of him actually ever attending a class. Instead he spent his time with lifelong friend, painter Rinaldo Geleng, drawing sketches of cafe and restaurant patrons.
From 1939 to 1942 Fellini found employment with Marc’Aurelio, a highly influential biweekly satirical magazine. His regular column titled But Are You Listening led Fellini to other writers, scriptwriters and opportunities in show business and cinema.
Fellini’s first screen credit as a comedy writer came with Mario Mattoli’s Il pirata sono io (The Pirate’s Dream).
Fellini continued to work on comedy while attempting to dodge the draft in Mussolini’s Italy. While writing for radio, Fellini met his future wife Giulietta Masina in the autumn of 1942.
After the liberation of Rome, Fellini survived the postwar recession by drawing caricatures of American soldiers. At this time he became involved with Roberto Rossellini and the Italian Neorealism movement. In 1947, Fellini and Sergio Amidei received an Oscar nomination for the screenplay of Rome, Open City.
In 1951 Fellini began production on The White Sheik, his first solo directed feature. Screened at the the 13th Venice International Film Festival, the reviewers panned it. One reviewer declared that Fellini had “not the slightest aptitude for cinema direction”. Not to be discouraged Fellini was back in 1953 with: I Vitelloni. It found favour with the critics and public. Winning the Silver Lion Award in Venice, it secured Fellini his first international distributor.
But Fellini’s big hit wouldn’t come til 1960 with La Dolce Vita which broke all box office records. Despite scalpers selling tickets at 1000 lire crowds queued in line for hours to see an “immoral movie” before the censors banned it. At an exclusive Milan screening on 5 February 1960, one outraged patron spat on Fellini while others hurled insults. Denounced in parliament by right-wing conservatives, undersecretary Domenico Magrì of the Christian Democrats demanded tolerance for the film’s controversial themes.
At the beginning of the 1960s Fellini began to move towards art films, a major influence being the work of psychologist Carl Jung. Jung’s seminal ideas on the anima and the animus, the role of archetypes and the collective unconscious directly influenced such films as 8½ (1963), Juliet of the Spirits (1965), Fellini Satyricon (1969), Casanova (1976), and City of Women (1980).