Friday, January 28, 2022

#2,700. I Vitelloni (1953) - Federico Fellini Triple Feature


So what is a “Vitelloni”?

Well, according to filmmaker extraordinaire Federico Fellini, it’s a man in his late 20s or early 30s who doesn’t work and spends his days with his buddies, chasing girls and wasting time.

That just about sums up the characters populating his 1953 award-winning comedy / drama, I Vitelloni.

Like many of the great director’s movies, I Vitelloni is semi-autobiographical: Five buddies – Moraldo (Franco Interlenghi), Fausto (Franco Fabrizi), Alberto (Alberto Sordi), Leopoldo (Leopoldo Trieste) and Riccardo (played by Riccardo Fellini, Federico’s brother) – all of whom are pushing 30 - live in a provincial town on the Adriatic coast.

Fausto is dating Moralda’s sister Sandra (Leonora Ruffo), and is forced to marry her when she becomes pregnant. But Fausto won’t let marriage get in the way of his having a good time, and is fired from his job when he makes an aggressive pass at Giulia (Lida Baarova), the wife of his boss (Carlo Romano).

As for the others, Leopoldo fancies himself a playwright, and is flattered when renowned actor Sergio Natali (Achille Majeroni) praises his newest opus, while the reserved and quiet Moraldo does what he can to hide Fausto’s philandering ways from his sister. Alberto lives off his mother and his sister Olga (Claude Farell) - though he is none too happy to discover Olga is dating a married man - and Riccardo hopes one day to become a famous singer.

Whether dressing up for the annual masquerade ball, playing pool, or simply staring out at the sea, these five friends dream of the day when they can leave their quiet, boring town behind. Only one of them, however, will find the courage to actually do so.

I Vitelloni is, indeed, a comedy, and features a handful of funny moments; in one scene, Alberto leans out of a car window and insults some workers on the side of the road, only to have the car break down immediately after. But it’s the characters and their laissez-faire attitude that makes this film so appealing, even when said characters are doing questionable things, like when Fausto leaves Sandra alone in a movie theater to pursue a married woman that had been sitting next to them.

But its their flaws that make these friends believable, and even when you want to smack some sense into them (Fausto’s father, played by Jean Brochard, does so to his son on a number of occasions), you can’t wait to see what the five of them will do next.

Cited as an influence on such movies as Martin Scorsese’s Mean Streets and George Lucas’s American Graffiti, I found as I was watching I Vitelloni that I couldn’t help comparing it to Barry Levinson’s Diner (though Levinson claims he had never seen this movie prior to writing and directing his 1982 film). Like I Vitelloni, the characters in Diner are a decent bunch of guys with no ambition; they hang out with one another and have a good time. When the responsibilities of life creep up on you, as they do all of us, who doesn’t think back to a time when there wasn’t a care in the world?

Well, for the characters in I Vitelloni, that’s pretty much every day of the week.

Must be nice.

Rating: 10 out of 10

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