More than 50 years old yet curiously contemporary, Federico Fellini’s 1960 masterpiece isn’t just a cynical critique by a conflicted Catholic of “the sweet life”, it’s the film that announces the arrival of the world we now inhabit. It starts with one of cinema’s most famous shots, a lingering view of a huge statue of Christ being airlifted, possibly rescued, from a Rome gone to the bad. God, Fellini appears to be saying, has left us, and in his place we have placed the pursuit of carnal pleasure, the joys of the night, drink and the worship of our new deity – the celebrity. This, after all, is the film that introduced the word paparazzi to the language – after one of its characters, the celebrity snapper Paparazzo. And it gave Marcello Mastroianni his defining role, as the serious writer who has negelected his art to chase film stars through the night and write them up in his tawdry newspaper column, a kind of Perez Hilton in embryo. This sweet life is fun, it’s exciting, it’s narcotic – and when you’re watching the pneumatic Anita Ekberg gambolling in the Trevi fountain how could it not be – but there’s more to life than fun and the expression on Mastroianni’s face shows the cost.
© Steve Morrissey 2011