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Federico Fellini DIRECTOR

Federico Fellini was born January 20, 1920 in the small Italian town of Rimini. While receiving his education at religious boarding schools as a child, he developed interests in drawing, puppet shows, and the circus. In fact, when Fellini was twelve years old, he briefly ran away from home to join the circus. In 1939 he enrolled in law school at the University of Rome, although he never actually attended any classes. Instead, Fellini became a number of titles: journalist, caricature artist, and screenwriter.
In 1941, he met his future wife, actress Giulietta Masin, while in the studio office of a public radio station where he had secured a job in order to avoid going to war. The couple married in 1943 and she would go on to appear in a number of his films. Fellini later called Giulietta the single greatest influence on his work. After the war in Italy ended, he got his first important breakthrough in film as a scriptwriter. He continued working in film and even started serving as assistant director some of his pictures, including “Rome, Open City” (1945), “Paisan” (1946), and “L’amore” (1948).
In 1950 Fellini made his first attempt at directing one of his own screenplays, “Variety Lights” (1950), a backstage comedy set among travelling performers. “The White Sheik” (1952) followed, a light hearted satire about a newlywed woman’s obsession with a comic strip hero. The director’s first masterpiece came next, the dramedy “I Vitelloni” (1953), a character study of five young men. Though his pictures were followed in the neorealism tradition, they also portrayed sympathy for the quirks of each character and integrated a type of absurdist humor, twists that made Fellini’s films distinctive from other directors’.  

The drama “La Strada” (1954) became the director’s first international hit, garnering ten award wins as well as an Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film. The feature showed the moving story of an innocent young girl who is sold by her family into a moving a circus, fusing neorealism and the surreal with poetic unity. The picture’s success launched Fellini into international recognition.
Following two outstanding but less significant works – “Ill Bidone” (“The Swindler”) (1955) and “Nights of Cabiria” (1957), which also won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film – Fellini began his most known work: “La Dolce Vita” (“The Sweet Life”) (1960). When released, it broke all box office records. People lined up to see the “immoral” and scandalous film about sex and death in Rome’s high society that offended the Catholic Church and paid criticism to the Italian government, before it was banned by the censors. Fellini earned his first Oscar nod for Best Director for the feature, as well as his third win for Best Foreign Language Film.
International audiences anxiously awaited the director’s next film, though he seemed to be suffering from writer’s block. Rather cleverly, he used this idea for his next picture, “8 ½” (1963) (the 8 ½ corresponding to how many films he had made), which centered on a filmmaker as he struggles to come up with a new idea for a movie. The film turned out to be influential, with its exceptional blend of fantasy and reality winning it two Academy Awards, including Best Foreign Language Film. 

With 1965’s twice Oscar nominated “Juliet of the Spirits”, Fellini worked for the first time in color. The complex and psychological picture depicts a woman who suspects her husband of cheating. However, negative critical review was much more apparent than the voices of critics praising the director for his insightful and innovative vision. Fellini’s subsequent feature was the science fiction “Fellini Satyricon” (1969), which was based loosely on Petronius’ Satyricon. It followed the adventures of bisexual characters in a pre-Christian world, with explicit and often disturbing images of sex and nudity, suicide, violence, and mythological creatures. Some critics hailed the film as a new type of cinema, while others attacked it. Still, it helmed an Oscar nomination for Best Director.
The television documentary about Fellini’s attraction to clowns, called “The Clowns”, followed in 1970, trailed by “Fellini’s Roma” (1972), focusing on the director’s love-hate relationship with the Eternal City. “Amarcord” (1973), a series of nostalgic and comedic vignettes from the 1930s, earned Fellini another Academy Award for his directing, as well as a win for Best Foreign Language Film. Unfortunately, this picture proved to be his last success.
“Fellini’s Casanova” (1976) found its only favor in Japan, while “Orchestra Rehearsal” (1978) ineffectively utilized the orchestra as a metaphor for dissonant Italian politics. “City of Women” (1980) was pleasant enough, but it suffered from a long running time and lack of structure. “And the Ship Sails On” (1983) was a bit more enjoyable, highlighting the ostentation in bourgeois life. “Ginger and Fred” (1985) was heavily criticized by critics upon its release, although it had some amusing moments. Fellini once again revisited his past and reflected, though at an older age, with “Fellini’s Intervista” (1987). “The Voice of the Moon” (1990) was the director’s last completed film, often considered his most surreal. 

In 1993 Fellini was bestowed an Honorary Award from the Academy Awards “In recognition of his cinematic accomplishments that have thrilled and entertained worldwide audiences.” On June 16, 1993, the director suffered a stroke. A couple months later he suffered another one, causing him to lapse into a coma. He never recovered, dying on October 31, 1993, a day after his fiftieth wedding anniversary. Fellini was seventy three years old. However, the legacy of his life and works still lives on. Like the director once said: “There is no end. There is no beginning. There is only the infinite passion of life.”


1993 The King of Ads 
1990 The Voice of the Moon
1987 Fellini's Intervista
1986 Ginger and Fred   

1983 And the Ship Sails On
1980 City of Women
1978 Orchestra Rehearsal
1976 Fellini's Casanova
1973 Amarcord  

1972 Fellini's Roma
1970 The Clowns  

1969 Fellini Satyricon    

1969 NBC Experiment in Television 
1968 Spirits of the Dead 
1965 Juliet of the Spirits
1963 8½
1962 Boccaccio '70 
1960 La Dolce Vita 

1957 Nights of Cabiria
1955 Il bidone
1954 Dov'è la libertà...? 
1954 La Strada 

1953 Love in the City  

1953 I Vitelloni
1952 The White Sheik
1950 Variety Lights
1948 Senza pietà 
1948 L'amore  

1946 Paisan  
1945 Rome, Open City

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