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Amarcord (Federico Fellini, 1973)
Art House Rating

Fellini returned from the Dead (at least in my opinion) with Amarcord in 1973, after almost a decade of mostly surrealism for its own sake. I realize that he seems to have been reborn as a juvenile who is utterly obsessed with flatulence, urination, masturbation, and whatever the hell else which teenage kids obsessed about in 1930s Italy (oh yeah! American movies!) Amarcord literally means "I Remember", and it's obvious that Fellini remembers his youth in his "eccentric" township, but perhaps he also remembers some of his filmmaking past. However, Amarcord really has no plot whatsoever. Rather, it's a series of scenes involving Fellini and his family during the Mussolini era where his mother and father seemed to take turns acting the most histrionic while the rest of the family seemed to be too dense to realize what was going on or just too far into sex to care.

Fellini does cram in a lot of seemingly-autobiographical detail, and this is probably why the lack of plot seems not to matter. Fellini says up front, "I Remember", and who's to challenge him about the way his dreams or the memories of his past come out onto the screen? The film is mostly played for straight-up laughs, even farcical ones, so even when something serious comes along, it seems a bit light-hearted or almost melancholically wistful rather than anything honestly dramatic.

It's difficult though to say whether the film is truly affecting or just a CliffsNotes version of Fellini's youth. There are so many people yelling at each other, choking, screaming, grimacing, cussing, that it seems that Fellini doesn't even remember how to depict an honest emotion. However, he can certainly depict cinematic emotions and create an enormous world out of one small setbound town, so his cinematic skills are very much on display in Amarcord. His satire of fascism as just the same thing as mommy and daddy yelling at each other is a possible point, along with some of the laments depicted in the ocean liner scene, but overall, I'd say that Amarcord is more entertaining than Cries and Whispers, but probably less worthy of serious discussion. Even so, you could do much worse than watching these two films back-to-back some time.