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La dolce vita

by Torgo
posted on 3/15/21
La Dolce Vita (contains spoilers)

This is the masterpiece I hoped it would be. What's surprising about it, though, is that the title is not so much a statement about the life of the tabloid journalist protagonist as it is a question: is La Dolce Vita one of freedom? One of stability? Somewhere in the middle? Speaking of Mastroianni's character, Marcello Rubini belongs in the ranks of Don Draper in Mad Men and Princess Margaret - well, the version of her in The Crown, anyway - of memorable characters who are unhappy and unfulfilled despite having astounding privilege. Even though he has a city like Rome as his playground and has affairs with the most beautiful women in the world, Marcello envies his longtime (and mutually envious) friend Steiner, who has a more respectable career, a nuclear family; in short, everything he claims to be against. What I love the most about how the movie depicts Marcello's dilemma is that the portal into the kind of life Steiner lives is so close (yet far away) in the form of his devoted yet long-suffering fiancée Emma and that it gets farther and farther away as the movie progresses until it closes completely with his failure to communicate with the sweet waitress Paola. Also, the way the movie hints that the life Marcello strives for is analogous with being dead is fascinating and fascinatingly presented. From the parties that are described as funerals to the journey through the castle's catacombs to that stare on the beached fish, the movie certainly has a much different attitude about the lives of the rich and famous than, well, the show of the same name does, and makes it a counterpart to another Italian masterpiece from the same year, L'Avventura. There is also that other form of death - one which may be the overarching elephant in the room - which is Rome succumbing to modernity. Besides all those shots of the soulless, boxy apartment complexes, this is best exemplified in the breathtaking opening scene of the helicopter transporting what may be the last vestige of the ancient city to the new one. I do have mixed feelings about the episodic structure of the movie, which, while clever, is a bit alienating and disorienting considering each one begins practically context free. I'm not asking to be spoon-fed or anything, but adding titles to the episodes would not have been an unwelcome touch. To be fair, this is a very minor complaint, especially since I'm still replaying scenes from the movie in my head days later, can see myself ranking it as one of the best movies I've ever seen and am still wondering just what La Dolce Vita could be. Thankfully, the movie leaves that question up to you.