Thursday, April 14, 2016
The White Sheik
Directed by Federico Fellini and screenplay by Fellini, Tullio Pinelli, and Ennio Flaiano from a story Fellini, Pinelli, and Michelangelo Antonioni, Lo sceicco bianco (The White Sheik) is the story of a man who takes his new bride to Rome to introduce him to her family where things go wrong when she goes missing in her own search for a magazine idol. The film is a comedic story of a man who is eager for his family to meet his new bride where things suddenly go wrong as the family also wants to meet the Pope. Starring Alberto Sordi, Leopoldo Trieste, Brunella Bovo, and Giuletta Masina. Lo sceicco bianco is a delightful and witty film from Federico Fellini.
The film is a simple story of a newlywed couple who arrive in Rome to meet the groom’s relatives who are eager to see his new bride when she suddenly disappears when she learn that her soap opera magazine idol is nearby as she wants to meet him. Along the way, a lot of craziness ensues as the bride finds herself on a photo shoot and all sorts of craziness while the groom tries to hide the truth from his relatives as they’re all supposed to meet the Pope. It’s a film that plays into not just a concept of fantasy vs. reality but also a film that plays into two people who are quite different but also cope with what happens when they’re both away from each other. The film’s script does have a back-and-forth narrative as it relates to the adventures of Wanda (Brunella Bovo) and Ivan (Leopoldo Trieste) where the two deal with their own craziness. The former is a young woman that has never been to Rome as she lives through these soap opera magazines while the latter is very conventional with a bourgeoisie family who have connections to the Vatican.
Federico Fellini’s direction is quite lively for the way he captures life in the city of Rome from the perspective of newlyweds who had never been to the city. Shot largely on location in Rome with additional shooting in Vatican City and rural places such as Fregrene and Spoleto. The film plays into a look of Rome from an outsiders point-of-view but also with a sense of excitement as it relates to Wanda’s adventure when she learns that her favorite photo star in this titular character (Alberto Sordi) is in Rome at this studio getting ready for a photo shoot at the beach. Fellini’s direction is quite simple with its usage of wide and medium shots while he doesn’t use a lot of close-ups in favor of capturing a lot of coverage involving the group of people Wanda and Ivan are with.
Especially as it relates to Wanda as the people she’s with are these lively and fun characters who wear costumes and such for this photo shoot as opposed to Ivan’s straight-laced relatives. Yet, both characters would find faults in themselves as their respective journeys would also make them realize what is really important. Overall, Fellini creates a lively yet compelling film about the day in the life of a newlywed couple in Rome.
Cinematographer Arturo Gallea does excellent work with the film‘s black-and-white photography to play into the vibrant look of Rome in its exteriors with some unique lighting for many of the scenes set at night including the ones in the streets of Rome. Editor Ronaldo Benedetti does nice work with the editing as it has bits of style in a few transition wipes and a jump-cut as well as some exhilarating montage moments in the photo shoot sequence. Art director Raffaello Tolfo does terrific work with the look of the photo shoot set and the studio that Wanda goes to where she meets the magazine‘s author. The sound work of Armando Grilli and Walfrido Traversari do superb work with the sound as it plays into the atmosphere of some of the city locations as well as the moments where Wanda rides on a boat with the sheik. The film’s music by Nino Rota is amazing for its playful orchestral score that adds a lot of liveliness to Wanda‘s encounter with the Sheik and his entourage as well as the misadventures of Ivan.
The film’s brilliant cast include some notable small roles from Lilia Landi as a model for the soap opera photo shoot, Ugo Attanasio as Ivan’s uncle who works for the Vatican, Ernesto Almirante as the photo shoot’s director, and Fanny Marchio as the woman who writes the stories for these soap opera magazines. Giuletta Masina is great in her brief yet vivacious performance as the prostitute Cabiria who would meet Ivan in the film’s third act as she muses about his situation as it is an early version of the character she would play in another film of Fellini’s. Alberto Sordi is fantastic as the film’s titular character as a soap opera idol who is this Rudolph Valentino-type of man as he is merely Wanda’s idea of a fantasy but someone who is very flawed.
Brunella Bovo is excellent as Wanda as this young newlywed who arrives to Rome in hoping to meet the White Sheik by presenting a drawing she made as she then becomes confused and guilty over sneaking around to leave her husband with his relatives. Finally, there’s Leopoldo Trieste in an amazing performance as Ivan as this man who goes to Rome to introduce Wanda to his family only to deal with Wanda’s sudden disappearance and a sense of shame he might endure for himself and his family.
Lo sceicco bianco is a marvelous film from Federico Fellini. Thanks in part to its cast, Nino Rota’s winning score, and a premise that is witty and engaging. The film is filled with a lot of humor but also some heart as it relates to newlyweds who cope with expectations and desires. In the end, Lo sceicco bianco is a remarkable film from Federico Fellini.
Federico Fellini Films: (Variety Lights) - (L’amore in Citta-Un’agenzia matrimoniale) - I, Vitelloni - La Strada - (Il Bidone) - Nights of Cabiria - La Dolce Vita - (Boccaccio ‘70-Le tentazoni del Dottor Antonio) - 8 1/2 - Juliet of the Spirits - Spirits of the Dead-Toby Dammit! - (Fellini: A Director’s Notebook) - Fellini Satyricon - (I Clowns) - Roma - Amarcord - Casanova - (Orchestral Rehearsal) - (City of Women) - And the Ship Sails On - Ginger and Fred - (Intervista) - (The Voice of the Moon)
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