Originally Written and Posted at Epinions.com on 10/25/08 w/ Additional Edits.
Directed by Federico Fellini with a script he co-wrote with Ennio Flaiano based on a story by Fellini, Flaiano, and Tullio Pinneli. I, Vitelloni tells the story of five different young men in a small, coastal Italian town as their lives change when one of their girlfriends is pregnant. When that young man is forced to be married, he has to contend with his old lifestyle of flirting, partying, and such while his friends do the same with one of them starting to question their lifestyle. A part-character study and coming-of-age story, the film takes a comical yet tragic approach about the way lives change for five young men. Starring Alberto Sordi, Franco Interlenghi, Franco Fabrizi, Leopold Trieste, Riccardo Fellini, and Leonora Ruffo. I, Vitelloni is a wonderful coming-of-age story from Federico Fellini.
A beauty pageant at the coastal town of Rimini where attending are five different young men: the flirtatious Fausto (Franco Fabrizi), the mature and stable Moraldo (Franco Interlenghi), the childlike yet playful Alberto (Alberto Sordi), the intellectual and ambitious Leopoldo (Leopold Trieste), and the observant yet talented Riccardo (Riccardo Fellini). With Riccardo singing at the pageant and Moraldo's sister Sandra (Leonora Ruffo) as a contestant, it's a big day when Sandra comes out the surprise winner despite not wanting to participate. Yet, the win and the whole event overwhelm Sandra when she suddenly faints. When Sandra reveals she's pregnant, the whole town is shocked as the father is revealed to be Fausto who tries to run away. With Moraldo trying to talk to him, Fausto's father (Jean Brochard) decides to have Fausto do the right thing by marrying Sandra and stay out of trouble. Fausto reluctantly does as he and Sandra go to Rome for their honeymoon.
With Moraldo, Leopoldo, Alberto, and Riccardo still in the town where nothing really happens as they don't really do anything but slack around, play pool, and flirt with women. Moraldo ponders about trying to leave Rimini for good as he finds himself in a rut wondering if he will ever do anything. While Leopoldo struggles to write a play and often flirt with the neighbor's maid Caterina (Maja Nipora), Alberto tries to deal with the fact that his sister Olga (Claude Farell) is going back with her old boyfriend. Fausto suddenly returns with a new look as he and Sandra begin to start a new life as Sandra's father (Enrico Viarisio) gets him a job working at an antique store for Michel Curti (Carlo Romano). Yet, Fausto's flirtatious behavior starts again at a movie theater when he meets a young woman (Arlette Sauvage). After going after her during the movie, he kisses where it's clear he hasn't changed. That confirmation happens more at a carnival party where he meet Michel's wife Giulia (Lida Baarova), who looked very different from what she looked like at work.
The party ends with Alberto feeling depressed and sad about his existence as he sees his Olga leaving for good leaving him and his mother distraught. Fausto gets himself into troubling after his attempts to flirt with Giulia that leads him to being fired. Going to Moraldo for help, they attempt to steal a statue and sell it for money as Moraldo reluctantly helps him. Instead, the two men get into trouble as Fausto still decides to be reckless. Even as his baby is finally born where Leopoldo's play is finally read by noted Italian actor Sergio Natali (Achille Majeroni). For Leopoldo, it's his chance to get out of Rimini though Fausto's behavior with women finally make Moraldo uncomfortable. When Sandra finds out, she has enough in which she forces Fausto to grow up while his friends ponder their own world leaving Moraldo to make a huge decision.
Fellini creates a film that is essentially a coming-of-age story of sorts about five young men who lead aimless, slacker-driven lifestyle with a few of them not having any kind of ambition. Yet, all of five of them are different as Fellini explores these characters and their situations with one of them being the lead story as the other four men try to deal with what's going on. Yet, the story is told from the perspective of one of its main characters who see his friends dealing with their lives and their desires to leave the town they lived in for so long. Fellini and his writers decide to use that character as a narrator while letting the audience get to know the character of Fausto. Here's a man who likes women a lot yet is unable to change his ways when he's married and has a child. While the character of Fausto is interesting, he's a character that is practically unsympathetic even to the end while he never has a real sense of development as his antics do get tiresome.
The other characters like Alberto and Leopoldo do have some serious development as Alberto is a man that is more child-like while dealing with the fact that his sister is about to marry a man he and his mother don't approve of. Leopoldo is the intellectual who has ambitions while trying to deal with the lifestyle he and his friends have. Yet, his character is given a chance to leave Rimini for good thanks to an actor but what happens is complex yet is something audiences can relate to. While Riccardo is a background character who has a few moments, it's the character of Moraldo that really stands out as the film's lone conscience and main observer. Yet, he's also faced with conflict in his loyalty to his friend as well as being the brother to his sister. Moraldo is essentially the character that is truly based on Federico Fellini.
While the script explores a lot of autobiographical elements and themes that Fellini would often explore, his direction definitely shows the man starting to create his own sense of style that would set him apart from his fellow Italian directors. Notably his love of cartoonish images in the carnival scene with clowns and such along with shots of the beach and street-like locations. Fellini also brings element of light humor to some of the film's nighttime scenes where the friends get drunk and sing at night to give audiences an idea of who they are in the beginning of the film. The dramatic elements are prominent in some of the character situations without being over-dramatic with some exception to Fausto's own situations near the end of the film. Yet, the film proves that Fellini is starting to come out of his own as he creates a unique film with universal themes and realistic characters.
Shot in black-and-white, cinematographers Carlo Carlini, Otello Martelli, and Luciano Trasatti do excellent work in the film's look that truly has a European style of shooting in locations while getting shots of people's feet, faces, and lots of coverage in both the carnival scene and beach sequences. The cinematography is truly exquisite in its look and style. Editor Rolando Benedetti does brilliant work in creating a unique rhythm and pacing that doesn't make the film move very slow, like most European films, while bringing a lot of style to the cutting with its dissolves and smooth transitional cuts. Production designer Mario Chiari and set decorator Luigi Giacosi do amazing work in the film's look for the carnival and the decayed look of the beach places. Costume designer Margherita Marinari does wonderful work with the costumes, notably the carnival scene with its array of clothes and look. Most notably the drag costume that Alberto wears.
The film's score is composed by Fellini's longtime collaborator Nino Rota, who first worked with Fellini in The White Sheik. Rota's upbeat, melodic-flourishing score is truly a highlight as it plays up to the film's comical tone with its bouncy melodies in its string orchestral arrangements to the more somber work in the film's dramatic scenes. Instead of going into melodrama, Rota brings a score that plays just right to the drama with heavy arrangements and notes. The score in this film is truly wonderful and memorable as it definitely revealed a lot of the promise between the great collaboration in Fellini-Rota.
The cast is truly phenomenal with small performances from Vira Silenti and Milvia Chianelli as the respective dates of Leopoldo and Riccardo in the carnival scenes. Also memorable in small roles are Silvio Bagolini as an idiot that Fausto hires, Gigetta Morano as Alberto's mother, Maja Nipora as Caterina, Arlette Sauvage as a woman at the cinema whom Fausto flirts with, Paola Borboni as Moraldo's mother, and Enrico Viarisio as Moraldo's father. Guido Martufi is excellent as Guido, the boy Moraldo befriends at night as the kid works on a train as he becomes an unlikely friend for Moraldo. Achille Majeroni is excellent as the ambiguous actor Sergio Natali who brings an opportunity to Leopoldo though it seems like he wants something from Leopoldo that might not be his art. Carlo Romano is wonderful as Michel Curti who takes Fausto in for work only to lose his trust while Lida Baarova is good as Michel's wife who is suddenly harassed by the charm of Fausto.
Claude Farell is very good as Olga, Alberto's sister who often gives Alberto money until she decides to leave him and their mother to be with her boyfriend whom Alberto doesn't like very much. Jean Brochard is great as Fausto's father, a man who feels burdened by his son and all of the troubles he cause as he has tries to make him do what is right while being a grandfather to his newborn grandson. Riccardo Fellini is excellent as Riccardo, a background character of sorts who has a talent for singing though isn't convinced that he'll move beyond his hometown. Leopold Trieste is brilliant as Leopoldo, the most intelligent of the five men who strives to succeed as a playwright while a chance opportunity leads to questions about his own desires as well as his outlook into the world. Alberto Sordi is amazing as Alberto, a childlike man who seems to love life and partying until realizing that he might not go beyond that due to his lack of skills and his devotion to his mother.
Franco Fabrizi is good as Fausto with his charm and good looks as a man who definitely can be the guy everyone wants to be until his flaws are unveiled. While Fabrizi's performance is good, his character does suffer from being very unlikeable and unsympathetic while not getting much development right to the end. Leonora Ruffo is very good as Sandra, Fausto's wife who tries to be his devoted wife only to realize that he hasn't changed as she makes a move that would definitely change things in the third act. The film's best performance is Franco Interlenghi as Moraldo, the character mostly based on Fellini. Interlenghi brings a sense of observance, subtlety, and maturity as the one character who is a conscience of sorts while understanding his friends' desires to leave their town and what's holding them back. At the same time, there's a melancholic conflict as he deals with Fausto's womanizing that begins to make him uncomfortable as he ponders whether he should be the best friend or brother to Sandra. It's definitely one of the most standout performances of the film.
I, Vitelloni is a brilliant yet light-hearted drama from Federico Fellini featuring Nino Rota's wondrous film score and the standout performances of Franco Interlenghi and Alberto Sordi. Audiences new to Fellini will see this as a nice introduction though his next film La Strada is a much better one. While it's not perfect due to one of its main characters, it's a film that definitely is influential in what it would bring to films with multiple characters and perspectives. In the end, I, Vitelloni is a wonderful coming-of-age story from Federico Fellini.
Federico Fellini Films: (Variety Lights) - The White Sheik - (L'amore in Citta-Un'agenzia matrimoniale) - La Strada - Il bidone - Nights of Cabiria - La Dolce Vita - (Boccaccio '70-Le tentazioni del Dottor Antonio) - 8 1/2 - Juliet of the Spirits - Histoires extraordinaires-Toby Dammit - (Fellini: A Director's Notebook) - Fellini Satyricon - (I Clowns) - Roma - Amarcord - Casanova - Orchestra Rehearsal - City of Women - And the Ship Sails On - Ginger and Fred - (Intervista) - (The Voice of the Moon)
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