Friday, April 28, 2017

And the Ship Sails On

Directed by Federico Fellini and screenplay by Fellini and Tonino Guerra with operatic texts by Andrea Zanzotto, And the Ship Sails On is the story of a group of aristocrats who board an ocean liner on the eve of World War I to scatter the ashes of a beloved diva. The film is a stylized portrait of a period of time just before the world is thrown into chaos where a group of people go on board on a ship to say goodbye. Starring Freddie Jones, Barbara Jefford, Victor Poletti, Peter Cellier, Elisa Mainardi, Norma West, Paolo Paolini, Pina Bausch, and Sarah Jane Varley. And the Ship Sails On is a majestic and grand film from Federico Fellini.

Set just days before World War I is to happen and on an ocean liner during a journey to the island of Erimo, the film revolves a large group of people consisting of opera singers, statesmen, artists, aristocrats, and a journalist all traveling from Naples to Erimo to say farewell to an operatic diva who had just passed away. It’s a film that follows a moment in time on an ocean liner as if it represents the end of an era where the journalist Orlando (Freddie Jones) is there to observe everything as well as be the film’s narrator. The film’s screenplay by Federico Fellini and Tonino Guerra doesn’t just explore the life of these rich and aristocratic individuals but also coping with loss as well as the fact that they’re sort of disconnected with reality. Especially as there’s a young duke (Fiorenzo Serra) onboard as he really has very little clue on what to do while many of the opera singers and performers are just mourning this diva they admire. Adding to the turbulent journey is a lovesick rhinoceros who hasn’t been bathed and Serbian refugees who later join the ship during the second half as it play into what is happening in the world outside of the ship.

Fellini’s direction definitely relies largely on style from the fact that it is shot entirely at Cinecitta Studios in Rome where it’s full of artificiality from the sea where it definitely looks plastic to the exterior backdrops which is also fake. It adds to the world that Fellini has created as the ship itself is a character where it also displays its sense of artificiality where it kind of represents this world of fine cuisine, posh rooms, and other rich things that is quite disconnected from the realities of the world. While the film opens with this rich sequence shot entirely in a sepia-like film stock with no sound to recreate the feel of newsreels and silent cinema. After a number of minutes, the film turns into color once the ashes of the diva arrives in this lavish carriage with all of the passengers boarding on the ocean-liner as Fellini’s usage of wide and medium shots are rich with detail. Even in the way he would place his actors into a frame for a wide shot and have them positioned in the shot to display how they’re reacting or what are they looking at on the ship.

The direction also has an air of melancholia and nostalgia that looms throughout the film as it is in display through some of the music which features a lot of classical and operatic pieces with some opera singers singing these pieces. One particular scene late in the film as it relates to the Serbian refugees who aren’t exactly welcomed by the other passengers has them observing the music the refugees are playing where it is clear that they have something in common to bond with regardless of class, social standing, and cultural differences. It does have this sense of what the world could be despite what is happening outside of the sea as that reality would come into play. Still, it has something that is offbeat in the way Fellini would tell the story as well as showcase what these people would do to keep their head high despite the inevitable of what their world would become. Overall, Fellini creates a whimsical yet evocative film about a voyage at sea for a deceased diva.

Cinematographer Giuseppe Rotunno does brilliant work with the film’s cinematography with its usage of grainy-sepia film stock for the opening sequence to the lavish usage of lights and colors for many of the scenes set on the ship to play into its different moods. Editor Ruggero Mastroianni does excellent work with the editing as it is very straightforward with very few stylish cuts as it play into the drama and some of the humor. Production designer Dante Ferretti, with set decorators Francesca Lo Schiavo and Massimo Tavazzi as well as art directors Maria-Teresa Barbasso, Nazzareno Piana, and Massimo Razzi, does incredible work with the design of the ship as well as the artificial look of the sea and rooms in the ship as it is a major highlight of the film.

The costumes of Maurizio Millenotti is fantastic for the look of the suits and dresses that the characters wear to play into their posh look and the contrast to the look of the Serbian refugees. Sound mixer Fausto Ancillai does terrific work with the sound as it is very straightforward to play into the atmosphere of the ship as well as how music is presented in some scenes. The film’s music by Gianfranco Plenizio is wonderful as it is mostly low-key in its orchestral setting where it is playful at times but also dramatic while much of the music soundtrack features an array of classical and operatic pieces that is mostly from Giuseppe Verdi with additional music from Franz Schubert, Claude Debussy, and Camile Saint-Saens.

The film’s marvelous cast include some notable small roles from Janet Zusman as the ghost and picture of the deceased opera singer Edmea Tetua, Philip Locke as a prime minister, Antonio Vezza as the ship’s captain, Maurice Barrier and Fred Williams in their respective roles as the opera singers Ziloev and Sabatino Lepori, Roberto Caporali and Franca Maresca as Dorotea’s parents, and Linda Polan as the opera diva Ines Ruffo Saltini. Pasquale Zito is superb as a young conductor whose room is a shrine to Tetua while Fiorenzo Serra is terrific as the young yet slightly-obese Grand Duke. Pina Bausch is fantastic as the Grand Duke’s blind older sister that is having an affair with the prime minister while Paolo Paolini is excellent as an artist who is a conductor and dancer. Sarah Jane Varley is radiant as Dorotea as a young woman who has this angelic look as she infatuates the journalist Orlando. Victor Poletti is brilliant as the opera performer Aurelio Fuciletto whose voice can do wonders as he shows it to a kitchen staff. Peter Cellier and Norma West are amazing as the couple Sir Reginald Dongby and his nymphomaniac wife Lady Violet as a couple that is just going through marital problems due to the former’s stuffy behavior.

Elisa Mainardi is remarkable as the opera singer Teresa Valegnani as a woman dealing with the loss of a friend in Tetua while Barbara Jefford is incredible as Ildebranda Cuffari as a rival opera singer trying to understand what made Tetua so great as she copes with the loss of someone she despises. Finally, there’s Freddie Jones in a tremendous performance as the journalist Orlando as a man who observes everything around him as well as be the narrator of sorts often talking to the camera as it’s a very witty and lively performance from Jones.

And the Ship Sails On is a spectacular film from Federico Fellini. Featuring a great ensemble cast, grand production values, an amazing music soundtrack, and a captivating theme on loss and dealing with the end of an era. It’s a film that explores a group of people who are saying goodbye as they also cope with a world that is changing into something much darker. In the end, And the Ship Sails On is a rapturous film from Federico Fellini.

Federico Fellini Films: (Variety Lights) – The White Sheik - (L’amore in Citta-Un’agenzia martimoniale) – I, Vitelloni - La Strada - Il bidoneNights 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 (1976 film) - Orchestra RehearsalCity of WomenGinger and Fred – (Intervista) – (The Voice of the Moon)

© thevoid99 2017

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