Monday, September 10, 2018

Ginger and Fred

Directed by Federico Fellini and screenplay by Fellini, Tonino Guerra, and Tullio Pinelli from a story by Fellini and Guerra, Ginger and Fred is the story of a dancing couple who impersonate the works of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers who reunite after thirty years of retirement for a TV show while contending with all sorts of issues. The film is a look of a couple who try to bring back their sense of joy as the couple is played by Marcello Mastroianni and Giulietta Masina. Also starring Franco Fabrizi, Augusto Poderosi, and Toto Mignone. Ginger and Fred is a delightful and heartfelt film from Federico Fellini.

Set during the Christmas season in Rome, the film follows a dancing tribute act who reunite more than thirty years since their split to appear on a variety TV show as they deal with what they’re about to do as well as the fact that they hadn’t seen each other since the split. It’s a film with a simple premise as it largely takes place in the span of 24 hours where this couple arrive separately unaware that the TV show they’ve been asked to reunite and perform is this odd variety show which would include all sorts of performers and oddballs to appear. The film’s screenplay from Federico Fellini, Tonino Guerra, and Tullio Pinelli is straightforward in terms of its narrative as it play into this strange environment of performers that include a transvestite (Augusto Poderosi), a celebrated admiral (Friedrich von Ledebur), a monk (Jacques Henri Lartigue) who claims he can fly, and all sorts of performers and impersonators.

For Amelia Bonetti (Giulietta Masina) and Pippo Botticella (Marcello Mastroianni) who both respectively play their parts as impersonators of Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire. Their reunion is a joyous one while both of them would have different lives and different reasons for appearing on the show as Amelia is hoping to be on TV for her grandchildren to see her while Pippo claims to show up for money yet he has a bigger reason to be on the show. During their reunion, old issues would return but also a fondness for one another as they also deal with the chaos that is happening for the preparation of their TV appearance.

Fellini’s direction is definitely stylish which is expected from the filmmaker who isn’t afraid to make fun of Italian television in its most lavish as well as the way variety shows and ads for products are presented. Shot largely on location in Rome with much of the sets created at Cinecitta Studios in Rome, Fellini would use wide shots to capture the scope of the TV studio in its interiors as well as its large exterior shots to showcase how big the building is in its grand architecture. Yet, much of Fellini’s direction emphasizes on close-ups and medium shots as it relates to the characters as many of them live in a hotel near the city and then be transported by bus to the studio on that day. Fellini’s direction also play into the fact that the story is set during the Christmas holidays as Fellini avoids many famous landmarks of Rome to show a city that has changed into something that is messier and troubling due to the fact that there’s these ads where nude women are the ones selling products for meat or pasta.

Fellini’s approach to the scenes of the variety show is about excess and this idea of entertainment in which a show brings in an array of personalities and performers where it is more about exploitation and to be used for laughs rather than give them a chance to be appreciated for their talents. It’s something that Pippo is aware of despite the fact that he would run into an old friend in Toto (Toto Mignone) who would help Pippo and Amelia in remembering a few steps and such. There is also this idea of chaos that Fellini would create backstage which would overwhelm Amelia who wonders if she’s made the right decision as the film’s climax is the two dancing like Ginger and Fred. It’s a moment that would play into this idea of not just nostalgia but also bringing in this idea of class and elegance back into a world that lost all of that in favor of low-class entertainment. Overall, Fellini creates a majestic and exhilarating film about a dance tribute couple who reunite for a strange TV show.

Cinematographers Tonino Delli Colli and Ennio Guarnieri do brilliant work with the film’s colorful cinematography with the usage of lights for many of the interior scenes at the studio and backstage area as well as the usage of vibrant lighting for the daytime exteriors as well as a few scenes set at night. Editors Nino Baragli, Ugo de Rossi, and Ruggero Mastroianni do excellent work with the editing as it is largely straightforward with some rhythmic cuts to play into some of the film’s humor and the climatic dance scene. Production designer Dante Ferretti, with art director Nazzareno Piana plus set decorators Franco Fumagalli and Angelo Santucci, does amazing work with the set design from the way the hotel rooms and lobbies look like in the interiors as well as the studio set and the grand look of the studio exterior in how grand it is as it’s a highlight of the film. Costume designer Danilo Donati does fantastic work with the costumes as it play into the extravagance of the performers and personalities that are to appear on the show as well as the clothes that Amelia and Pippo wear offstage that are more casual.

Chief makeup artist Rino Carboni does terrific work with the makeup for the way some of the characters look to play into those they impersonate. The special effects of Adriano Pischiutta is nice for the way some of the TV commercials look when they appear on the TV to play into that sense of artificiality and silliness of what they’re selling. The sound work of Fabio Ancillai and Tomasso Quattarini is superb for the way a studio sounds from the inside as well as some of the sparse moments such as Amelia hearing a man snore in the next room. The film’s music by Nicola Piovani is incredible for its playful and filled with these amazing woodwind arrangements and strings to play into liveliness of the film while the music that Amelia and Pippo dance to are the material that Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers would dance to as it is largely music from Irving Berlin, Jerome Kern, and Lorenz Hart.

The film’s marvelous ensemble cast include some notable small roles and appearances from Salvatore Billa as a Clark Gable impersonator, Antoine Saint-John as a bandaged man about unveil his new look, Friedrich von Thun as a kidnapped tycoon, Ezio Marano as an intellectual selling books who converses with Pippo, Jacques Henri Lartigue as a monk claiming he can fly, Augusto Poderosi as a kind transvestite Amelia befriends, Toto Mignone as an old friend of Amelia and Pippo who works for the show as he helps them rehearse their performance, and Franco Fabrizi as the host of the variety show.

Finally, there’s the duo of Giulietta Masina and Marcello Mastroianni in phenomenal performances in their respective roles as Amelia Bonetti/Ginger and Pippo Botticella/Fred. Masina provides a charm and elegance to her role as a woman that is eager to dance while dealing with everything that is happening backstage as it would overwhelm her. Mastroianni also provides charm but with a haggard look of a man who hasn’t done much while being frustrated with the ways of the world. Masina and Mastroianni together are just a joy to watch in the way they argue as well as reminisce about other things as they are a major highlight of the film.

Ginger and Fred is a sensational film from Federico Fellini that features incredible performances from Giulietta Masina and Marcello Mastroianni. Along with its ensemble cast, grand art direction, colorful visuals, bawdy humor, and a sumptuous music score. The film is definitely entertaining as well as provide an idea of what entertainment could be without the need to be overly silly or exploitive. In the end, Ginger and Fred is a spectacular 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 WomenAnd the Ship Sails On - (Intervista) – (The Voice of the Moon)

© thevoid99 2018


Sean said...

You always find such interesting movies! I love getting to read about films I've never heard of. There's always so much more to discover.

Brittani Burnham said...

When I saw the title I expected it to be a documentary, I've never heard of this at all, but it sounds like something I'd watch.

thevoid99 said...

@Sean-That's one of the reasons why I blog and watch movies which is to discover things that not many people have heard of.

@Brittani-It's considered by some to be a minor Fellini film late in his career but I'll take minor-late Fellini over anything. Plus, when you have a film from Fellini that features 2 of his best actors in Giulietta Masina and Marcello Mastroianni. You know you're going to watch something that is good.