Directed by Federico Fellini and written by Fellini, Bernardino Zapponi, and Brunello Rondi, La citta delle donne (City of Women) is the story of a businessman who is trapped inside a hotel as he encounters women all over the hotel and the city around him. The film is a fantasy-comedy that plays into a man who is forced to confront his own attitudes about men and women as it forces him to think about everything he’s done including his relationship with his wife. Starring Marcello Mastroianni, Anna Prucnal, Bernice Stegers, Donatella Damiani, Iole Silvani, and Ettore Manni. La citta delle donne is a majestic and rapturous film from Federico Fellini.
The film is about a surreal journey of a businessman who follows a woman he meets on a train in an attempt to seduce only to find himself in a hotel full of women where a lot of chaos ensues as he is forced to deal with his ideas about men and women and his relationship with the latter. It’s a film that explores a man who is asleep on a train only to wake up where he meets this beautiful passenger whom he would make out with in the bathroom only to leave as he would follow her into a forest that is a pathway to a mysterious hotel that is the beginning of a series of misadventures in the course of an entire day. The film’s screenplay by Federico Fellini, Bernardino Zapponi, and Brunello Rondi does play into the male gaze towards women but also this idea of what a man wants in a perfect woman in its possible existence. The film does have a unique structure based on its settings as the first act largely takes place in this hotel where its protagonist Snaporaz (Marcello Mastroianni) has followed this woman (Bernice Stegers) from a train they were both on as the hotel is full of women.
Notably as there’s conferences relating to feminism, performance art installations, discussions on men vs. women, and other things where Snaporaz looks on in awe yet he ends up getting into trouble until he is saved by Donatella (Donatella Damiani) who would put him into more trouble. The second act has him leaving the hotel thanks to a woman motorcyclist (Iole Silvani) yet she has her own ideas that would put him into trouble but also lost in the countryside where he would later meet a group of teenage women and young women as he would eventually find shelter in the home of Dr. Xavier Katzone (Ettore Manni) who isn’t fond of feminism and rowdy women. Dr. Katzone is a unique figure as a man whose home is filled with a lot of things including a grand hall devoted to the women he had been with as he’s about to have a party where one of his guests is Snaporaz’s estranged wife Elena (Anna Prucnal) who isn’t happy to see him. It plays into Snaporaz’s own fallacies but also his own desires where he sees Donatella at the party as its third act is this strange fantasy that plays into past events in Snaporaz’s life as well as the male gaze where he is confronted for his own faults with women.
Fellini’s direction is definitely grand as it plays into this idea of fantasy and surrealism as it plays into a man and his love for women but also how he sees them. Shot largely at Cinecitta Studios in Rome with various locations in small Italian countryside areas, Fellini does maintain some simplicity in terms of his close-ups and medium shots when it play into characters looking at each other or reacting to something around them. The intimacy does play into Snaporaz’s encounter with his surroundings and women does have this element of style where Fellini keeps the spectacles at a restraint to focus on Snaporaz’s emotions and frustrations towards the way women treat him. Then there’s the wide shots as Fellini uses them to capture not just some of the exterior locations but the extravagance of the places that Snaporaz goes to including Dr. Katzone’s lavish home and the hotel itself with its rooms including a gym where Snaporaz watches all sorts of activities including women learning martial arts to kick a man in his nuts. Fellini also uses these settings into not just explore feminism and its faults but also the fact that men haven’t made things easier as Snaporaz is a man stuck in his old ways while is trying to be understanding.
Unfortunately, he does see them as objects of desire while the scene at Dr. Katzone’s home where he converses his wife showcases a lot of his faults as a husband as it reveals why they’re separating. Even in a scene where she is nude and wants to have sex with him where it is clear that they’re no longer on the same page since Snaporaz wants to be with other women and doesn’t appreciate her. Its third act is Fellini at his most lavish in terms of its set pieces with this air of whimsy to play into Snaporaz’s own life and his childlike innocence towards women that evolved into something more masculine where he is forced to confront his faults as a man. Its climax is also lavish as it plays into the male gaze but is seen mainly by women in what a man will do to reach its idea of the perfect woman that is followed by an ending that is ambiguous but also one where it is about this man who is forced to come to terms about his relationship with women. Overall, Fellini crafts a dazzling and exhilarating film about a businessman who enters into a world inhabited by women where he deals with his fantasies and realities.
Cinematographer Giuseppe Rotunno does brilliant work with the cinematography with its lush and natural look for some of the film’s daytime exterior scenes to the usage of stylish lights for many of the interior scenes including the hall of women at Dr. Katzone’s home. Editor Ruggero Mastroianni does excellent work with the editing with its stylish usage of jump-cuts for a few scenes as well as some stylish cuts for some of the humor and drama. Production designer Dante Ferretti, with set decorators Bruno Cesari and Carlo Gervasi plus art director Giorgio Giovannini, does amazing work with the set design in the look of some of the hotel rooms that include performance art instillations, its gym, Dr. Katzone’s home including its hall of women, and the fantasy park that Snaporaz went to in the film’s third act. Costume designer Gabriella Pescucci does fantastic work with the costumes from the look of the police uniform some of the women wear during Dr. Katzone’s party as well as a lot of the clothes the women wear including some lavish gowns.
Makeup designer Giancarlo Del Brocco does nice work with the makeup of some of the characters in the look of some of the women in the performance art instillations as well as some of the fantasy scenes. The special effects by Adriano Pischiutta is terrific for some of the film’s minimal effects that largely relate to some of the film’s grand set pieces. The sound work of Pierre Paul Marie Lorrain and Tomasso Quattrini is superb for capturing the atmosphere of the locations as well as the raucous atmosphere involving lots of women in a crowd to play into the craziness that Snaporaz deals with. The film’s music by Luis Enriquez Bacalov is incredible for its playful orchestral score that has elements of strings and woodwinds to bring in some of its humor while also featuring music from old pop standards to the Italo disco of the late 1970s/early 1980s.
The casting by Liliane Betti is wonderful as it feature some notable small roles and appearances from Gabriella Giorgelli as a fish woman from Snaporaz’s childhood past in a fantasy ride, Catherine Carrel as a police commandant who charges Dr. Katzone with a charge over his party, the quintet of Marina Confalone, Dominique Labourier, Sylvie Meyer, Stephane Emilfork, and Helene G. Calzarelli as feminists, Silvana Fusacchia as a roller-skater that skates around a gym that is friends with Donatella, and Fiammetta Baralla as the mother of the motorcyclist who isn’t fond of these modern ideals as she is one of the few who is kind towards Snaporaz. Iole Silvani is fantastic as a motorcyclist who is first seen working at the furnace as she would take Snaporaz out of the hotel and back to the city yet she has her own motives of what she wants to do with Snaporaz.
Ettore Manni, in his final film performance, is excellent as Dr. Xavier Katzone as a reclusive rich man who hates feminism as he hosts a party to celebrate his 10,000th conquest as he has a hall devoted to all of the women he’s been with as he is this flamboyant figure. Bernice Stegers is brilliant as a woman Snaporaz meets in his train compartment whom he would follow as she is this object of desire that would lure him into trouble. Anna Prucnal is amazing as Snaporaz’s estranged wife Elena whom Snaporaz would see at Dr. Katzone’s party as she is someone who is bitter over their relationship and the lack of love he had towards her. Donatella Damiani is incredible as a woman Snaporaz meets at the hotel as she is this lively woman who is a feminist but is also kinder towards Snaporaz as she becomes this idea of everything Snaporaz wants in a woman. Finally, there’s Marcello Mastroianni in a tremendous performance as Snaporaz as a businessman who loves women and their bodies as he finds himself being confronted with ideas of feminism and such where he wants to understand yet is also clinging to his own ideals as it’s a performance that is full of charm and wit from Mastroianni that also has him acting like a child but also displays the humility of his faults as a man.
La citta delle donne is a phenomenal film from Federico Fellini that features a great leading performance from Marcello Mastroianni. Along with its supporting cast, incredible visuals, immense art direction, themes on the male gaze and their view on women, and a sumptuous music score. The film is a delightful journey that is filled with a lot of crazy turns that follows a man who deals with his idea of women as well as what women think of someone like him. In the end, La citta delle donne is a sensational film from Federico Fellini.
Federico Fellini Films: (Variety Lights) – The White Sheik - (L’amore in Citta-Un’agenzia martimoniale) – 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 (1972 film) - Amarcord - Casanova (1976 film) - Orchestra Rehearsal – And the Ship Sails On - Ginger and Fred - (Intervista) – (The Voice of the Moon)
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