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Amarcord (The Criterion Collection)
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The title is supposed to mean "I remember," and the film is ostensibly a memory-dream-diary of life in the director's seaside hometown of Rimini during one year in the 1930s. But Fellini was an irrepressible showman who loved pulling the audience's collective chain, and Amarcord is no more straightforward as a recollection of his real adolescence than "amarcord" is a real word--Fellini made it up as a bit of pretend vernacular. So the strolling town historian who pops up occasionally to supply antiquarian footnotes directly to the camera more often than not gets pelted with snowballs from offscreen. Just as Nino Rota's (wonderful) music score recycles melodies from his scores for earlier Fellini masterworks, Fellini's movie is full of lyric ecstasies--spontaneous parades, comic ceremonies, eye-popping surrealist moments--that exist principally because that is what a Fellini movie is supposed to be like. There's no dominant story line, no individual character or player to be identified as the center of the film's swirling movement. Yet we do get to "know," and begin to cherish, literally dozens of goofy, eccentric, funny/sad creatures who have their distinct places in the continuum of Fellini's made-up town and reimagined Italy of a bygone era.
The era was, of course, that of Facsism. Fellini's take on Fascism here is anything but portentous; the giddy nationalism given voice occasionally by delirious crowds of townsfolk is no more sinister than the same crowd might have been in cheering on the local football team. In the movie's most famous set-piece, dozens of locals put out to sea in small boats to witness the passage of a fabulous ocean liner, the Rex, "the greatest construction of the regime." Waiting, they sleep--till suddenly the luminous (and entirely unreal) vision is towering above them, threatening to swamp them all. The moment is both ecstatic and terrifying. It's not the only one.
One last memory: In 1975 Amarcord received the Oscar for best foreign-language film of 1974. Since the film went into general U.S. release in '75, it was eligible for the Motion Picture Academy to turn around and nominate Fellini again, in '76, for best director and best original screenplay of 1975. He didn't win any further awards, but his repeat appearance in that year's Oscar derby occasioned an exquisite cultural moment: the young Steven Spielberg, realizing that he had not been cited for his direction of Jaws, gasping, "They gave my nomination to Fellini?!" --Richard T. Jameson
Top Customer Reviews
This story is culturally valuable because it shows the beauty of meaningfully existing, unchanged, amid destructive and oppressive forces. When a peacock lands in the snow with its beautiful, vibrant blue and green feathers, it exemplifies beauty, simply existing, within harsh conditions. The point of the story is not that the characters of this small Italian town make any world-altering advances, but rather that they maintain what they already have and admire--their sense of community and individual compassion--despite oppressive odds. Fellini gives his audience mischievous adolescents, oblivious teachers, a "crazy" uncle, a humorous grandfather, an idealistic and extremely feminine beauty, a generous but sickly mother and her easily-angered husband, dissatisfied workers, a story-telling lawyer, a prince, and a lying snack vendor. And none of these characters is ever treated inhumanely, or as being of any less value than any other. The uncle has an episode in which he climbs a tree and throws rocks at people who try to get him down, all the while yelling, "I want a woman!" Hours pass and the doctor who eventually comes to get him down remarks, "He has normal days, and he has not normal days...Just like us." Through the interaction of these characters, Fellini allows his audiences to encounter a town, the families, a community, and the simple life that exists within it. This film is powerful because it is saying that one does not have to defeat oppression to be worthy of being a model, seen and honored. You have only to live, to be yourself--which means to create--to be something powerful and moving.
Through the retelling of emotional stories that deal with Titta and his family, Amarcord (which translates into "I Remember") presents a cyclical collage of wondrous nostalgia for the Italy of Fellini's childhood. Starting in the spring and ending their one year later with the return of the yearly "puffballs", we are presented with and touched by the many experiences that Titta comes face to face with.
At the same time, the film is much more than a mere visual presentation of Fellini's own nostalgia, for it also questions the true validity of one's own memories. This questioning of memory by Fellini is made apparent in the manner in which single scenes can go from "reality" based to fantasy-like parody back to "reality" based in a manner of moments.
One of the more noteworthy examples of this technique is the scene in which El Duce visits the local town square. In the scene the serious yet joyous procession of El Duce eventually turns into a comedic/fantasy experience in which schoolchildren are shown happily carrying guns in the imagined wedding of two schoolchildren in front of a giant talking Mussolini head. Moments later the film cuts to nightfall, in which the local Fascists soldiers wreak havoc on the town and afterwards interrogate and beat Titta's father. Depending on Fellini's own presentation of the Italian Fascists, (and just as importantly, the view in Italy towards the Fascists at that time) very different interpretations can be read of them.Read more ›
Here's the confession-this is the Fellini film closest to my heart. I know we're supposed to like 8 1/2 better, or even La Dolce Vita, but Amarcord has all the bitter sweet quality of a memory told by a good friend and great storyteller, intimately, over a glass of red wine.
Hear the one about the about the old, irascible Grampa? Gramps stepped out of the house and got lost in the fog...just steps away from the front gate. Frightened and disoriented, Gramps wonders if he is alive or if he has passed over into death. Suddenly, he stops and gives a rude gesture to death, and claims, "If this is death, I don't think much of it."
Hear the one about Uncle in the looney bin? Took him out for a ride in the country, and he peed his pants. Just forgot to unzip! Then, at the farm, he climbed a tree and threw rocks at people, staying up there all day, screaming, "I want a woman!" It took a miniature nun from the asylum to get him down.
There are so many scenes of such distilled beauty, it is as if Fellini had boiled down the sauce until only the most precious elixir was left-that which was a distillation of his own life, most potent, most true.
The town beauty, the town historian, the town idiot, the town "playboy" (loser) the mother, the father, the govenment, Mussolini, Fascism, the sea, the prostitute, the boys, the fantasies of the boys, the church, the snow, the rain, the fog. I love this film truly.
The boys dancing in dreams in the fog.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
The movie is not one of Fellini's best, in my opinion, but it does have some very special moments. I found it difficult to sympathize with some of the characters and there was a... Read morePublished 28 days ago by B. Adducchio
Watched this several times when it first came out and treasure it now years later. It is a charming movie about the director's early life and has an incredible sound track by Nino... Read morePublished 3 months ago by P. Mulloy
This movie can best be described as village idiocy Italian style. But it actually takes place in what is at least a small city or large town. Read morePublished 4 months ago by The Curmudgeon
Excellent reminisce about childhood and the Italian life, full of lyrical images and funny moments, as well as sad ones . A feast for the senses. Fellini's films are classics. Read morePublished 5 months ago by Elizabeth A.
... it is the beautiful movie of it's genre, the most gentle of Federico Fellini's movies, humane, witty within amazing atmospherePublished 5 months ago by Jiri Tibor Novak