La Dolce Vita (Federico Fellini, 1960, Italy/France)

                 La Dolce Vita is a true arthouse classic and along with Kurosawa and Bergman, represents one of the canon of international feature films that exploded onto the world scene in the 1950s and 1960s. It represents a transitional film for Fellini. The director’s early works were firmly grounded in reality and the plight of working people. They were influenced by the neorealism of Rossellini. La Dolce Vita marks a transition not only in that it is examining the lives of Rome’s wealthy elites, but also because it represents an inward turn. This inward turn toward dream life burst onto the scene soon after with 8 ½, but it was already starting with La Dolce Vita.

                La Dolce Vita is in essence one of the first films “about nothing.” Divided into several chapters, the film tells the story of Marcello (Marcello Mastroianni), a philandering journalist documenting Rome’s “sweet life.” Due to its lower production cost, Rome had become a hub for Hollywood studios in the 1950s. A new style of tabloid journalism emerged to capture the arriving celebrities, manifested in the figure of “Paparazzo” in Fellini’s film. La Dolce Vita birthed the term paparazzi of course, and the film feels relevant toward our media-frenzied age.

                While La Dolce Vita undoubtedly leaves viewers who preferred Fellini’s earlier films cold, the film stands as perhaps the director’s greatest artistic statement about modernity and the collapse of faith. There are moments in the film, such as the finale with the sea monster, which are truly unforgettable and rightfully put the film into the category of being a classic. While it certainly cannot be said that La Dolce Vita is an easy film, it is a film that requires repeat viewings in order to appreciate properly. Its three hour time length can be intimidating to viewers.


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  1. Thank you for a concise and helpful "musing" which complemented our own experience of the substance of Fellini's work. One observation of the paparazzi element, they were often choreographed as pestering flies. Fellinni must have detested this imported phenomenon. He understood.


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