Il Bidone (Federico Fellini, 1955, Italy/France)

Even amongst Fellini fans, Il Bidone (The Swindlers) seems to be a largely forgotten film. Part of this undoubtedly has to do with its placement in the great Italian auteur's filmography. The film was released right between two of Fellini's most beloved works - 1954's La Strada and 1957's Nights of Cabiria. These films are not only some of the director's most well-known and critically acclaimed works, but they also came to define what would later be known as Felliniesque - the director's trademark style. While some of this style is on display in Il Bidone - there is an extended party sequence which would not feel out of place in 1960's La Dolce Vita - Il Bidone is largely free of Fellini's trademarks. As many have commented, the film is much more influenced by the neorealist films of the 1940s, which centered on the economic reality and hardships of post-war Italy. It is certainly one of the bleakest and most depressing films Fellini ever made.

The film is also unique in Fellini's filmography for its cast. While Fellini's wife Giulietta Masina plays a significant role here, the two male leads are American. Broderick Crawford plays Augusto Ricco, an old-time swindler who is reconsidering his ways. Richard Baseheart plays Carlo (aka Picasso), his younger counterpart who is also finding the life of crime is putting stress on his family life. Both actors do a remarkable job despite the language barrier. While the film is dubbed in Italian, it is clear that they are at least mostly speaking English during their acting roles. The film's bleak finale, where Broderick Crawford's character meets his ultimate demise, is one of the most memorable in Fellini's filmography. While Il Bidone is not a perfect film, it is worth watching- and not just for Fellini completists.


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