Sog., Scen.: Federico Fellini, Bernardino Zapponi. F.: Giuseppe Rotunno. M.: Ruggero Mastroianni. Scgf.: Danilo Donati Mus.: Nino Rota. Int.: Peter Gonzales (Fellini ragazzo), Fiona Florence (Dolores), Pia De Doses (principessa Domitilla), Marne Maitland (la guida alle catacombe), Renato Giovannoli (cardinale Ottaviani), Elisa Mainardi (la moglie del farmacista), Galliano Sbarra (il presentatore), Norma Giacchero (l’intervistatrice), Alvaro Vitali (il ballerino). Prod.: Turi Vasile per Ultra Film, Les Productions Artistes Associés. DCP. D. : 130’. Col.
When I saw Roma for the first time I felt like I was watching two different films, divided in sections, intertwined in sections. I went back to see it two, three times, with an insatiable longing and a desire to think about it, as had been the case for me with La dolce vita when I was 20. Not long before that, while Fellini was filming the ‘festa de noantri’ in Trastevere, I had spent a whole afternoon, or thereabouts, talking openly with him about his cinema in his office in Via Sistina.
You could divide Roma in two parts. The first section was about a Rome that was finally the vulgar, carnal and violent Rome of Belli (not the ‘good-hearted’ version of Zavattinians and post-Zavattinians), while the second (which still managed to amaze) imaginatively dealt with scenes that could, I wrote, create a sense of surprise and enthusiasm in foreigners and not just Italians – an ‘archaeological’ past, a Vatican fashion show… Yes, I said to myself, “the end of the poet is to arouse wonder”. And then I put together, in this programme, Fellini and Kubrick as the last Méliès-type magicians, in opposition with the heirs of Lumière, and I was surprised that Fellini had been Rossellini’s most faithful student… But there is wonder and wonder, and in Roma the wonder created from direct experience seemed greater than any imagined, expansive version.
In other words, it seemed to me that the more genuine Fellinian Rome was one marked by experience, which was also the Rome of Il bidone, of Nights of Cabiria, the ‘real’ one discovered by a provincial Moraldo, the vitellone from Rimini, before he became the reporter that Marcello bewildered and was swept away by the ‘Capital’.
In the review I wrote about Roma at that time (the spirit of ’68 was still very much alive) I wrote about the final sequence with unidentifiable young people riding on motorcycles across the landmark sites of the so-called Holy City, which was Fellini’s unsettling vision of the future: not about “exterminating and foreign angels” but “future ministry employees who will vote for neo-fascism” (read, today, Di Maio or Salvini). What came out of it was a combination we could not have foreseen; not Fellini nor, in my small way, myself. His nostalgia was and is untamed – this searching, sometimes deviating, artist, who scrutinised and searched, who sensed instinctively or understood. And who amazed with his extraordinary abilities.