"How squalid everything will be."

“How squalid everything will be.”

In some ways, the final Blind Spot selection of 2012 feels somewhat apropos.

There isn’t a whole lot of rhyme or reason to the order in which I watch the films I choose, with the exception of wanting to line up a horror classic with the week of Halloween. I watch what I watch based on whimsy and availability: WILD AT HEART for instance was bumped up the queue to take advantage of a screening. Inevitably, something has to land at the end of the list, and that something was Fellini’s classic LA DOLCE VITA.

The reason why this selection feels apropos, is because it feels like of all the films I have chosen for this year’s watchlist, it’s the one I needed to work up to – and likewise the one that seems to best lead in to next year’s Blind Spots, which are a bit more “Film Lit 201”. Like LA DOLCE VITA, I feel as though many of these films will require a bit more time, study, and consideration (which isn’t a bad thing). many of them will not be films I can watch the night before my homework is due, with the hopes of pounding out one thousand words by morning.

That’s my roundabout way of saying that I already want to revisit LA DOLCE VITA. So much so that I still haven’t returned the dvd to the shop I rented it from, even though it’s probably late by now.

LA DOLCE VITA isn’t so much one long story as it is a series of vignettes that a cluster of characters wander through a lush series of events. In some ways, it’s no small wonder that Fellini would follow this film with 8 1/2, as the two share a similar “loosely hinged” narrative. At the core of LA DOLCE VITA is Marcello (Marcello Mastroianni), a journalist who we follow through moments of style, loss, serenity, lust, indecision, and mortality.

The story is considered a series of individual chapters which don’t build up to a complete whole, but should instead be considered a loosely-related series of events…much like life when you think about it.

The unfortunate hiccup is that the format leaves one (or at least left me) slightly perplexed after first watch, and a little bit confused. This isn’t the worst thing in the world, if anything I am thankful for the sorts of films that leave me wanting to revisit them; they stand in stark contrast to the fast-food-franchises that so many of today’s biggest offerings embody.

At first watch, I can only claim to come away from LA DOLCE VITA with isolated impressions, the first of which is easily the character of Paparazzo. Within the context of the film, he feels almost like an extraneous character – the photographer who is usually around, but seldom doing anything of major importance besides capturing the glamorous social scene of Rome. Little could Fellini know that he was coining a phrase and branding an entire arm of future media. Indeed, the term “Paparazzi” stems back to this character and his vocation.

Of course, the amusing thing is that Paparazzo barely resembles the group of gossip journalists his name would inspire. He’s hitched his star to Marcello, and works with him to cover stories like the sighting of The Madonna, but primarily he makes his bones by constantly being around. He isn’t chasing the photos (the way his modern counterparts do), so much as he’s often in the right place at the right time.

As Paparazzo’s role in the film slid away, I found myself wondering what Fellini would have thought of the brand of media he helped name.

Nadia Gray
Another curious impression I was left with comes later in the film during a gathering in a beach house. During the scene, a character named Nadia begins an impromptu striptease that culminates with her writhing on the floor covered only by a mink. As Marcello tries to bend the party into a full-on orgy, catcalls starts coming for Nadia to ditch the mink.

You know how sometimes an idea can start-out sexy and easily spill over into icky? This is that sort of moment. It feels like that moment in BOOGIE NIGHTS when Little Bill Thompson’s wife is being fucked in the driveway of a pool party with a bunch of strangers standing around her and leering.

In a way the scene stands in stark contrast to one of the film’s most iconic moments: Sylvia’s dip in the Trevi Fountain. That moment plays with such beauty, life, energy, and whimsy. Not long after Sylvia arrived in Rome, she is so enchanted by everything she sees, that she feels like she must act on it with an impish display of impulse. By comparison, Nadia’s manner of acting out feels more carnal, ugly, and curiously sad.

Of course, just like comedy, sexiness is completely subjective. So while I found the scene to be on the distasteful, others may see it very differently.
Marcello Mastroianni as Marcello Rubini
I wasn’t able to soak up everything I wanted in LA DOLCE VITA, and given the time of year, I also wasn’t able to watch it a second time. However, I found it to be a fitting end to the Blind Spot series for 2012. It sent me rolling and tumbling through moment after moment, and just left me to figure things out for myself. It filled me with so many conflicting emotions, and left me with so much that I wish to consider.

Just like life – the good one, or otherwise.

As I close the book for 2012 on this series, I must admit that I am happy and proud with how it all shook down. Sure, some of the people who hoped to join me in the project weren’t able to make it through, but I already have a whole host of enthusiastic participants for next year…including some returning members! Not only did I fully enjoy the twelve films chosen – a surprising amount in some cases – but never once did the project feel like homework. Never once did I find that I had to force myself to watch a title, or stay with it. Every one of these blind spot entries was chosen as a film I’d never seen but always wanted to, and as such, I was able to ensure a certain amount of enthusiasm. Here’s hoping that enthusiasm will continue through the somewhat-more-challenging dozen I’ve chosen for 2013!

I intend to post my entries on the final Tuesday of every month. If you are participating, drop me an email (ryanatthematineedotca) when your post is up and I’ll make sure to link to your entry.

Here’s the round-up for December…

Steve Honeywell watched THELMA & LOUISE

Sean Kelly watched SCROOGE

Courtney Small watched RASHOMON

Dan Heaton watched FITZCARRALDO