A frustratingly not-terrible action thriller.
Federico Fellini first included his name in the title of one of his movies with “Fellini Satyricon” (1970), and then for legal reasons: A quickie Italian version of the “Satyricon” was being palmed off in international film markets as the real thing. Once having savored the notion, however, Fellini found it a good one, and so we have “Fellini’s Roma”, which was followed by “Fellini’s Casanova”.
The name in the title doesn’t seem conceited or affected, as it might from another director (Peckinpah’s Albuquerque?) This is Fellini’s Rome and nobody else’s, just as all of his films since La Dolce Vita have been autobiographical musings and confessions from the most personal, and the, best director of his time. Any connection with a real city on the map of Italy is libelous. Fellini’s Rome gets its suburbs trimmed when he goes for a haircut.
The movie isn’t a documentary, although sometimes he lets it look like one. It’s a rambling essay, meant to feel like free association. There’s a very slight narrative thread, about a young man named Fellini who leaves the little town of Rimini and comes to the great city and is overwhelmed by its pleasures of body and spirit. He moves into a mad boarding house that would make a movie all by itself; he dines with his neighbors in great outdoor feasts when the summer heat drives everyone into the piazzas; he attends a raucous vaudeville show and he visits his first whorehouse É and then his second.
This material, filmed with loving attention to period detail, exists by itself in the movie; there’s no effort to link the naive young Fellini with the confident genius who appears elsewhere in the movie. It’s as if Fellini, the consummate inventor of fantasies, didn’t grow out of his young manhood, he created it from scratch.