This is just about the first movie review I ever wrote, from The Daily Illini, October 4, 1961, during my sophomore year at the University of Illinois. I now consider "La Dolce Vita" one of the greatest films I've seen, but obviously that was not my first impression. - RE
There is in "La Dolce Vita" a great deal to be puzzled about, and a great deal to be impressed by, and perhaps a great deal which we as Americans will never completely understand. Yet it is a fine motion picture. And we have the feeling that even those students who sat through its three hours with a measure of boredom came away convinced that something was there. It is this something, this undefined feeling being hammered at beneath the surface of the film, which gives it power and illumination. And it is this hidden message which contains the deep and moral indictment of the depravity which "La Dolce Vita" documents.
In technical excellence, the film surpasses every production this reviewer has seen, except a few of the Ingmar Bergman classics. Photography and the musical score are together almost as important as the dialogue in conveying the unmistakable attack on "the sweet life."
attack is also made clear in frequent symbolism, although
sometimes the symbolism becomes too obvious to fit into the effortless flow of the total production. For example, in the final scene where merrymakers gather around the grotesque sea monster which represents their way of living, and then the protagonist is called by the "good" girl but cannot understand her, the symbolism is very near the surface. Yet this tangible use of symbols might account in part for "La Dolce Vita"'s fantastic success. Too often the "new wave" falls through symbolism that is simply too subtle for most movie-goers.