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  • Inspiring Fellini: Literary Collaborations behind the Scenes by Federico Pacchioni
  • Torunn Haaland
Federico Pacchioni. Inspiring Fellini: Literary Collaborations behind the Scenes. University of Toronto Press. xii, 244. $32.95

Federico Fellini occupies a singular position within the art cinema that emerged from post-war Italian film and flourished in the 1960s alongside the French new wave. At the time of their release, his films were marketed as the work of a mysterious artist, and their critical reception has traditionally perpetuated the celebration of the auteur. However, as current [End Page 527] Italian film scholarship tends to privilege contemporary and popular cinemas, the unusually receptive and eclectic cineaste has been marginalized. Against these trends, Federico Pacchioni questions the myth of the “solitary genius” by uncovering the role scriptwriters and artistic consultants played in forming the “investigative breadth” and the ambiguously spiritual aspects of Fellini’s work.

Chapter one explores the role of Tullio Pinelli, who scripted several films with Fellini in the late 1940s before contributing significantly to the cineaste’s own work. As a Christian writer of metaphysical and tragic plays, Pinelli substantially informed Fellini’s search for transcendence, while opposing his inclination to avoid destructive and Manichean representations. Discrepancies between the scripts and the filmic realization of La Strada, Le notti di Cabiria, and La dolce vita demonstrate that Fellini neutralized Pinelli’s tragic intentions by softening both stories and characters. The dissonance marking the end of their first collaboration in 1965 resided, however, in the contrast between Pinelli’s ideal of narrative coherence and Fellini’s increasing reliance on improvisation and psychoanalytic experimentation.

Chapter two is devoted to Ennio Flaiano, whose literary and experimental background complemented the cineaste’s predilection for popular culture and fragmentary narratives. Having left the Adriatic coast as aspiring artists, both experienced Rome as the heart of an imperfect humanity whose grotesqueness and weaknesses they viewed with “compassionate satire” rather than as a tragedy. The two therefore shared an irony toward life that recalls Luigi Pirandello’s thought on humour, but the writer’s existential pessimism would challenge Fellini’s moral indulgence and his conceptions of Rome’s epiphanic potential. This synergy derives in particular from Le notti de Cabiria, which presents the capital as disillusioning and transformative, and from the apocalyptic and melancholic tone of La dolce vita. Their last collaboration, on , suffered from disagreements over the film’s realization and over questions of authorship, as Fellini was reluctant to give credit to his partners.

Chapter three focuses on Bernardino Zapponi, who inspired Fellini’s “artistic rebirth” after his initial team of scriptwriters dissolved in 1965. As a writer at home with poplar genres, magazines, and comics, Zapponi reinforced the cineaste’s interests in popular culture and conceptualization of cinematic composition as collage. The documentary quality of Roma speaks to his influence, as do the infernal atmosphere and the fusion in Toby Dammit of a tale by Edgar Allan Poe with one of Zapponi’s own stories. Satyricon and Casanova show a similar approach to adaptation, confirming the two authors’ intentions to reproduce the “spirit” of the literary source while treating the text as the pretext for the accumulation of ideas so central to the cineaste’s “baroque cinematic language.” [End Page 528]

The last chapter examines the contributions of the poets Pier Paolo Pasolini, Brunello Rondi, Tonino Guerra, and Andrea Zanzotto, whose linguistic and artistic expertise was fundamental to specific films. Based on common reactions to processes of urbanization, these relations were socio-geographically anchored and foregrounded dialects in opposition to modernity, as exemplified by the exploration of Rome’s suburbs in Le notti di Cabiria and of nineteenth-century Venice in Casanova. The “pre-grammatical” use of language would often be accompanied by a representation of mother figures to convey a nostalgic pursuit of the rural world and of a mythical origin.

This meticulously documented study engages archived scripts in light of the films themselves and of the correspondence, interviews, and works of Fellini’s collaborators. Material related to the unrealized project Mastorna is also examined, as is Fellini’s recently published dream journal, Il libro dei sogni. Besides shedding eccentrically subjective light on the documented exchanges, this...


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