Fellini Satyricon Screen 7 articles

Fellini Satyricon

1969

Fellini Satyricon Poster
  • The problem is not society, but man—who seems to be an intractably ugly, vicious, unhappy sort. But Fellini, in his wisdom, is able to “forgive” mankind—or at least foreground his intentions to do so. To err, it seems, is human, but to forgive is Felliniesque—only he has the godlike compassion to “accept” the monstrosities he so carefully mounts on the screen. A shallow, hypocritical film, without a glimmer of genuine creativity.

  • The movie that most aggressively embodies this [Fellini-esque] aesthetic, for better and (much more often) worse, is 1969’s Fellini Satyricon, a nonstop parade of garish decadence that’s being released this week as part of the Criterion collection. Frequently marvelous to look at, the film is nevertheless something of a trial to endure; it feels dispiritingly like the work of a director who was reading way too much of his own press.

  • Fellini's characteristic delirium is anchored in a precise, psychological schema: under the matrix of bisexuality, he explores the complexes of castration, impotence, paranoia and libidinal release. And he pays homage to Pasolini's ethnographic readings of myths. It's among his most considerable achievements.

  • Satyricon is less a film about endings—of epochs, of principles, of innocence—than beginnings. It is the rare film that challenges the viewer to reflect on this world even as it simultaneously inspires him to dream of another; it is the rare film that laughs at the absurdity and terror of existence even as it raises that existence to the grand heights of exuberance upon which all great art makes its name.

  • Fellini Satyricon is likely the director's greatest achievement, particularly because its singular vision utilizes a grandiosity that in no way forsakes an interest in the personal toil of art and politics, be it Encolpius's elliptical conclusory remarks about his exploits or Fellini's decision to turn his final images into literal graffiti paintings, covering the dregs of abandoned structures littering a deserted piece of land.

  • This is a film about disguise, about people becoming caricatures of themselves, talking like imitations of their own worst performances, running into comic-book versions of their nightmares. It is about death too, as the novel is, but death itself is travestied in the film. Disguise and mockery are the vivid methods by which the director and his characters diligently fail to keep it at bay.

  • Upon revisit, Satyricon actually proves quite straightforward, if still governed by its own rambling, discursive attention patterns. Throughout the film, Fellini reduces the screen to a kind of moving fresco filled with bodies and architectural designs, atomising the visual experience. The act of travelling with and through Rotunno’s camera is as vital an act as paying attention to the story or dialogue, indeed moreso, as we are immersed in Fellini’s constructed world.

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