I VITELLONI

Italy / France

1953

 

Director: Federico Fellini

Production Co.: PEG / Cité

Producer: Lorenzo Pegoraro

Screenplay: Federico Fellini, Ennio Flaiano & Tullio Pinelli

Cinematography: Otello Martelli, Luciano Trasatti & Carlo Carlini

Art Director: Mario Chiari

Music: Nino Rota

Editor: Rolando Benedetti

 

Moraldo: Franco Interlenghi

Alberto: Alberto Sordi

Fausto: Franco Fabrizi

Leopoldo: Leopoldo Trieste

Sandra: Eleonora Ruffo

Ricardo:  Ricardo Fellini

Giulia: Lido Baarova

Woman in the Cinema: Arlette Sauvage

Actress: Maja Nipora

Father of Fausto: Jean Brochard

 

 

109 minutes

 

16 mm

Black & White

Italian, with English subtitles

GA Certificate

 

 

 

I Vitelloni was a great influence on me and was one of the pictures that gave me the courage to make a film [Mean Streets] about my friends and myself.

- Martin Scorsese

 

Fellini's masterpiece

- John Simon, Something to Declare: Twelve Years of Films from Abroad

 

I Vitelloni is the story of adolescents who cannot see anything more in life than satisfying their animal desires - sleeping, eating, fornicating.  I was trying to say there is something more, there is always more.  Life must have a meaning beyond the animal.

- Federico Fellini

 

 

I Vitelloni recounts the aimless lives of five youths in Fellini's home town of Rimini, this time viewing more severely their inability to come to terms with reality and responsibility, and their consequent shallowness.  The balance of critique and compassionate tenderness in Fellini's treatment of the world he depicts earned the film immediate and unanimous respect.  He was later to separate out the elements of the blend.

 

- Chris Wagstaff, 'Federico Fellini: An Annotated Filmography', Sight & Sound, 1/94

 

 

This is the story of the vitelloni, five well-fed but rootless and directionless not-so-young men, the sons of middle-class families in a town on the Adriatic.  Fausto, the leader of the group, forced by his father to marry Sandra, who is pregnant, takes a job in an antique shop but continues to seek romantic conquests and is left by his wife.  Alberto is a sentimental baby trapped in his childhood, who dresses up as a woman during the fete.  Leopoldo is an intellectual writer who seeks fame and finds consolation in an affair with a chambermaid.  Moraldo, the youngest, and some would say the sanest, of the group, rebels against his family and the stagnant culture of the town and leaves.  It has been suggested he leaves for Rome and becomes the journalist in La Dolce Vita.

 

Fellini has described his characters: "They shine during the holiday season and waiting for this takes up the rest of the year.  They are the unemployed of the middle class, mothers' pets.  But they are also friends to whom I wish well.  Flaiano, Pinelli and I started to talk and, having all been ex-vitelloni, found we had a host of stories to tell.  After all the funny stories we finally became greatly depressed and we made a film."  Fellini drew on his own memories of life in Rimini.  However, the plot of I Vitelloni is far less important than its characters, the sense of the environment, and the various episodes in their lives: the boredom in the small town, the chit-chat, the familiar jokes, the sordid romantic adventures, the long arguments at night in the deserted streets, the depressing absurdities of the feast days and the nostalgic walks along the empty beach in winter.  I Vitelloni, one of Fellini's best films, is still neorealist in approach.  It was a considerable critical and commercial success and established Fellini's international reputation.

 

- Georges Sadoul, Dictionary Of Film

 

 

It is with I Vitelloni... that Fellini really arrived at full maturity and mastery of his medium.  I Vitelloni remains, superficially at least, his most realistic film; also, one of his most directly autobiographical.  Vitelloni are drifters, layabouts and the group of young men whose life in a small provincial town is so vividly, lovingly evoked are precisely that.  None of them really settles to anything; they lead a life of dreams, fantasies, childish jokes and for the most part bored inactivity... 

 

Fellini's attitude to his vitelloni is complex and ambiguous.  He obviously recognises the futility of their lives and the necessity of escape, but at the same time they seem, viewed at this distance of time in Fellini's own life, to live bathed in a strange sort of tender innocence; there is nostalgia as well as criticism in the picture.  And this goes over into the way the story is treated.  At first glance the film may seem the closest to Neo-realism of all his work, but the spirit is not realistic at all.  The whole thing is highly subjective, and the time scale of happenings in the film is extremely variable.  This is, indeed, a characteristic of nearly all Fellini's films; time is appreciated as something within the characters' or the maker's head, which may speed by in a swirl and swagger of baroque effect or slow almost to a stop, entirely depending on mood and the emotional structure of the film.  Sometimes the life of the vitelloni rushes by, sometimes we are made palpably aware of its grinding, agonizing emptiness and boredom.  Consequently, the collection of precisely noted details of small-town reality which makes up the film's surface is somehow transmuted into something richer and stranger, seen in the distorting, hallucinatory glow of Fellini's private fantasy world.

 

- John Russell Taylor, in Roud (ed.), Cinema: A Critical Dictionary, New York, 1980

 

 

Structurally, I Vitelloni follows a clearly defined pattern: a scene of action engendering an illusion in one or more characters is followed by a scene of action in which reality destroys the illusion.  At the beginning of the film, there is a beauty contest at the Kursaal, a local nightclub.  In an atmosphere of much gaiety, Sandra becomes Miss Siren of 1953; people crowd around, offering congratulations, assuring her that she has an enviable future ahead as a movie star.  Suddenly she faints, however, and a doctor is summoned.  One look from the man to Sandra's mother is enough to reveal that the girl is pregnant.  Now Sandra will have to marry Fausto, and the only way she will be able to get into the movies will be to purchase tickets for two...

 

Fellini is an expert in involving the audience in the actions of his characters through imaginative use of the camera.  During the beauty contest, for instance, there are numerous quick cuts and pans and tilts, together with many tracking shots, in order to project the excited mood of the crowd.  Time - like Fellini's camera - moves swiftly here.  Afterward, in the scene between Fausto and his father, the camera is largely stationary.  Once again Fellini correlates his visual technique with the emotional and thematic context of the scene.  Where the illusions of the characters prevail, the camera is dynamic, where reality takes the place of illusion, the camera remains static.  In I Vitelloni clock time is not observed...

 

With good reason, I Vitelloni remains one of Fellini's most highly regarded films: it has a cast of unforgettable characters, a rhythmic structure, an expressive visual approach, symbolic richness, and a profound theme.  A torpor of the soul is, indeed, what I Vitelloni is all about.  But, though the picture remains open-ended and undidactic, Fellini suggests at least a partial remedy for the spiritual apathy from which his characters suffer.  Unless he cares for others, man is an animal; unless he cares for others, man is bored - neither work nor play has any value for him.  "All our anguish and mistakes occur," Fellini has said, "when there is no love."

 

- Murray Edward, Fellini, the Artist