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20.1.1920: Federico Fellini born
Rimini, a small city on the Adriatic coast of Italy, is a popular holiday destination. It has long been synonymous with vacation, sun, sand and sweet hours of idleness – for "Dolce far niente."

And yet precisely the man who immortalized this sweet indolence, this "Dolce vita," in his films sought to leave this place as soon as he was able. The Italian film director Federico Fellini, born in Rimini on January 20, 1920, left his hometown at only 17. After a year in Florence he moved to Rome, the city where he would live until his death in 1993.

In his films, Fellini invented a unique, unmistakable language of pictures characterized by his eye for minor characters and players of small parts. They formed a true cornucopia of the weird, populated by gigantic amazons, dwarves, whores and shrill caricatures of the bourgeoisie – and many sparsely clad women with painted faces, enormous breasts and expansive bottoms.

Fellini: "As a child, I was particularly enthralled by the comic characters in movies. Greta Garbo or heroes such as those played by Gary Cooper were of little interest to me. I was crazy about comedians such as Chaplin, Keaton or Laurel & Hardy, however. And then there were one or two voluptuous actresses which did attract my attention. Mae West, for example. I do not have what you might call exquisite taste in actresses."

When Fellini planned a new film he did not use a casting company to find the actors. He ran an ad in the paper, saying that he was making a new film and would be in his office at such and such a time to speak to anyone who came. In these interviews he met the personalities that lent his films their unique “Felliniesque” flair.

For the leading roles, however, he often relied on tried and tested actors such as Ainouk Aimee or Giulietta Masina. They were well aware of the fact that it was not easy for a woman to work with Fellini, given his taste in actresses:

Masina: "It is not as if you feel like a woman in Federico Fellini’s films, the way he presents women. But that is not important. The success of my roles as Gelsomina, Caribia or Giuletta with the public and the critics was so great, that I didn’t have a problem putting aside my own ambitions to appear larger than life. Personal vanity did not play a role."

Giulietta Masina, who was married to Fellini for fifty years – a truly remarkable feat in this business – was the star in several of Fellini’s most successful films including La Strada, Nights of Cabiria and in his later work Ginger and Fred.

This film is also an example of the contradictions in Fellini’s life and work. Ginger and Fred is a satire of television. Fellini did not regard TV as a suitable medium for producing art. On the contrary, he regarded it as an institution which sapped public intelligence. This critical viewpoint did not stop him from filming TV advertisements, however.

Masina’s partner in Ginger and Fred was Marcello Mastroianni. Discovered by Fellini, this actor became the director’s alter ego. The greatest successes of Masina’s career were with Fellini in films including Eight and a Half, The City of Women and of course La Dolce Vita with Anita Ekberg.

Fellini was an outsider in the Italian post-war movie scene, which was highly influenced by the style of so-called Neo-realism. This was most evident in the fact that he rarley dealt with political topics.

Fellini: "I am not interested in active politics, which does not mean that politics do not generally interest me. But firstly I have little time and secondly I wouldn’t know what to do as a political activist. I express my political indignation and sympathies with the media best suited to my nature."

Fellini proved that he was not politically disinterested with the film Prove d'orchestra . This film, rather atypical of Fellini, is an intimate play, a reduced film that presents a parable of Totalitarianism and Fascism.

Fellini: "I have always attempted to point toward eternal longing in all of my films, to the longing of an individual to be free from the repression of religious institutions and escape from the influence of restrictive ideologies. This results from my respect for individuality. In this sense I believe that there is indeed a political message in my films."

Federico Fellini, born in Rimini on January 20, 1920, died in Rome at 73 years of age. Yet his true home, as he once said, was the movie city "Cinecitta," in which nearly all of his films were made. Here, where every city of the world and many landscapes which exist only in the imagination are to be found, was where he had lived.



   
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When did Italian director Frederico Fellini receive an Academy Award (Oscar) for Lifetime Achievement?
  1991
  1993
  1974
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