Reviewed by Glenn Erickson
Federico Fellini's late-career Intervista is a filmic valentine to the Cinecittá
movie studio, to filmmaking, and to himself. Twenty-five years after
Otto e mezzo the director
pointss a camera into a mirror and fashions an autobiographical guided tour to movieland. It's
too affectionate to be self-indulgent.
A Japanese film crew interviews Federico Fellini at the start of a shoot, and
the balance of the film becomes a fantasy restaging of the director's cinematic
memories. His most trusted associates play themselves doing the usual work of finding suitable
locations and rounding up the director's expected cast of unusual faces. An actor (Sergio
Rubini) is the young Fellini coming to Cinecittá for the first time to interview a
libidinous movie star (Paola Liguori). He is enchanted by every woman he sees the star,
a young hopeful (Antonella Ponziani), a studio staffer (Nadia Ottaviani) collecting chicory
on the studio's open fields. A crazy director clashes with a tight-pursed producer over
cardboard elephants on the set of a costume epic. Fellini interrupts his preparations to
take actor Marcello Mastroianni (himself) to visit his old co-star Anita Ekberg (herself);
they watch scenes from
La dolce vita together.
Finally, rain interrupts the nighttime shooting of an attack of wild Indians ... carrying
weapons that look like old Television aerials.
Intervista is Federico Fellini's idealistic look back at his life as a filmmaker, as
it is two hours of amusing characters, pretty women and cinematic glitz. It is certainly not an
exposé nor an exercise in self-criticism. It's all about that part of the Fellini mind
that loved making movies.
Earlier Fellini 'pageant pictures' like The Clowns and Roma were huge productions
requiring many elaborate sets and hundreds of specially designed costumes. Intervista
has only a handful of major set designs, mainly the Majarajah film-within-a film with its
giant throne room, pools and enormous reclining elephant. Fellini takes great amusement in
showing the artifice behind the beautiful cinematography. Workmen eat and play cards within
the body of the elephant, out of sight of the camera.
Everything else would seem to have been cobbled out of found locations and items on the
Cinecittá grounds. Giant cranes and lights extend high into the air, and stages are
mostly empty. The biggest expense was probably making the (by 1987) mostly disused lot look
new and attractive, the same way that MGM pretended that it was a bustling studio long after
its back lot was a crumbling ruin. Fellini's crew transforms an old station in the heart of
Rome to make the trolley that brings the young director, then a reporter, to the studio.
What makes the film come alive are the dozens of interesting characters, bit-players that
crowd into the proceedings. Fellini's production people collect a group of overweight women
and then have to deal with their personalities when some are chosen and others not. Strange
retainers and sycophants orbit the stars while the director's crack team of technicians creates
order out of chaos. Designer Danilo Donati is merely glimpsed but cameraman Tonino Delli Colli
becomes an amused member of the cast. In one of the best moments, two bored scenery men pass
the time by trading obscene insults as they paint a giant backing inside an empty stage.
Delli Colli's camerawork makes a huge contribution by keeping visual interest high in this
near-shapeless film. If Fellini has mastered anything in these 'crazy parade' pictures, it is
the illusion of spontaneity. The random-looking activity in front of the camera is actually
all planned out there are no editorial montage effects to create scenes out from
The most gratuitous scene is the reunion of Marcello Mastroianni and Anita Ekberg. Fellini and
his entourage of thirty supposedly just 'drop in' for bread and wine at the Ekberg villa. We
compare the two aging stars to their earlier ultra-sexy selves romping in the fountain of Trevi,
allowing Fellini to make a point about the value of film to create beauty that doesn't grow
old. Mastroianni may be overplaying his role as a puffy-faced old star, but viewers will be
more than a bit surprised by Ekberg, who isn't exactly obese but certainly seems enormous. Their
emotionally subdued meeting is curiously less believable than other more fantastic scenes. The
movie works better when Fellini has his whole circus to play with.
Koch Lorber's DVD of Intervista is a beautiful enhanced transfer with sharp color and
a generous encoding. Nicola Piovani's music makes use of several nostalgic Nino Rota tunes. The
disc does appear to be PAL time-compressed, as the text lists a running time of 116 minutes while
the film itself runs just under 107. The speed-up didn't seem that much of a bother in this instance.
Also included are a photo gallery, a theatrical trailer and an Italian featurette combining
behind-the-scenes footage and an interview with the director.
On a scale of Excellent, Good, Fair, and Poor,
Movie: Very Good
Video: Excellent (at 25fps PAL)
Supplements: trailer, stills, behind-the-scenes featurette
Packaging: Keep case
Reviewed: May 1, 2005
Republished by permission of Turner Classic Movies.
DVD Savant Text © Copyright 2007 Glenn Erickson