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Koch Lorber
1987 / Color / 1:85 anamorphic 16:9 / 105 min. / Street Date April 26, 2005 / 29.98
Starring Federico Fellini, Sergio Rubini, Marcello Mastroianni, Anita Ekberg, Paola Liguori, Antonella Ponziani, Tonino Delli Colli
Cinematography Tonino Delli Colli
Production Designer Danilo Donati
Film Editor Nino Baragli
Original Music Nicola Piovani
Written by Gianfranco Angelucci, Federico Fellini
Produced by Ibrahim Moussa, Pietro Notarianni
Directed by Federico Fellini

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 disorganized footage.

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, Intervista rates:
Movie: Very Good
Video: Excellent (at 25fps PAL)
Sound: Excellent
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

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