Dolce Vita, La (1960)

Dolce Vita, La (1960)

“Only love gives me strength.”

An entertainment journalist (Marcello Mastroianni) fields distressed phone calls from his clingy girlfriend (Yvonne Furneaux) while having a fling with an heiress (Anouk Aimee), accompanying a buxomy actress (Anita Ekberg) on a trip around Rome, covering a rainy media spectacle visitation from the Madonna, and hanging out with his married philosopher-friend (Alain Cuny) at his home.

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Anita Ekberg Films
  • Anouk Aimee Films
  • Federico Fellini Films
  • Italian Films
  • Journalists
  • Marcello Mastroianni Films

Response to Peary’s Review:
As Peary writes, “Federico Fellini’s mammoth film about the meaninglessness of Rome’s ‘sweet life’ is one of his most ambitious, fascinating, and popular works” — and also “his most cynical film.” Peary gives away a significant spoiler (occurring in the seventh night sequence out of nine) pretty early in his review, so I’ll bypass that and simply quote him noting that Mastroianni ultimately “realizes he has no escape from his worthless life” and “like all the others who have given up trying to find happiness or make a positive contribution to society, he dives headlong into orgies, cruelty, [and] planned frivolity.”

Peary describes “Fellini’s depiction of the sweet life [la dolce vita]” as one in which “nights are given over to decadence, dawn is a quiet time for reflection and, this being Italy, guilt — but not enough guilt to abandon the ugly yet intoxicating life-style.” He points out that the “film is filled with memorable characters (who move in and out of the story) and classic scenes: a statue of Christ hanging from a helicopter”:

… “Anita Ekberg’s walk through a fountain”:

… “Mastroianni’s argument with Furneaux in their car”:

… “the night at the palace”:

… “the striptease”:

… “Mastroianni slapping and putting feathers on a dazed female partygoer during an orgy”:

… “etc.”

As the film which sparked the phrase “Papparazzi” — after the name of Marcello’s photographer-friend “Papparazzo” (Walter Santesso), who is hovering around the periphery at all times — this film is appropriately filled with frenzy, movement, and multiple jam-packed frames.

Indeed, it’s so easy to get caught up in the relentless energy of the narrative that the film’s more sobering moments — especially those near the end — come as a quietly disturbing shock. Despite its technical brilliance and historical relevance as a turning point in Fellini’s career, this is not a film I can imagine watching very often; it’s far too heartbreaking for that. However, it remains must-see viewing at least once for all film fanatics.

Notable Performances, Qualities, and Moments:

  • Marcello Mastroianni as Marcello
  • Otello Martelli’s cinematography

  • Numerous memorable scenes

  • Nino Rota’s score

Must See?
Yes, as a classic of Italian cinema.


  • Foreign Gem
  • Genuine Classic
  • Important Director

(Listed in 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die)


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