Fellini’s Fantastic TV Commercials for Barilla, Campari & More: The Italian Filmmaker Was Born 100 Years Ago Today

To help celebrate the 100th anniversary of the birth of the great Italian filmmaker Federico Fellini, we present a series of lyrical television advertisements made during the final decade of his life.

In 1984, when he was 64 years old, Fellini agreed to make a miniature film featuring Campari, the famous Italian apéritif. The result, Oh, che bel paesaggio! ("Oh, what a beautiful landscape!"), shown above, features a man and a woman seated across from one another on a long-distance train.




The man (played by Victor Poletti) smiles, but the woman (Silvia Dionisio) averts her eyes, staring sullenly out the window and picking up a remote control to switch the scenery. She grows increasingly exasperated as a sequence of desert and medieval landscapes pass by. Still smiling, the man takes the remote control, clicks it, and the beautiful Campo di Miracoli ("Field of Miracles") of Pisa appears in the window, embellished by a towering bottle of Campari.

"In just one minute," writes Tullio Kezich in Federico Fellini: His Life and Work, "Fellini gives us a chapter of the story of the battle between men and women, and makes reference to the neurosis of TV, insinuates that we're disparaging the miraculous gifts of nature and history, and offers the hope that there might be a screen that will bring the joy back. The little tale is as quick as a train and has a remarkably light touch."

Also in 1984, Fellini made a commercial titled Alta Societa ("High Society") for Barilla rigatoni pasta (above). As with the Campari commercial, Fellini wrote the script himself and collaborated with cinematographer Ennio Guarnieri and musical director Nicola Piovani. The couple in the restaurant were played by Greta Vaian and Maurizio Mauri. The Barilla spot is perhaps the least inspired of Fellini's commercials. Better things were yet to come.

In 1991 Fellini made a series of three commercials for the Bank of Rome called Che Brutte Notti or "The Bad Nights." "These commercials, aired the following year," writes Peter Bondanella in The Films of Federico Fellini, "are particularly interesting, since they find their inspiration in various dreams Fellini had sketched out in his dream notebooks during his career."

In the episode above, titled "The Picnic Lunch Dream," the classic damsel-in-distress scenario is turned upside down when a man (played by Paolo Villaggio) finds himself trapped on the railroad tracks with a train bearing down on him while the beautiful woman he was dining with (Anna Falchi) climbs out of reach and taunts him. But it's all a dream, which the man tells to his psychoanalyst (Fernando Rey). The analyst interprets the dream and assures the man that his nights will be restful if he puts his money in the Banco di Roma.

The other commercials (watch here) are called "The Tunnel Dream" and "The Dream of the Lion in the Cellar." (You can watch Roberto Di Vito's short, untranslated film of Fellini and his crew working on the project here.)

The bank commercials were the last films Fellini ever made. He died a year after they aired, at age 73. In Kezich's view, the deeply personal and imaginative ads amount to Fellini's last testament, a brief but wondrous return to form. "In Federico's life," he writes, "these three commercial spots are a kind of Indian summer, the golden autumn of a patriarch of cinema who, for a moment, holds again the reins of creation."

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Note: An earlier version of this post appeared on our site in 2012.

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Watch Hunter S. Thompson & Ralph Steadman Head to Hollywood in a Revealing 1978 Documentary

In 1978, Hollywood was looking to make a film about Hunter S. Thompson. No, it was not an adaptation of Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas--that would come later. Instead, this was the now-almost-forgotten Bill Murray vehicle Where the Buffalo Roam, which was based on Thompson’s obituary for his friend and “attorney” from Fear & Loathing, Oscar “Zeta” Acosta.

Knowing that both Thompson and illustrator Ralph Steadman would be involved and reuniting and driving from Aspen, through Las Vegas, and into Hollywood, the BBC dispatched a film crew for the arts program Omnibus. Director Nigel Finch returned with a ramshackle road trip of a film, one that always seems in danger of falling apart due to Thompson’s paranoid and antagonistic state.




For a lot of British viewers, this would have been their primer on the American writer, and quickly brings them up to date on Thompson’s rise to infamy, the creation of Gonzo journalism, and his alter-ego Raoul Duke.

Perhaps Finch thought that getting Thompson and Steadman together in a car would conjure up the Fear & Loathing vibe on screen, but the two make an awkward couple. At one point the reserved Steadman compares himself to Thompson’s pet bird Edward. Thompson antagonizes this bird into some sort of trauma, then holds it close and talks to it. “I feel absolutely taken apart,” being friends with the writer, Steadman says. “...he’s holding me like that bird and I’m trying to bite my way out.”

In Vegas, the crew and Steadman try to rouse Thompson, then find him, confused, and with his face covered in white make-up. In Hollywood, Thompson hates the attention from the camera crew so much--not to mention the tourists who assume he is a celebrity of some kind--that they find him hiding behind a parked car.

This era was indeed the end of that phase of Thompson’s career. At one point he asks Finch if he’s there to film Thompson or to film Raoul Duke. Finch doesn’t know. Thompson doesn’t know either, but he does realize that “The myth has taken over...I feel like an appendage.” He can no longer cover events like he did with the Hell’s Angels, or the Kentucky Derby, because of his fame. He can’t cover the story, because he’s become part of the story, and to a real journalist that’s death.

So perhaps that’s the appeal of Hollywood? We see Thompson and Steadman meet with a screenwriter (probably John Kaye, who wrote Where the Buffalo Roam) to discuss the script.

Thompson had agreed to option the script because, like Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas, he never believed it would get made. So when it went into production he had pretty much given away creative control. The script, he said, “It sucks – a bad, dumb, low-level, low-rent script.”

However, Bill Murray and Thompson hung out in Aspen together during the shoot and engaged in a sort of mind-meld, Murray becoming a version of Duke. When Murray returned to Saturday Night Live that season, he came back as a cigarette-holder-smoking faux-Thompson. Years later, Johnny Depp would also find himself being transformed during Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas. (I noticed right after watching this Omnibus special that I answered my phone in a sort of Thompson drawl until my friend called me out. The power of the Gonzo is such.)

But the man who had an equal power over Thompson was Richard Nixon. Since seeing the wily politician reappear on the national stage during the Barry Goldwater campaign in 1964, Thompson correctly recognized an enemy of everything he held dear, a dark side of America rising from the corpse of John F. Kennedy. And Nixon caused the fear and the loathing in America to bear fruit. As Thompson says in the documentary:

Richard Nixon for me stands for everything that I would not want to have happen to myself, or be, or be around. He is everything that I have contempt for and dislike and I think should be stomped out: Greed, treachery, stupidity, cupidity, positive power of lying, total contempt for any sort of human, constructive, political instinct. Everything that’s wrong with America, everything that this country has demonstrated as a national trait, that the world finds repugnant: the bully instinct, the power grab, the dumbness, the insensitivity. Nixon represents everything that’s wrong with this country, down the line.

Maybe the question is not, what would Thompson think of Trump, who doesn’t even feign Nixon’s humble routine. The question is, where is our Hunter S. Thompson?

Related content:

Read 11 Free Articles by Hunter S. Thompson That Span His Gonzo Journalist Career (1965-2005)

Hunter S. Thompson Gets Confronted by The Hell’s Angels: Where’s Our Two Kegs of Beer? (1967)

How Hunter S. Thompson Gave Birth to Gonzo Journalism: Short Film Revisits Thompson’s Seminal 1970 Piece on the Kentucky Derby

Hunter S. Thompson’s Decadent Daily Breakfast: The “Psychic Anchor” of His Frenetic Creative Life

Ted Mills is a freelance writer on the arts who currently hosts the artist interview-based FunkZone Podcast and is the producer of KCRW's Curious Coast. You can also follow him on Twitter at @tedmills, read his other arts writing at tedmills.com and/or watch his films here.

Pretty Much Pop: A Culture Podcast #27 Discusses the Impact and Aesthetics of Star Wars

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Mark Linsenmayer, Erica Spyres, and Brian Hirt grasp the low-hanging fruit in pop culture to talk about Star Wars: The unique place that these films have in the brains of people of a certain age, how we grappled with the prequels, and why we feel the need to fill in and argue about the details.

We primarily focus on the two most recent emanations of this beast, The Mandalorian and Rise of Skywalker. We talk alien and droid aesthetics (how much cuteness is too much?), storytelling for kids vs. adults reliving their childhood, pacing, plotting, casting, whether celebrity appearances ruin the Star Wars mood, creation by an auteur vs. a committee, and what we'd like to see next.

We had enough to say about this that we didn't need to draw on online articles, but here's a sampling of what we looked at anyway:

This episode includes bonus discussion that you can only hear by supporting the podcast at patreon.com/prettymuchpop. In this case, it's all just more Star Wars talk, covering droid body dysmorphia and humanization, the cycle of embodiment via action figures and re-presentation on the screen, tragedy in Star Wars vs. Watchmen, making up for racism in Star Wars through sympathetic portrayals of Sand Person culture, watching particular scenes many times, clown biker troopers, and more. Don't miss it!

This podcast is part of the Partially Examined Life podcast network.

Pretty Much Pop: A Culture Podcast is the first podcast curated by Open Culture. Browse all Pretty Much Pop posts or start with the first episode.

How Sam Mendes’ WWI Film 1917 Was Made to Look Like One Long, Harrowing Shot

Film editing goes back to the late 1890s. The decades upon decades of technological improvement and artistic refinement of the craft since then have tempted certain filmmakers to see if they can do without it entirely, or at least to look as if they can. Alfred Hitchcock gave it a try in 1948 with Rope, a film typical of his work in that it fit into the genre of the psychological thriller, but quite atypical in that its main action played out as a single long shot. But as we've previously featured here on Open CultureRope actually contained ten artfully hidden cuts. Last year saw the release of Sam Mendes' 1917, which did more or less the same thing, but at a much greater length — and across the battlefields and through the trenches of World War I.

As portrayed in the Insider video above, the shooting of 1917 must rank among the most formidable logistical achievements in film history. It also had the good fortune to be overseen by Roger Deakins, one of the most formidable cinematographers in film history. But even before capturing the first frame, Mendes, Deakins, and their many collaborators had to plan every detail of the harrowing journey taken by the picture's protagonists, two British soldiers sent across the Western Front to deliver a message to another battalion.




This entailed first building and lighting models of every single set, and when constructing the real thing making sure to include paths (and strategically removable obstacles) for the constantly forward-moving camera and its crew as well as for the characters.

The war movie is among the oldest of film genres, but a "one-shot" war movie like 1917 entered the realm of possibility thanks to recent technological advances. These include cameras light enough to be detached from one crane, run across a field, and attached to another all while shooting; drones to capture moving aerial shots impossible by more traditional cinematographic means; and advanced digital effects to smooth — and indeed conceal — the transitions between one shot and the next. The Insider video shows an actor taking a running leap off a bridge and onto a mat below, followed by the seamless-looking final sequence in which he plunges into a river instead, and the camera unhesitatingly follows him right into the water. This sort of visual wizardry reminds even the most jaded viewer that movie magic is alive and well, but also makes one wonder: what could Hitchcock have done with it?

Related Content:

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Watch World War I Unfold in a 6 Minute Time-Lapse Film: Every Day From 1914 to 1918

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The First Color Photos From World War I: The German Front

The 10 Hidden Cuts in Rope (1948), Alfred Hitchcock’s Famous “One-Shot” Feature Film

Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

Artist Ed Ruscha Reads From Jack Kerouac’s On the Road in a Short Film Celebrating His 1966 Photos of the Sunset Strip

In 1956, the Pop artist Ed Ruscha left Oklahoma City for Los Angeles. “I could see I was just born for the job” of an artist, he would later say, “born to watch paint dry.” The comment encapsulates Ruscha’s ironic use of cliché as a centerpiece of his work. He called himself an “abstract artist… who deals with subject matter.” Much of his subject matter has been commonplace words and phrases—decontextualized and foregrounded in paintings and prints made with careful deliberation, against the trend toward Abstract Expressionism and its gestural freedom.

Another of Ruscha’s subjects comes with somewhat less conceptual baggage. His photographic books capture mid-century America gas stations and the city he has called home for over 50 years. In his 1966 book, Every Building on the Sunset Strip, Ruscha “photographed both sides of Sunset Boulevard from the back of a pickup truck,” writes filmmaker Matthew Miller. “He stitched the photos together to make one long book that folded out to 27 feet. That project turned into his larger Streets of Los Angeles series, which spanned decades.”




Miller, inspired by work he did on a 2017 short film called Ed Ruscha: Buildings and Words, decided to bring together two of Ruscha’s longstanding inspirations: the city of L.A. and Jack Kerouac’s On the Road, which Kerouac supposedly wrote as a continuous 120-foot long scroll—a format, Miller noticed, much like Every Building on the Sunset Strip. (Ruscha made his own artist’s book version of On the Road in 2009). Miller and editor Sean Leonard cut Ruscha’s photographs together in the montage you see above, commissioned by the Getty Museum, while Ruscha himself read selections from the Kerouac classic.

The connection between their style and their use of language feels really strong, but at the end of the day, I simply thought it’d be great to hear Ed Ruscha read On the Road. Something about Ed’s voice just feels right. Something about his work just feels right. It’s like the images, the words, and the forms he makes were always meant to be together.”

Miller describes the painstaking process of selecting the photos and “constructing a mini narrative that evoked Ed’s sensibilities” at Vimeo. The artist’s “perspective seemed to speak to the signage and architecture of the city, while Kerouac’s voice felt like it was pulling in all the lively characters of the street.” It’s easy to see why Ruscha would be so drawn to Kerouac. Both share a fascination with vernacular American speech and iconic American subjects of advertising, the automobile, and the freedoms of the road.

But where Ruscha turns to words for their visual impact, Kerouac relished them for their music. “For a while,” Miller writes of his project, “it felt like the footage wanted one thing and the voiceover wanted another.” But he and Leonard, who also did the sound design, were able to bring image and voice together in a short film that frames both artists as mid-century visionaries who turned the ordinary and seemingly unremarkable into an experience of the ecstatic.

173 works by Ruscha can be viewed on MoMA's website.

via Aeon

Related Content:

The Music from Jack Kerouac’s Classic Beat Novel On the Road: Stream Tracks by Miles Davis, Dexter Gordon & Other Jazz Legends

Roy Lichtenstein and Andy Warhol Demystify Their Pop Art in Vintage 1966 Film

A Brief History of John Baldessari, Narrated by Tom Waits

Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

Pretty Much Pop: A Culture Podcast #26 Discusses Alan Moore’s Watchmen Comic and the HBO Show with Cornell Psychology Professor David Pizarro

Perhaps the most lauded graphic novel has been sequelized for HBO, and amazingly, it turned out pretty darn well (with a 96% Rotten Tomatoes rating!).

Your hosts Mark Linsenmayer, Erica Spyres, and Brian Hirt are joined by the Cornell's David Pizarro, host of the popular Very Bad Wizards podcast. We consider Alan Moore’s 1986 graphic novel, the 2009 Zack Snyder film, and of course mostly the recently completed (we hope) show by Damon Lindelof, the creator of Lost and The Leftovers.

How does Moore’s idiosyncratic writing style translate to the screen? Did the show make best use of its nine hours? Are there other stories in this alternate history that should still be told, perhaps to reflect on other recurrent social ills or crises of whatever moment might be depicted? Was Lindelof really the guy to tell this story about race, and does making the show about racism (which is bad!) undermine Moore’s rejection of (morally) black-and-white heroes and villains?

Some of the articles we used to warm up for this discussion included:

You might want to also check out HBO’s Watchmen page, which includes extra essays and the official podcast with Damon Lindelof commenting on the episodes.

Follow Dave @peezHear him on The Partially Examined Life, undoubtedly the apex of his professional career.

This episode includes bonus discussion that you can only hear by supporting the podcast at patreon.com/prettymuchpop. This podcast is part of the Partially Examined Life podcast network.

Pretty Much Pop: A Culture Podcast is the first podcast curated by Open Culture. Browse all Pretty Much Pop posts or start with the first episode.

A Map of the Disney Entertainment Empire Reveals the Deep Connections Between Its Movies, Its Merchandise, Disneyland & More (1967)

We all remember the first Disney movie we ever saw. In most of our childhoods, one Disney movie led to another, which stoked in us the desire for Disney toys, Disney games, Disney comics, Disney music, and so on. If we were lucky, we might also take a trip to Disneyland or one of its descendants elsewhere in the world. Many of us spent the bulk of our youngest years as happy residents of the Disney entertainment empire; some of us, into adulthood or even old age, remain there still.

Die-hard Disney fans appreciate that the world of Disney — comprising not just films and theme parks but television shows, printed matter, attractions on the internet, and merchandise of nearly every kind — is too vast ever to comprehend, let alone fully explore.




It was already big half a century ago, but not too big to grasp. You can see the whole of the operation laid out in this organizational synergy diagram created by Walt Disney Productions in 1967. Depicting "the many and varied synergistic relationships between the divisions of Walt Disney Productions," the information graphic reveals the links between each division.

Along the arrowheaded lines indicating the flows of manpower, material, and intellectual property, "short textual descriptions show what each division supplies and contributes to the others." The motion picture division "feeds tunes and talent" to the music division, for example, which "promotes premiums for tie-ins" to the merchandise licensing department, which "feeds ideas for retail items" to WED Enterprises (the holding company founded by Walt Disney in 1950), which produces "audio-animatronics" for Disneyland.

Some of the nexuses on the diagram will be as familiar as Mickey Mouse, Goofy, Tinkerbell, and the characters cavorting here and there around it. Others will be less so: the 16-millimeter films division, for instance, which would eventually be replaced by a colossal home-video division (itself surely being eaten into, now, by streaming). The Celebrity Sports Center, an indoor entertainment complex outside Denver, closed in 1994. MAPO refers to a theme-park animatronics unit formed in the 1960s with the profits of Mary Poppins (hence its name) and dissolved in 2012. And as for Mineral King, a proposed ski resort in California's Sequoia National Park, it was never even built.

"The ski resort was one of several ambitious projects that Walt Disney spearheaded in the years before his death in 1966," writes Nathan Masters at Gizmodo. But as the size of the Mineral King plans grew, wilderness-activist opposition intensified. After years of opposition by the Sierra Club, as well as the passage of the National Environmental Policy Act 1970 and the National Parks and Recreation Act of 1978, corporate interest in the project finally fizzled out. Though that would no doubt have come as a disappointment to Walt Disney himself, he might also have known to keep the failure in perspective. As he once said of the empire bearing his name, "I only hope that we never lose sight of one thing — that it was all started by a mouse."

h/t Eli and via Howard Lowery

Related Content:

Disneyland 1957: A Little Stroll Down Memory Lane

How Walt Disney Cartoons Are Made: 1939 Documentary Gives an Inside Look

Walt Disney Presents the Super Cartoon Camera

Disney’s 12 Timeless Principles of Animation

Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

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