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.

Related Content:

Fellini’s Three Bank of Rome Commercials, the Last Thing He Did Behind a Camera (1992)

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Wim Wenders Creates Ads to Sell Beer (Stella Artois), Pasta (Barilla), and More Beer (Carling)

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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.

The First & Last Time Mister Rogers Sang “Won’t You Be My Neighbor” (1968-2001)

Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood, the iconic television series that ran from 1968 to 2001, is a major childhood touchstone for so many.

Raise your hand if you have a Pavlovian response to the familiar opening segment, in which Fred Rogers opens the front door to his humble living room set, heads to the closet, singing, to exchange his jacket for a comfy cardigan sweater, and then sits on a wooden deacon’s bench to swap out his street shoes for a pair of canvas sneakers.

As per the show's website, this routine was a promise of sorts to viewers:

I care about you, no matter who you are and no matter what you can or cannot do... Let’s spend this time together. We’ll build a relationship and talk and imagine and sing about things that matter to you.

Fans of all ages—some too young to have caught the show in its original run—have posted over 28,000 grateful, emotional comments on the video, above, which teams the opening segment of the first episode, February 19, 1968, with that of the last episode, August 31, 2001.




The biggest change seems to be the move from black-and-white to color.

Otherwise, the tweaks are decidedly minor.

The wooden doors are replaced with similar models sporting cast iron hinges.

The window seat gets some pillows.

The shutters give way to cafe curtains, open to reveal a bit of studio foliage.

A fish tank is installed near the traffic light that signaled the start of every episode.

The closet fills with bright sweaters, many hand knit by Mr. Rogers’ mom—at some point, these transitioned from buttons to zippers, which were easier to manipulate and were quieter near his body mic.

(Once, Mr. Rogers buttoned his sweater wrong, but opted not to reshoot. Cast member David “Mr. McFeely” Newell recalled that his friend saw the on-camera boo boo as an opportunity “to show children that people make mistakes.”)

There are the framed trolley prints and Picture Picture, as constant and unfashionable as the braided rug and Bicentennial rocking chairs that were a feature of my grandparents' house.

It’s such a good feeling, a very good feeling, to see how loyal Rogers and his producers were to these familiar elements throughout the decades.

Brace yourself, friends.

Mr. Rogers was kind of over these openers.

As his wife, Joanne Rogers, told The New York Times in 2001, a few months before the final episode aired:

He doesn't miss the show. I think he misses the Neighborhood of Make-Believe because he enjoyed working with people around him. He really loves all of them, and he'll keep in touch. But he did not enjoy what he called 'interiors,' the beginning and endings of the programs. He had gotten where he had really dreaded it so.

It wasn’t so much the repetitive nature of the greeting as the need to put on makeup and contact lenses, a telegenic consideration that didn’t factor in to the old black-and-white days. Mr Rogers said that he would have preferred presenting himself to the camera—and to the neighbors watching at home—exactly as he did to his friends and neighbors in real life.

Related Content:

Mr. Rogers’ Nine Rules for Speaking to Children (1977)

When Fred Rogers and Francois Clemmons Broke Down Race Barriers on a Historic Episode of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood (1969)

Mr. Rogers Takes Breakdancing Lessons from a 12-Year-Old (1985)

Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  Join her in NYC on Monday, February 3 when her monthly book-based variety show, Necromancers of the Public Domain celebrates New York, The Nation’s Metropolis (1921). Follow her @AyunHalliday.

How Dick Cavett Brought Sophistication to Late Night Talk Shows: Watch 270 Classic Interviews Online

Just as the avuncular presence of Ed Sullivan helped ease middle America into accepting Elvis Presley and The Beatles, the aw-shucks midwestern charm of Dick Cavett made Woodstock hippies seem downright cuddly when he had Jefferson Airplane, David Crosby, and Joni Mitchell on just after the legendary music festival in 1969. He had a way of making everyone around him comfortable enough to reveal just a little more than they might otherwise. (See Jimi Hendrix talk about his National Anthem performance, below.)

Born in Nebraska in 1937, “the only persona [Cavett] bothered to, or needed to, develop for working on camera was of a boy from Nebraska dazzled by the bright lights of New York,” as Clive James writes in an appreciation of the TV host. As he interviewed the biggest stars of late sixties, seventies, and eighties on the long-running Dick Cavett Show, Cavett’s easygoing Midwestern demeanor disarmed both his guests and audiences. He kept them engaged with his erudition, quick wit, and breadth of cultural knowledge.

Cavett, writes James, was “the most distinguished talk-show host in America… a true sophisticate with a daunting intellectual range.” He was also an empathic interviewer who could lead his guests beyond the stock responses they were used to giving in TV interviews. (David Bowie, below, reveals how he was influenced by his fans.)

A trained gymnast and self-taught magician—Cavett met fellow magician Johnny Carson in the early 50s at a magic convention—the talk-show host left Nebraska for Yale and never looked back. (He once joked, quoting Abe Burrows, “How ya gonna keep ‘em down on the farm, after they’ve seen the farm?”) After college, he moved to New York to pursue acting. There, he got his first comedy writing job, when he handed some of his jokes to Tonight Show host Jack Paar in an elevator. He befriended Stan Laurel, Groucho Marx, and all the biggest names in comedy, and wrote for Jerry Lewis and Merv Griffin.




Once he had his own late-night talk show, however, which ran opposite Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show, it became clear that he was doing something very different. “Cavett never mugged, never whooped it up for the audience, rarely told a formally constructed joke, and listened to the guest,” writes James. He became “famous enough not to be able to go out except in disguise,” but “his style did not suit a mass audience.” This is what made—and still makes—Cavett worth watching.

He had Brian de Palma and Martin Scorsese on to talk about how they’re each other’s best critics, and Scorsese revealed that he did additional shooting for The Last Waltz after De Palma saw it.

Robin Williams came on to demonstrate his developing Popeye voice during the shooting of the Robert Altman film in 1979. In the clip above, he talks about feeling like “a monkey on a string” and working through his depression.

Lucille Ball told the story of her early years in show business, and her time working as a model, and Dick Van Dyke talked frankly about his alcoholism and the stigma surrounding addiction.

These are just a few of the 270+ surprising clips you'll find on the Dick Cavett Show YouTube channel, where George Carlin, Muhammad Ali, Marlon Brando, George Harrison, John Lennon, Ian McKellen, Julie Andrews, and too many more stars to name say things they rarely said anywhere else, as Cavett draws them out and keeps them talking.

Related Content:

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George Harrison in the Spotlight: The Dick Cavett Show (1971)

John Lennon & Yoko Ono’s Two Appearances on The Dick Cavett Show in 1971 and 72

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

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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.

Itzhak Perlman Appears on Sesame Street and Poignantly Shows Kids How to Play the Violin and Push Through Life’s Limits (1981)

I always champion anything that will improve the lives of people with disabilities and put it on the front burner. - Itzhak Perlman

At its best, the Internet expands our horizons, introducing us to new interests and perspectives, forging connections and creating empathy.

The educational children's series Sesame Street was doing all that decades earlier.

Witness this brief clip from 1981, starring violin virtuoso Itzhak Perlman and a six-year-old student from the Manhattan School of Music.

For many child—and perhaps adult—viewers, this excerpt presented their first significant encounter with classical musical and/or disability.




The little girl scampers up the steps to the stage as Perlman, who relies on crutches and a motorized scooter to get around, follows behind, heaving a sigh of relief as he lowers himself into his seat.

Already the point has been made that what is easy to the point of unconsciousness for some presents a challenge for others.

Then each takes a turn on their violin.

Perlman’s skills are, of course, unparalleled, and the young girl’s seem pretty exceptional, too, particularly to those of us who never managed to get the hang of an instrument. (She began lessons at 3, and told the Suzuki Association of the Americas that her Sesame Street appearance with Perlman was the “highlight of [her] professional career.”)

In the nearly 40 years since this episode first aired, public awareness of disability and accessibility has become more nuanced, a development Perlman discussed in a 2014 interview with the Wall Street Journal, below.

Having resented the way early features about him invariably showcased his disability, he found that he missed the opportunity to advocate for others when mentions dropped off.

Transparency coupled with celebrity provides him with a mighty platform. Here he is speaking in the East Room of the White House in 2015, on the day that President Obama honored him with the Medal of Freedom:

And his collaborations with Sesame Street have continued throughout the decadesincluding performances of "You Can Clean Almost Anything" (to the tune of Bach’s Partita for Solo Violin), "Put Down the Duckie," Pagliacci's Vesti la giubba (backing up Placido Flamingo), and Beethoven's Minuet in G, below.

Read more of Perlman’s thoughts on disability, and enroll in his Master Class here.

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Great Violinists Playing as Kids: Itzhak Perlman, Anne-Sophie Mutter, & More

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See Stevie Wonder Play “Superstition” and Banter with Grover on Sesame Street in 1973

Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  Join her in NYC on Monday, January 6 when her monthly book-based variety show, Necromancers of the Public Domaincelebrates Cape-Coddities by Roger Livingston Scaife (1920). Follow her @AyunHalliday.

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