Federico Fellini Introduces Himself to America in Experimental 1969 Documentary

Today, if you want an intro­duc­tion to a film­mak­er like Fed­eri­co Felli­ni, you’ll most like­ly just look him up on Wikipedia. In 1969, you would­n’t have had quite so con­ve­nient an option, though were you an NBC-watch­ing Amer­i­can, you might have caught a broad­cast of Felli­ni: A Direc­tor’s Note­book. Direct­ed by Felli­ni him­self at the behest of NBC pro­duc­er Peter Gold­farb, the fifty-minute doc­u­men­tary (now added to our col­lec­tion of 500 Free Movies Online) fol­lows the Ital­ian auteur as he peri­patet­i­cal­ly seeks out inspi­ra­tion for his cur­rent and future projects. Among these, we hear about Satyri­con, one of his immor­tal works, and about The Voy­age of G. Mas­toma, which stalled before it even reached mor­tal­i­ty. Con­sort­ing with hip­pies in a field, tak­ing a spir­it medi­um down into the “cat­a­combs” of the Rome Metro, drop­ping in on favorite actor/counterpart Mar­cel­lo Mas­troian­ni, and receiv­ing a stream of vis­it­ing eccentrics in his office, Felli­ni nar­rates his own thoughts about his direc­to­r­i­al process. It seems to come down to search­ing for the right atmos­pheres — the obscure, the for­eign, the des­per­ate, the bizarre — and tak­ing them in.

Felli­ni: A Direc­tor’s Note­book pro­vides what Felli­ni called a “semi­hu­mor­ous intro­duc­tion” to the direc­tor, his work, and the envi­ron­ment of frown­ing absur­dism that seemed to encir­cle him wher­ev­er he went. But with its fre­quent lan­guage-shift­ing, its often dark and vague­ly trou­bling imagery, its air of simul­ta­ne­ous asex­u­al­i­ty and indis­crim­i­nate louch­ness, and its obvi­ous­ly delib­er­ate craft, the film would seem to fall into the ter­ri­to­ry between forms. But if it feels too elab­o­rate, arti­fi­cial, and stud­ded with half-glimpsed grotesques to count as a straight­for­ward por­trait of an artist, Fellini’s films set them­selves apart to this day with their thor­ough pos­ses­sion of those same qual­i­ties. Cul­tur­al his­to­ry has not record­ed in much detail how the aver­age Amer­i­can home view­er of 1969 han­dled this plunge into the vis­cous essence of Felli­ni. But I’ll bet every sin­gle one who enjoyed it imme­di­ate­ly marked their cal­en­dars, if sur­rep­ti­tious­ly, to go check out the man’s inter­pre­ta­tion of Petro­n­ius.

via @coudal

Relat­ed con­tent:

Fellini’s Fan­tas­tic TV Com­mer­cials

Felli­ni + Abrams = Super 8½

Col­in Mar­shall hosts and pro­duces Note­book on Cities and Cul­ture. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall.

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