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

It happened before, and it still happens now and again today, but in the second half of the twentieth century, auteurs really got into making commercials: Ingmar BergmanJean-Luc GodardDavid Lynch. Not, perhaps, the first names in filmmaking you’d associate with commerciality, but there we have it. Where, though, to place Federico Fellini, director of La Dolce VitaSatyricon, and Amarcord, movies that, while hardly assembled by the numbers, could never resist the entertaining and even pleasurable (or the somehow pleasurably displeasurable) spectacle? On one hand, Fellini went so far as to campaign against commercials airing during the broadcast of motion pictures; on the other hand, he made a few of the things, and not minor ones, either. In a post here on Fellini’s own commercials, Mike Springer referenced a trio shot for the Bank of Rome, quoting on the subject Fellini biographer Peter Bondanella, who notes their inspiration by “various dreams Fellini had sketched out in his dream notebooks,” and other Fellini biographer Tullio Kezich, who describes them as “the golden autumn of a patriarch of cinema who, for a moment, holds again the reins of creation.” Today, we present all three.

“Money is everywhere but so is poetry,” Fellini himself once said. “What we lack are the poets.” In these three spots, the creator synonymous with Italian auteurhood brings poetry and money together — even more so than most commercial-making “creative” filmmakers, given the overtly financial nature of the client’s business. You can read more about the project, “the last thing he did behind a camera,” at Sight & Sound: “In 1992, the year before his death, [Fellini] realised his best corporate work. [ … ] Here Fellini comprehended, skilfully conveyed and exposed the ultimate essence of advertising: the creation of needs and fears that the given product will magically solve.” The setup involves Paolo Villaggio as a nightmare-plagued man and Fernando Rey as his attentively listening analyst — and in addition to his professional interests, evidently quite a Bank of Rome enthusiast. The spot at the top of the post includes English subtitles, but as with Fellini’s features, even non-Italophones can expect rich, long-form (by commercial standards) audiovisual experiences watching the other two as well — and ones, unlike any experience you’d have actually stepping into a bank, not quite of this reality. Today, we present all three, the last films Fellini ever made.

Related Content:

Fellini’s Fantastic TV Commercials

David Lynch’s Surreal Commercials

Jean-Luc Godard’s After-Shave Commercial for Schick

Ingmar Bergman’s Soap Commercials Wash Away the Existential Despair

Colin Marshall hosts and produces Notebook on Cities and Culture and writes essays on cities, language, Asia, and men’s style. He’s at work on a book about Los Angeles, A Los Angeles Primer. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

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