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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