Six separate episodes: would-be suicides discuss their despair. A provincial dance hall. An investigative reporter posing as a husband-to-be. A young unwed mother. Girl-watching techniques of Italian men. A glimpse into prostitution.
In 1914, a luxury ship leaves Italy in order to scatter the ashes of a famous opera singer. A lovable bumbling journalist chronicles the voyage and meets the singer's many eccentric friends and admirers.
Moments after the newlywed couple of the fastidious office employee Ivan and his young and pure wife Wanda arrive at a hotel in Rome for their honeymoon and a formal meeting with Ivan's uncle, the bride decides to sneak out of the room and leave unnoticed. Wanda, obsessed with the masculine "White Sheik", her idol and hero of her favourite romantic photonovel, and tempted by his fiery invitation, she decides to actually meet him in person just to show him a painting she made. Without a doubt, 20-year-old Wanda risks a lot, however, she needs to see him in all of his glory. Instead, she will reluctantly join the cast of the photonovel, she will even get a small part too, she will be seduced by the arrogant protagonist and ultimately, confused and disappointed, she will inevitably realise that she is all alone and so far away from Rome and her husband. Perplexed by Wanda's strange disappearance and unable to disclose the news to his family, Ivan will seek her in the streets of Rome ...Written by
This film is part of the Criterion Collection, spine #189. See more »
Dottore Fortuna - il regista del fotoromanzo:
You reckless hooligan! We've been waiting for three hours! We've wasted the whole day! You ruined everything! I'm canceling your contract! I created you and I can destroy you! Go back to being a butcher shop boy!
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...that Federico Fellini, one of the most gifted and visually wild Italian directors of the 20th century, blossomed out until with his masterpiece 8 1/2 (which, by the time he got to, as Martin Scorsese once said, "he was on Mars"). With his first solo effort, parting ways with Rossellini but not entirely from neo-realism, he went back to one of his passions- comic-book writing. Los Sciecco Bianco (The White Shiek) is likely one of Fellini's funniest works, and it shows him gearing up his visual sense of space, and with his trademark characters (set, which is his usual, in Rome).
The story is quite simple and, for the novice to Fellini's daring feats of the 60's, entertaining and accessible. A man with a level of pride in his family's connections in bureaucracy and religion in Rome (played by Leopoldo Triste, with perfect usage of wide eyes), is married to a young woman, Wanda (Brunella Bovo). She loves him, but finds him perhaps a little un-easy to be around for a day. So, she sneaks off for what she thinks is just a momentary call for fandom- she's a big fan of 'the white sheik', the star of the kinds of comics being printed in Italy (mostly for women, as said on the DVD, they were still photos as opposed to drawings, with pulp/love stories). But, in a Fellinian twist, Wanda gets whisked away by the shooting crew of the series, and Ivan (Triste) is stuck in one of those text-book comic situations, where everything is "under control". The results are rather funny, if also intriguing.
The little characters are also what makes the film fun, aside from our lead couple, and with this film we get the white sheik himself, Fernando Rivoli (Alberto Sordi, who finds that line between a stealthily romantic type and hopelessly dim), and the crew, filled with their little comments. Plus, there is a late-night visit to Ivan in a despairing state, from Cabiria (later to appear in one of Masina/Fellini's best combinations, Nights of Cabiria), involving a flame shooter. And as the film unravels, it becomes key to the fun- we know things will turn out right somehow, but how is what makes the film work (unlike Fellini, some might think, as many of his other films are the opposite, with flights of fantastical comedy in hopeless tragedies). It's not a great film, there are some inconsistencies, and at a couple of points the pace loses its strength. But if this was a place to evolve from for the director, it's not a bad place in the slightest. That there are wonderful turns for Trieste, Bovo, Marchio, and legendary composer Nina Rota, is another reason to watch it.
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