best film:  8 ½ has crawled past La Dolce Vita on my all-time list over the years. They’re both absolutely marvelous but the more imaginative/surrealistic set-piece brilliance of  8 ½  has won me over.  Still- they’ve basically tied. The key thing to note here is that they’re both in the top 10 of all-time—8 ½ is #6 and La Dolce Vita is at #9. In 8 ½ Mastroianni plays Guido- a Fellini surrogate- who has writer’s block (or director’s block) and is caught, in the circle of life, juggling his wife, girlfriend, his memory/nostalgia, fans, financiers, actresses (figments of his imagination). It’s a true glorious mess.

best performance: 8 ½ but this is just as close as the previous category with La Dolce Vita– both are among the 10 best male performances of the 1960’s (O’Toole in Lawrence, Belmondo in Breathless, Newman in Cool Hand Luke, Hoffman in The Graduate). In both films Mastroianni is stuck- there’s no radical change, rehabilitation, or ruinous moment. It’s existential angst-wonderfully underplayed by one of the all-time great actors.

stylistic innovations/traits: There’s a little bit more there than just the two big top-10 of all-time films with Fellini. There’s the three Academy Award nominations (none of which are for the two masterpieces) in Dark Eyes, Divorce, Italian Style ( with this nomination, Mastroianni became the first male actor nominated for a foreign language performance but largely I think it’s a makeup for La Dolce Vita)., and A Special Day. Better than his work in all three of these nominated performance is Antonioni’s La Notte. He’s superb here and it’s the 4-5th best film of 1961. Still, there’s no way Marcello is here this close to the top 10 without his 1-2 punch of La Dolce Vita and 8 ½. It’s a very top-heavy resume but he’s awesome in these films- and he’s in every scene (we’re talking well over 3 hours of greatness). A few Coppola actors (Brando, Duvall) are in both The Godfather and Apocalypse Now (which are also both in my top 10) but the total of their achievement in their pair of films doesn’t come that close to Marcello here.  There’s literally nobody cooler in the history of cinema- smooth– but he’s also got a knack for comedy (both broader and in key moments of his two masterpieces-  8 1/2 especially).

directors worked with:   Fellini (2)—and what a 1-2– holy hell, De Sica (2), Mario Monicelli (2), and then Antonioni once

Top 10 Performances:

  1. 8 ½
  2. La Dolce Vita
  3. La Notte
  4. Divorce Italian Style
  5. A Special Day
  6. Marriage Italian Style
  7. Dark Eyes
  8. The Organizer
  9. Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow
  10. Big Deal on Madonna Street

Archiveable films

1958- Big Deal on Madonna Street
1960- The Dolce Vita
1961- Divorce, Italian Style
1961- La Notte
1963- 8 1/2
1963- The Organizer
1963- Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow
1964- Marriage Italian Style
1977- A Special Day
1987- Dark Eyes