• City of Women is an admirable cocktail blend of La Dolce Vita, 8 ½, Alice in Wonderland and The Wizard of Oz. The first two make sense- this is twenty years after the first (of two up to this point) pairing of Federico Fellini and Marcello Mastroianni. The two men took world cinema by storm with their masterpiece collaborations in the early 1960s. In City of Women Marcello plays Snaporaz. He is riding on the train and starts stalking and lusting after a desirable woman (played by Bernice Stegers). He follows his manhood right off the train (Alice chasing the white rabbit) and enters into a surrealistic journey. It is like the call of the siren—it plays like mythology—and this is Fellini as a full blown world builder. Long gone are his semi-neorealism roots.
  • The first world Snaporaz encounters is the feminist convention. There are hundreds of women here (the title). Do not look to Fellini for much of a meditation on feminism or with much to say on the women’s movement aside from his coveting them. Snaporaz, in an aimless, unhurried manner (this is 139 minutes) goes into more worlds (some more cinematically intriguing than others) after the feminist convention. Are there seven? I don’t think so but that would make for a nice companion with the seven worlds (and sins) in La Dolce Vita (Marcello again here is a witness to these bizarre societies, parties, worlds). The 8 ½ comparison is that the convention section of the film (and frankly much of the rest that follows) feels like feature length version of the Harem scene from the 1963 film.
  • Fellini may not be the perfectionist he was in the 1960s, but the imagination is still there—so he’s there with half of the what it takes to be a world builder.

Bernice Stegers plays “woman on train” (with Marcello beautifully reflected off her sunglasses here) who serves as this story’s white rabbit

the home of Dr. Xavier Katzone is easily the most interesting visually up to the midpoint in the film– though the second half is stronger than the first

Talented collaborators Dante Ferretti with the production design (Salo, Casino, The Age of Innocence) and Giuseppe Rotunno with the cinematography (The Leopard, Rocco and His Brothers, All that Jazz). Fellini does miss Nino Rota who passed away the year before in 1979.

  • The second world has a sort of Escape From New York dystopian feel to it. The third world is the strange fortress of Dr. Xavier Katzone’s (easily the strongest visually thus far in the film).
  • Fellini swings the camera behind Marcello’s head at the 104-minute mark with the papier-mâché (this is where I compare Wes Anderson to Fellini) trees swaying behind the glass.

The memories section (of all the erotic encounters he had as a boy) in a roller coaster full of lights (the fishmonger lady, the nurse from the spa) is absolutely from the visionary behind Amarcord. This a very Felliniesque Fellini film. The sea is also papier mache—a great shot of the girl (who looks like Sandra Milo from 8 1/2) swaying her hips as she strides to the water on the beach.

The sort of judgement dungeon world is pretty spectacular. There is the wall of the oil paintings (including Casanova- a great ladies man and the past subject of a Fellini film of course). It’s just a wild ride- there are two women in drag doing Laurel and Hardy while the stalking camera has hundreds of extras in the background and a beautiful painting laying on the ground while Marcello mutters to himself.

  • Marcello takes a hot air balloon (in the form of a built beauty that he is trying to be romantic with) at the end of the film much like Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz. He wakes up—like Dorothy, like Alice, it was all a dream—and he is back in the train and the women in his cabin are the women from his dream (including his wife). The train heads into the tunnel and the credits roll.
  • Recommend/ Highly Recommend border but leaning HR after one visit