- 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.
- 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.
- 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
Great stuff here, you make me excited to watch it myself even if there’s no Rota score. What do you think of Mastroianni’s performance?
I can’t wait for when you get a chance to watch Satyricon again, I might even watch it myself in the next few days so I can write about it.