best film:   Only in the company of towering achievements like La Dolce Vita (1960) and 8 ½ (1963) would films as strong as Le Notti Bianche (1957) and La Notte (1961) look minor. But make no mistake about it, it is the back-to-back masterpiece collaborations with Federico Fellini in the early 1960s that stand atop the rest for Marcello Mastroianni. Both of these towering masterpieces were in the top fifteen (15) of all-time when the top 500 was last updated, so this is an insanely weighty category for Marcello. Only Marlon Brando and Robert Duvall (The Godfather, Apocalypse Now) can say the same.


best performance:   8 ½ here again but this is just as close as the previous category with La Dolce Vita essentially tied. In both films Mastroianni is stuck – an existential crisis – and, refreshingly, there is no radical change, rehabilitation, or ruinous moment in either. The central character’s angst (whether it is “Marcello” in La Dolce Vita, or “Guido” in 8 ½) is brilliantly underplayed (while louder supporting characters shout over him and bounce around him) by one of the all-time great actors.


Marcello as Guido in Fellini’s genius blend of autobiography and surrealism – 8 1/2


stylistic innovations/traits:   Marcello Mastroianni will forever be connected with Federico Fellini – specifically the roles of “Marcello” and “Guido” in La Dolce Vita and 8 ½ respectfully. Mastroianni and Fellini collaborated for a total of five (5) archiveable films, but two (2) of them are very, very minor works (Roma and Intervista are hardly worth listing for Marcello). City of Women is an honorable attempt at getting the band back together again – and easily the third best of their collaborations as far as Marcello’s contribution is concerned. Mastroianni’s work with Luchino Visconti (Le Notti Bianche) and Michelangelo Antonioni (La Notte) really boost his resume and make it not so top heavy (and Fellini dependent). Marcello is the first male actor ever nominated for a foreign language performance. He had three (3) nominations in total, but none of them for his absolute best work, The nominations here was largely a makeup – something the Academy does often – for his work in La Dolce Vita. It is worth noting that each of Marcello’s best five (5) performances came between 1957 and 1963 – undoubtedly his pinnacle. Marcello worked often with Sophia Loren including four (4) archiveable films. And it is hard to find anyone who could match the cool that oozed from Marcello when he was in his prime – and he excelled in both drama and comedy – both separately – and often, especially in La Dolce Vita and 8 1/2, in the same role, film, and sometimes, the same scene.


Antonioni’s camera often preferred to dwell on Jeanne Moreau and Monica Vitti in La Notte – but there is plenty of meat on the bone for Marcello as  the final scene at dawn with Moreau.


Le Notti Bianche – a Dostoevsky adaptation (White Nights) – it is certainly going to remind cinephiles of David Lean’s Brief Encounter (1945), and then of course Before Sunrise from Richard Linklater decades later and Abbas Kiarostami’s Certified Copy as well – a man (Marcello and Maria Schell here) woman walking and talking in a tight time frame (this is three straight nights – so not as tight a time frame as the other films mentioned) in a European city (Venice here).


directors worked with:  Federico Fellini (5), Vittorio De Sica (3), Mario Monicelli (2), Ettore Scola (2), Luchino Visconti (1), Michelangelo Antonioni (1). This is just evidence here that it is not all a numbers game. For example, the one archiveable collaboration Marcello had with Visconti and/or Antonioni is/are worth more than the three (3) De Sica (a great director – he and Marcello just did not make one of their better films together) films combined.


Marcello comes off so effortless here in La Dolce Vita – he is just gliding, hovering – supremely self-assured


top five performances:

  1. 8 ½
  2. La Dolce Vita
  3. La Notte
  4. Le Notti Bianche
  5. Divorce Italian Style


archiveable films

1957- Le Notti Bianche
1958- Big Deal on Madonna Street
1960- La Dolce Vita
1961- Divorce, Italian Style
1961- La Notte
1963- 8 1/2
1963- The Organizer
1963- Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow
1964- Marriage Italian Style
1970- Sunflower
1970- The Pizza Triangle
1972 – Roma
1977- A Special Day
1980- City of Women
1987- Dark Eyes
1987- Intervista