Saturday, May 28, 2016

Federico Fellini's CITY OF WOMEN makes its Blu-ray and DVDebut this coming week

CITY OF WOMEN (La città delle donne), from 1980, is among the final few full-length films from Italian filmmaker Federico Fellini, pictured below, and although TrustMovies could have sworn he'd seen it around the time of its original release, it turns out he had not -- until now via the new Blu-ray and DVD which hit the street this coming Tuesday, May 31, courtesy of the Cohen Film Collection's Classics of Italian Cinema. This is a most welcome release, and not simply because it will add to the catalog of a filmmaking master. It is also one of Fellini's better works.

Yes, it is full of the filmmaker's signature content and characters: Here we have the leading man who's a sexist pig par excellence, surrounded by all kinds of women -- especially those on the corpulent side who possess a very large butt, which they know how to move. His leading man is again played by his actor of choice, Marcello Mastroianni, below, who was in his mid-50s at the time and still looking terrifically good of figure and face. On a trip by train to somewhere or other, our "hero" proves to be quite taken with the woman who sits across from him and whom he becomes intent on seducing.

If only. That would-be seduction leads Snàporaz (surely one of the least becoming names in the history of leading-man characters) into a kind of Grand Hotel in which a feminist convention is taking place.

As the only male to be found (other than the hotel's staff), Snàporaz is subjected to all kinds of contempt and humiliation -- much of it creepily enjoyable, particularly as it comes from a filmmaker whose own sexism was, well, rather heavy-duty.

Clearly Fellini was trying to come to terms with feminism, which had been on the rise for some time and was intent on displacing, or at least rejiggering, the current state of Italian patriarchy. While you have to give the guy credit for handing us a leading character whose male chauvinism borders on the hugely unappealing, Fellini was so besotted with his would-be alter ego, Mastroianni, along with his needs and desires, that the filmmaker's entire identification goes to and with the man.

The women here are all, with the exception of the elderly mother/grandmother figures, sex objects or scary bitches. The old Madonna/Whore syndrome is in full Italian flower. If this lends the film an uneasy duality, it also adds the kind of tension that only a secure and talented filmmaker would risk.

That risk pays off, as scene after scene pulls us in and leaves us amazed and amused. or shocked and thrillingly appalled. We go from spoofing the old Italian "white telephone" genre (below)

to the birthday party of a fellow who has supposedly conquered 10,00 females to finally a quest for the "ideal woman."

Yeah, right. Well, boys will be boys, and if their pursuits seem a tad trivial, they're also age-old and, for so many men, show little sign of abating.

And in the hands of a filmmaker as fanciful and imaginative as Signore Fellini, they are also eye-popping and thought-provoking.

If you've never seen a Fellini, City of Women is not a bad place to begin. If you've already seen this one, a revisit is probably in order. The Blu-ray transfer, while nothing special, is certainly adequate. In any case, the filmmaker's fecund imagination provides all the special effects and amazing visuals you could want.

Available via the Cohen Film Collection and running a lengthy but never boring 139 minutes, the film resurfaces this coming Tuesday, May 31 -- for purchase or rental.

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