The life of Federico Fellini, the internationally renowned
Italian director known for his early avant-garde style, has
captivated the attention of dozens of published biographers, each
attempting to give unique factual accounts and analysis of the
Italian master's life. But few writers are able to approach Fellini
with the privilege of intimate experience and friendship.
Tullio Kezich, the film critic from the Italian newspaper
Corriere della Sera who penned Federico Fellini: His Life and Work,
first met Fellini at the Cannes Film Festival in 1952. The two
remained fast friends until Fellini's death in 1993.
As a professional associate and a personal confidant, Kezich
fills the pages of this biography with uncommon detail and artistry,
presenting a chronicle that weaves life with film, fact with
fantasy, in a style reminiscent of the great director's avant-garde
Kezich measures Fellini's life not in years, but in films (for
those of us in need of more Caesarean units, a timeline is provided
as an appendix). He gives the greatest time and space to the most
pivotal and influential works of Fellini's career, among them "I
Vitelloni" (1953), "La Strada" (1954), "Le Notti di Cabiria" (1957),
"La Dolce Vita" (1960), "8 1/2" (1963), and "Ginger e Fred" (1986).
The other aspects of Fellini's life - friendships, ailments,
affairs - are all set in orbit about these cinematic milestones.
Yet Kezich's most interesting tales arise from the period of
Fellini's life almost entirely devoid of film.
Born in Rimini, Italy, to a sensible, disciplinarian mother who
was determined that her sons would become priests or lawyers (one
ended up a film director and the other a lyric tenor), Fellini had
little early contact with film and no formal training.
Experience and human stories, those familiar lay teachers, are
what Kezich highlights as the forces that drove the late-blooming
Fellini - "a not particularly cultured man who had little interest
in school, but who attentively read a lot of newspapers every day."
Fellini did not conclusively settle upon a vocation in film until
Though Fellini's artistic influences came from a time of fascism
and war, Fellini remained almost entirely apolitical, joining
Mussolini's film company instead of the dictator's army, and later
abandoning projects, such as Rossellini's "Europa '51," that
attempted to transmit a conscious message.
That some of his movies appear to address political themes, such
as the rebuilding of Italy, is the byproduct of being an absolute
modernist, Kezich says, and indicative of "the political and social
resentment of someone who has evidently forbidden himself from
making any serious statements. …