An Italian Master of Cinema ; Kezich Chronicles Federico Fellini's Life through the Lens of Friendship

By Demirjian, Karoun | The Christian Science Monitor, March 21, 2006 | Go to article overview

An Italian Master of Cinema ; Kezich Chronicles Federico Fellini's Life through the Lens of Friendship


Demirjian, Karoun, The Christian Science Monitor


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 style.

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 age 32.

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. …

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