Last night I was invited to a fabulous Fellini feast, the opening night of “Amarcord” – a dance performance based on Italian Film Director Federico Fellini’s 1973 film of the same name.
The title “Amarcord” is taken from the local dialect meaning “mi ricordo” in Italian or “I Remember”– and is a fantastical trip through the memories of Federico Fellini growing up in small town Italy in the 1930s when Italy was under the leadership of fascist dictator Benito Mussolini. The movie pokes fun at the the oppressive natures of both the fascist regime and the Catholic church as seen through the eyes of an adolescent boy. It also plays on all the stereo-types of Italians still very much present today — the young boy’s obsession with his mother, his continuous sexual desires and fantasies, the rowdy family meal and the Italian love of life.
The dance performance–choreographed by Luciano Cannito– was a delightful, enchanting trip through the scenes of the film using both voice track from the film and lively music to dramatize the small-town life.
The dance opens with a priest, in long black robes and traditional hat slipping across the stage. Then appears the rambunctious, adolescent Titta, representing Fellini, and played by talented young Italian dancer Nicolo’ Noto — bouncing, jumping and flipping as he tries to impress the towns stunning beauty, the sensual, red head Gradisca, played by Rossella Brescia.
I was charmed by the 1930s costumes– the women were in dresses that fell below the knees, puffy, feathery scarves, small hats and short heels. In an Italy where the past 20 years have been dominated by images of scantily dressed show-girls, these elegantly dressed dancers seemed much more seductive, sensual and appealing.
It is not long before Titta’s grey-haired mother takes the stage, scolding and dragging an ebullient Titta home. At home the dancers manage to create the scene of a lively family meal with the mother and father arguing, the irrepressible grandfather slipping his hand on the bottom of the maid, the younger brother misbehaving. All this with the dancers spinning and swirling around a dinner table.
The meal is interrupted by a group of Fascist black shirts who march in and drag off Titta’s father for questioning over his socialist inclinations. Throughout the dance performance the rigid, marching, stiff-armed fascist black-shirts were in sharp contrast with the rebellious adolescent boys, the sensual women, and the bustling, lively family.
At one point in the performance Titta and his three friends decide to visit the town’s brothel– again, the scene is beautifully choreographed and the costumes of the prostitutes, netted skirts, feathers and head-bands are elegant and enticing– far from vulgar. Titta is discovered by his ever-present Italian Mamma who drags him off by the ear and leaves him to confess to the local priest– the same one that slid unctuously across the stage at the opening.
In perhaps my favorite scene — Titta on the left of the stage kneels before the priest who dances and scolds, while behind Titta erupts an extravagant scene portraying Titta’s irrepressible fantasies as he tries to repent.
The story goes on with the beautiful Gradisca falling into the hands of a German soldier — the two dancers erupt in a aggressive, seductive dance showing a night of love making which degenerates leaving Gradisca alone, rejected and humiliated.
The performance ends on a up note. The Americans arrive and the dancers — waving American flags explode into a frivolous Charleston and a Yankee soldier in fatigues stumbles around cheerfully. Meanwhile, Gradisca has found her true love, an Italian Carabinieri soldier who she happily marries as the show concludes.
As part of the offer to see the show, I was also invited by Walks of Italy on a mini Fellini Tour of Rome. Since Fellini spent his life living and making films in Rome, the three hour tour could only touch on a few of the key places. We began at Piazza Del Popolo where in Fellini’s “La Dolce Vita” Marcello Mastroianni and Anouk Aimee’ invite a prostitute into their car for a ride. We then strolled down perhaps one of the most charming streets in Rome, a tiny hidden jewel called Via Margutta. There we saw the spot where Fellini lived for decades with his wife Giulietta Masina.
We then passed by the Spanish Steps where in the film “Roma” a group of hippies danced and jumped in the fountains. And of course a Fellini tour would not be complete without a stop of the Trevi Fountain to see where Fellini filmed actress Anita Ekberg flouncing in the water and calling out to Marcello Mastroianni “Marcello, come here.”
Trisha is a TV journalist working for AP TV News in Rome. She is married to an Italian and is a Mamma of three.