Amarcord ★★★

Fellini's episodic semi-memoir of life in fascist Italy is saccharine in a particularly self-serving, witless manner but is also irresistibly charming, maybe more so than a film with this subject matter ought to be. Its strikingly weird yet mostly grounded imagery along with the fourth-wall breaking (a character narrates directly to camera) give it a levity and exuberance that clearly had an effect on later, less eccentric films from Woody Allen's Radio Days to Giuseppe Tornatore's Cinema Paradiso. As usual, Fellini's biggest distancing effect is that he loves everything he wants to rebuke and challenge; that obviously doesn't go for the oppression of Il Duce's regime, but a certain simultaneous love and disgust with the past drives the entire, meandering structure, a tension that does intrigue. It revels in sexual juvenilia even at the same time as it mocks it, and maybe that's healthy.

I don't share Fellini's obvious fascination with bodily functions; I do share his affection for ladies' bottoms, but in a narrative film with an enormous ensemble cast, there's a certain inefficiency to a world in which it feels as if only men experience lust naturally. (If women display signs of it, they are freakish.) Once again, the contradiction: backward sexual mores are ruthlessly satirized, but then again, apart from one or two scenes, the film's own limited view of sex is no less antiquated or immature in its fashion. The scene revolving around the tobacco lady (who is hot, sorry if this offends) is a wonderful outlier with its rapid procession from titilation to explosive desire to utter disgust and dejection; more of that would've been interesting, but I think films arranged in this manner very often lose a lot of potential for insight by overstuffing themselves with characters and situations. Still, this is the most I've liked any Fellini film so far except I Vitelloni.