#18 in my ranking of Federico Fellini’s films.
I ended up with the opposite reaction I’ve had over the last few movies with Intervista. I was deliriously in love with everything until the ending when I felt like it just petered out. Each of the disparate pieces was wonderful as I waited for Fellini to bring it all together in the end, but that ending felt like a stop rather than a culmination, undermining the sum total of the individual episodes, making the entire film feel like a cute exercise more than anything else.
It’s essentially four movies in one. The first is a TV documentary by Japanese journalists interviewing Fellini as he starts his production of a new movie. The second is a dreamlike recreation of Fellini’s first trip to Cinecitta as a young journalist himself, going for an interview with a beautiful actress. The third is the film that Fellini intends to make, an adaptation of Franz Kafka’s Amerika. The fourth is Intervista itself as a whole. The joys of this film are in how Fellini intertwines the four, letting his memories in his interviews bleed into the production of a film which ends up being his memories of Cinecitta, but once the character of Rubini (named after the actor who plays him, Sergio Rubini, and also, coincidentally, the name of the protagonist in La Dolce Vita) gets to Cinecitta and performs his interview, that memory fades away in favor of the production effort on Amerika.
Watching Fellini talk about his movie never to be made, his memories, and direct his actors and production team, Intervista heavily recalls 8 1/2. He does have a clear idea of what he wants, as opposed to Guido previously, but the roving meetings with his staff, the screen tests of women, and the flurry of activity around the production in general end up feeling like an extended reference to his earlier movie. It was wonderfully rewarding, as someone going through his filmography and familiar with his work, but I began to wonder how it would play to someone not in the club, so to speak.
And then we get the movie’s most wonderful moment. Marcello Mastroianni shows up outside Fellini’s production office window (three stories up) on a crane dressed as Mandrake the Magician for a commercial filming just outside. Fellini steals him away and takes him into he country to Anita Ekberg’s house. There, the two stars of La Dolce Vita see each other for the first time in decades, and Mastroianni magically makes a movie screen appear on which plays their famous moments at the Trevi Fountain. It’s a wonderful and endearing moment as Fellini allows his aging icons to relive their most well-known moment, speaking to the power and timelessness of movies.
I think that moment, as isolated as it is from the rest of the movie, can point to the overall message of the film. Movies were dying according to Fellini, being replaced by the inferior form of television as seen in Ginger and Fred. The magic was going away, and I can see that in Fellini’s nostalgic look at his past that dominates the early parts of the film. However it’s once Mastroianni and Ekberg leave the picture where I feel like the movie falters. I’ve loved the film up to this point, but the ending feels aimless. During some outdoor screentests for Amerika, rain falls and starts bursting some of the hot lamps lighting the area (recalling another moment from La Dolce Vita). The cast and crew huddle under a makeshift cover built of wooden planks and plastic sheets, and they wait out the night until morning when they get attacked by Indians who use antennae as spears. Then Fellini takes his camera into an empty soundstage and provides an Arclight to give the movie a final ray of hope, as, he explains, is related to a complaint from a producer he had decades before, that his movies never ended with any hope.
So, I think I get the movie, but I don’t feel like the ending lives up to the rest of the film. Movies are dying as an artform. Fellini is nearing the end of his life and career (he only had one more movie in him after this). He’s saying goodbye to the artform he’s known and loved for decades as well as the place he made his movies since Nights of Cabiria, but watching his crew huddle under that cover doesn’t feel like a great way to end this collection of stories and memories. I just felt more and more deflated as the ending went on. That very well could have been the point, though. The joyful act of moviemaking is dead. I’m open to reassessing with a second viewing.
There’s a lot of joy and good feeling in this movie including a lot of treats for fans of Fellini. Its ending ends up missing an opportunity to bring everything together, especially the enjoyable tangent with Mastroianni and Ekberg, which drags the entire experience down a good bit for me.