La Dolce Vita
Most Italian children of my generation grew up with grandmas who dreamt of La Dolce Vita. I remember my own grandma telling me about all the times she went to the cinema to see this movie and how she never got bored of watching it.
La Dolce Vita is a iconic film for every Italian and it strongly influenced our culture in the 1960s. Created by Federico Fellini, one of Italy’s greatest directors, its subject was the hedonistic nightlife of upper-class Roman society. Marcello Mastroianni played Marcello Rubini, a gossip reporter for a Roman newspaper. The role both consolidated his reputation as Italy’s iconic leading man and turned him into an internationally-known movie star.
La Dolce Vita, literally “The Sweet Life,” was a highly ambitious project. It involved the construction of monumental sets and the participation of leading actors from the US and Italy, all of which came at a great cost. In many ways it was an abrupt break from the ideals of Italy’s post-war neorealist filmmaking.
When it was debuted in 1960, La Dolce Vita was seen as offering a critique of both the morally-corrupt decadence of Roman society and of a new culture of fame and celebrity. In fact, it was the name of Marcello’s pesky photographer sidekick, Paparazzo, that gave rise to label “paparazzi” for tabloid photographers.
While the film immediately became a commercial and critical sensation, it was also highly scandalous. In the first 24 hours after La Dolce Vita opened, Fellini received over 400 telegrams, many of which criticized the new film. In particular, the scene of a scantily clad and curvaceous Anita Eckberg playing in the waters of the Trevi Fountain became a focal point for conservative criticism. This scandal only propelled Fellini’s film on to greater success.
The phrase “La dolce vita” has come to be used to describe the effortless Italian approach to an elegant, luxurious and beautiful lifestyle. From Anouk Aimee’s cat-eye sunglasses, Marcello’s perfectly tailored clothes and Anita Ekberg’s gorgeous gowns to sleek sports cars and stunning interiors, as I watch Fellini’s film again, I have come to realize that the aesthetic that captured the attention of my Grandmother’s generation is one that continues to inspire us today.