What’s fun about Federico Fellini? Where do I begin?! He wasn’t just a demented wacky genius of a director who was born on a train, he also enjoyed drawing erotic art in his spare time. He could have been a successful cartoonist, but come to think of it, he was! Fellini basically used film as his medium rather than pen and paper, and many of the characters in his movies look like zany grotesque caricatures. By and large, watching his films makes me feel I’m having a silly dream in which everyone speaks agitatedly in an indecipherable foreign language (alas, I don’t speak Italian!) with a lot of visual sexual nonsense going on. His 1969 film, ‘Satyricon,’ is a good example of this.
Here are some of Fellini’s naughty drawings.
Are those big boobs, or what?! Looks like Russ Meyer wasn’t the only filmmaker with a taste for breast milk. Fellini also gave lots of busty babes the chance to shine on screen. The most notorious one of these was Anita Ekberg, a pneumatic Swedish model, actress and sex symbol who caused many wet dreams in the ‘50s and ‘60s. They did four films together, the most famous one of which is his 1960 masterpiece, ‘La Dolce Vita’.
Fellini first met Anita in a London night club. When he saw her dancing in her bare feet, he found her enigmatic beauty to be phosphorescent. The director who was known to treat his actors like puppets had discovered the perfect Sylvia for his ‘La Dolce Vita’. Here’s a funny anecdote about the first encounter of Ekberg and Marcello Mastroianni, her leading man in that film. After being introduced to him at a party, she ignored him the whole evening. The hurt Marcello remarked that she was not such a great thing and that she reminded him of a German soldier who forced him onto a truck during World War Two. I’m sure they managed to patch things up before their famous scene at the Trevi Fountain in ‘La Dolce Vita'. It was shot on a chilly March night and Mastroianni and Ekberg had to pretend they weren’t freezing their butts off.
Another famous sequence in ‘La Dolce Vita’ is the ‘orgy’ party scene in which Marcello is riding piggyback on a starlet to humiliate her in public. Fellini asked his good old pal, director Pier Paolo Pasolini, if he had any suggestions to make the scene more realistic. Pasolini replied that he didn’t like middle-class orgies and knew nothing about them. Hmm, considering Pasolini’s scabrous 1975 film, ‘Salo, or the 120 Days of Sodom’, he obviously did know a thing or two about debauchery. In any case, Fellini was left using his gut instincts and he shot a powerful controversial scene that would later inspire another Italian filmmaker. Check out this clip from Pasquale Festa Campanile’s 1968 flick, ‘La Matriarca’, to see what I’m getting at.
Let’s move on to a Fellini film that had a particularly strong impact on my childhood psyche. Back in the ‘70s, I’d naughtily stay up past my bedtime to catch some late night TV. Switching channels, I happened to come upon a scene of crazed decadence and sat there mesmerized by what I was watching. Sure enough, it was footage from ‘Fellini’s Casanova’, released in 1976. No wonder I developed such a bad taste for sinema! I blame Federico Fellini!
‘Fellini’s Casanova’ starred the iconic Canadian actor, Donald Sutherland, playing the legendary lover. He actually despised the experience of appearing in this delirious sleaze-fest. In one very hilarious scene, he is chased cat-and-mouse style around a table by a very lusty, very big breasted (bra size: 73 inches!) Chesty Morgan. The scene was originally cut from the final print, but you can find it online or in a documentary about Fellini’s work.
Chesty Morgan had been an exotic dancer and was discovered by the very peculiar queen of low-budget sexploitation pictures, Doris Wishman, who cast her in the movies ‘Deadly Weapons’ and ‘Double Agent 73’. Those flicks were tailor-made for the cum-stained patrons of the sleazy theatres lining Manhattan’s 42nd Street. Chesty, a pneumatic caricature come to life, was a wet dream come true for Fellini. It’s not clear why her scene was deleted, but when you consider that ‘Casanova’ is nearly three hours long, maybe it didn’t need the extra padding Chesty provided. Here’s my take on what possibly happened between Fellini and Chesty…
Well, he obviously survived her attempt to smother him in her ample charms and moved on to find another ‘bella’ to satisfy his appetite for big bosoms. Donatella Damiani was next in line, appearing in his self-indulgent ‘lesbos island’ pastiche, ‘City of Women’, from 1980.
Donatella plays the roller skating girl who gives Marcello Mastroianni some assistance when he finds himself in a crazy hotel full of women. She became a sex symbol in Italy and posed for magazines like ‘Playboy’ and ‘Playmen’. Judging by her looks and her tiara, Donatella must have inspired the drop dead gorgeous Cicciolina (real name: Ilona Staller), not only an Italian porn star, but also a member of that country’s parliament, representing the Party of Love. She was known to deliver her speeches with one breast uncovered.
Cicciolina never appeared in Fellini’s movies, but her sexy cartoonish infantile persona, bizarre makeup and the way she lived like a twisted horny Eurotrash Barbie doll on steroids are, for me, very surrealistically Fellini-ish.
Although he did autograph a photo for her, it’s a shame they never worked together. Their similar irreverent comical attitudes could have burned the screen and made a tremendous impact on Italian film.
Here is a drawing representing ‘City of Women’ by an Italian master of erotic art, Milo Manara. He came up with illustrations paying tribute to most of Fellini’s films and this is just one of them. To see more of Manara’s wonderful renderings, go to this website.
It wasn’t only the beautiful Donatella who had the privilege of being immortalized by Manara, but also Fellini’s wife: the lovely childlike flat-chested mini actress (in size, that is), Giulietta Masina. You’d think that like Russ Meyer, Fellini would pick a voluptuous bombshell for his life partner, but, no, love is blind, and her talent and kind nature stole his heart. You see, Federico was afflicted by the Madonna-whore complex. He was a notorious womanizer and shagged his bimbos behind her back all the time. Giulietta knew about Fellini’s infidelity but decided to ignore it and be the good wife. It was the price she paid to be the muse of a famous eccentric genius and share her life with him.
Masina gave Fellini the best and most memorable roles of her career. From her small part in ‘The White Sheik’ to her starring roles in ‘Nights of Cabiria’ and ‘La Strada’ (the best Italian neorealist film, in my opinion), she positively shined on screen and became one of the most celebrated Italian actresses ever.
Although I didn’t do a story on Fellini in my book, I paid tribute to the man by filling up two pages with illustrations of two of my favorite films of his. Can you guess which ones? Pick up a copy of Sinemania! pronto and find out!
I’ll soon dish out more dirt on another director, but I’ll leave you with this very funny spoof of Fellini’s movies by the comedic British duo French and Saunders. Ciao for now!