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Major
Man:
Fellini
as
an
Autobiographer



A
flight
of
fantasy,
whether
in
dreams
or
daydreams,
is
no
mere
sleight

of
mind.
But
only
children
will
accept
it
as
being
equally
as
profound
as

the
arbitrary
awareness
we
are
taught
to
regard
as
reality,
and
hence,

only
they
are
nurtured
by
it.
Later,
of
course,
many
of
us
comprehend

our
self‐imposed
poverty
and
try
to
double
back,
but
the
bread
crumbs

are
always
missing
and
our
failures
are
immense.
A
true
belief
in
the

validity
of
non‐ordinary
reality—with
all
that
it
can
teach
us—seems

beyond
the
capabilities
of
every
practicing
adult,
with
the
possible

exception
of
Federico
Fellini.

Garry
Trudeau


the
suspicion—the
extreme
test
of
his
topicality,
the
total
congruence

of
the
director
and
his
time—that
Fellini,
a
man
who
has
exhausted

himself
and
his
life
in
images,
doesn’t
exist.

Liliana
Betti


I

In
“Everything
and
Nothing,”
one
of
those
brief
but
marvelous
essays/short

stories/philosophical
meditations
only
he
can
write,
Jorge
Luis
Borges
describes,
in

semi‐biographical
form,
the
life‐course
of
a
certain
unnamed
man,
an
actor
and
a

dramatist,
who
discovers
that,
unlike
his
contemporaries,
he
is
devoid
of
personality;

that,
in
fact,
there
is
“no
one
in
him.”
“Behind
his
mask,”
Borges

writes,
“(even
the
poor
paintings
of
the
epoch
show
it
to
be

unlike
any
other)
and
behind
his
words
(which
were
copious,

fantastic
and
agitated),
there
was
nothing
but
a
bit
of
cold,
a

dream
not
dreamed
by
anyone.”
After
training
himself,

“instinctively,”
“in
the
habit
of
pretending
he
was
someone,
so
it

would
not
be
discovered
that
he
was
someone,
so
it
would
not
be

discovered
that
he
was
no
one,”
he
embarks
on
a
career
in
the

theatre
in
London,
where,
as
actor
and
playwright,
he
transcends,
through
the

possibilities
inherent
in
creation,
the
need
for
a
single
self,
at
least
for
a
time.
“No

one,”
Borges
tells
us,
recounting
his
accomplishments,
“was
ever
so
many
men
as

The Collected Works of David Lavery 2

that
man:
like
the
Egyptian
Proteus
he
was
able
to
exhaust
all
the
possibilities
of

being.”

Having
realized
what
Borges
calls
“the
fundamental
oneness
of
existing,

dreaming,
and
acting,”
he
comes
to
live,
almost
as
a
matter
of
course,
a
life
of

directed
hallucination,”
until,
overcome
by
the
“surfeit
and
horror”
of
being
no
one

by
being
everyone,
re
retires,
returns
to
his
native
village,
buys
a
large
house,
and

become
someone:
“a
retired
impresario
who
has
made
his
fortune
and
who

interested
in
making
loans,
in
lawsuits,
and
in
petty
usury.”
All
revels
ended,
he

cares
little
any
more
for
the
“insubstantial
pageant”
of
the
theatre.

Upon
his
death,
Borges’
biographical
imagination
reveals,
this
man
without
a

self
finally
meets
his
maker
and,
protesting
against
the
“negative
capability”
of
his

life,
proclaims
his
retrospective
wish
that
he
might
have
been
somebody,
might
have

been
himself
alone—might
have
had
a
single
autobiography.
To
which
God
replies

that
the
whole
of
his
creation,
including
William
Shakespeare,

must
not
complain;
for
since
the
Creator
himself
lives
a
life
of

allegory,
all
that
exists—both
the
world
itself
and
its
mirror,
art—
is
only
a
commentary
on
it:
“I
dreamed
the
world
[he
admonishes

his
accuser]
the
way
you
dreamed
your
work
my
Shakespeare;
one

of
the
forms
of
my
dream
was
you,
who,
like
me,
are
many
and
no

one”
(Borges
115‐117).

This
Keatsian
account
of
the
Protean
nature
of
the
great

poet
has,
I
would
like
to
suggest,
great
relevance
for
an
understanding
of
a
certain

kind
of
autobiographer
as
well:
namely
the
negatively
capable
one
who
tells
his
own

life‐story
not
just
through
the
revelations
of
a
single
self,
but
in
and
through
the

manifold
possibilities
of
life
and
personality
that
chameleon‐like
he
becomes.

Moreover,
it
provides,
as
I
will
argue,
an
excellent
fabular
basis
for
rethinking

pertinent
and
troublesome
issues
in
the
study
of
autobiography:
the
question

whether
there
is
such
a
thing
as
non‐literary
autobiography,
and
whether
an

authentic
cinematic
autobiography
is
possible.

So
allow
me
to
use
it
as
a
viewfinder
through

which
to
focus
on
the
work
of
an
artist
of
the
movies

whose
work,
everyone—even
his
critics—agrees,
is

both
Protean
and
autobiographical,
the
late
Italian

director
Federico
Fellini,
in
the
hope
that
my

meditations—which
constitute
a
kind
of
prolegomena

The Collected Works of David Lavery 3

to
any
future
study
of
Fellini
as
an
autobiographer—may
prove
illuminating
for
our

understanding
of
both
the
role
of
the
self
in
the
process
of
creation
and
the
nature

and
fate
of
autobiography
in
the
hands
of
the
movies.
Perhaps
in
the
process
we
may

even
come
to
understand
the
thoroughly
Borgesian
suspicion
of
Fellini’s
long‐time

collaborator
Liliana
Betti
that
the
great
director,
“a
man
who
has
exhausted
himself

and
his
life
in
images,
doesn’t
exist”
(Betti
235).


II

In
her
"Eye
for
I:
Making
and
Unmaking
Autobiography
in
Film,"
the
late

scholar
of
the
genre
Elizabeth
Bruss
suggests
that
with
the
advent
of
the
movies
at

the
beginning
of
this
century
as
a
vehicle
for
narrative
art,
including
the
telling
of

life‐stories,
the
traditional
form
and
function
of
autobiography
began
to

metamorphose
into
something
quite
new.
For
the
traditions
of
literary

autobiography,
Bruss
persuasively
argues,
cannot
easily
survive
translation
into
a

cinematic
medium;
they
seem,
in
fact,
to
be
generated
from—and
held
in
suspension

by—only
a
verbal
medium.
Bruss
does
not
lament
such
a
change,
however;
instead

she
counsels
us
that
this
evolution‐in‐progress
"need
not
be
a
loss
at
all
but
the

beginning
of
a
new
enterprise"
that
may
signify
as
well
the
transformation
of
that

"organization
of
experience
that
autobiography
both
presupposes
and
helps
to

maintain."

Bruss
quotes
Frank
McConnell’s
The
Spoken
Seen
in
order
to
explain
what
that

new
organization
might
be:
“the
world
seen
cinematically,”
McConnell
observes,
is

“the
world
seen
without
a
self”
(298).
Indeed
the
“I”
of
the
literary
autobiography

cannot
be
transferred
successfully
to
film
at
all;
there
is
no
“eye”
forr
and
“I.”
Bruss’

reasoning,
grounded
in
both
a
linguistic
understanding
of
the
problem
of
the
self
and

the
nature
of
the
text
and
in
recent
semio6tic
approaches
to
auteurism
in
film,
is

profound
and
intricate,
and
I
will
not
attempt
to
recreate
it
here
beyond
a
very
basic

summary
of
her
conclusions.

She
contends
that
cinematic
autobiography
faces
two
possible
fates,
each
of

which
make
it
something
more,
or
something
less,
than
literary
autobiography:
1)

that
attempts
at
autobiographical
discourse
in
the
movies
becomes
ultimately

indistinguishable
from
biography
due
to
the
inescapable
realism
and
seeming

objectivity
of
film,
what
Bazin
calls
the
"myth
of
total
cinema"
(303);
2)
that
all

attempts
to
escape
becoming
"objectively"
biographical
produce
a
film
which
is
in

turn
much
more
nearly
expressionistic
than
autobiographical
(306).

The Collected Works of David Lavery 4

Film,
Bruss
thinks,
can
thus
be
personal
only
when
it
is
"somehow
'private'
or

'abnormal,'
only
when
something
disrupts
the
representational
illusion
and
prevents

the
audience
from
automatically
assuming
the
spectator's
position."
All
attempts
"to

recreate
the
more
selective
truth
of
the
autobiographical
text,"
Bruss
concludes,

"appear
to
diminish
the
truthfulness
that
is
peculiarly
cinematic"
(302).
In
short,

cinematic
autobiography
is,
if
Bruss
is
correct,
the
victim
of
a
fatal
aesthetic
double‐
bind.
"It
is
perhaps
undeniable,"
Caroline
Portuges
adds
in
an
essay
which
endeavors

to
rethink
Bruss's
thesis
in
light
of
gender‐based
criticism,
"that
in
view
of
the

divergent
specificities
of
the
two
forms,
no
exact
equivalent
of
autobiography
is

possible
in
film"
(340).

In
all
her
detailed
and
reasoned
analysis,
however,
Bruss
cannot
conceal
her

obvious
literary
prejudice.
Literary
autobiography
is
always
characterized
by

canonical
words
like
“balance”
and
“truthfulness,”
while
the
“automatic”
quality
of

film
(as
she
calls
it)
frightens
her.
Consider
the
following
passages,
in
which
she

considers
the
effect
produced
when
a
filmmaker
actually
appears,
self‐referentially,

on
screen:


purporting
to
give
his
whole
person
over
to
“the
side
of
the
object,”
there

comes
a
flash
of
vertigo,
an
eerie
instant
when
“no
one
is
in
charge,”
and
we

sense
that
a
rootless,
inhuman
power
of
vision
is
wandering
the
world.
(309)


Such
an
attitude
about
the
movies—the
underlying
belief
that
(in
the
phrase
of
the

French
critic
Roger
Munier)
they
have
the
power
to
“shipwreck”
the
human
mind
in

the
image
and
give
the
world
itself,
the
inhuman,
ascendancy
over
us—a
common

enough
one
and
has
recurred
in
critical
discourse
concerning
film
since
its
inception.

But
it
is
not
a
reasonable
one,
not
if
we
recast
Bruss’
concern
over
the

automatic
and
“inhuman”
power
of
film
in
light
of
Borges’
“Everything
and
Nothing.”

For
if
Borges’
characterization
of
Shakespeare’s
genius
is
accurate,
and
if
we
may
for

a
moment
assume
its
central
contention—that
genius
is
personality‐less
because
it

represents
in
essence
“all
men”
and
“all
the
possibilities
of
being”—to
be
true
in
a

greater
or
lesser
degree
for
all
truly
creative
individuals,
then
the
movies,
by
giving

us
“the
world
without
a
self,”
might
well
be
considered
in
themselves
the
perfect

model
of
negative
capability:
a
medium
in
which
is
suspended
not
just
the
self
of
its

creator
in
a
Rousseauistic
solipsism,
but
the
imagistic
contents
of
the
world,

The Collected Works of David Lavery 5

indistinguishable
ontologically
from
the
autobiographical
memory
and
imagination
of

the
filmmaker.

I
am
not
about
to
suggest
that
autobiography
is
a
natural
genre
of
the
movies.

I
agree,
rather,
with
Bruss’
contention
that
there
seems
to
be
something
antithetical

between
traditional
literary
autobiography
and
attempts
to
recreate
it
cinematically.

But
I
do
want
to
suggest
that
a
certain
kind
of
autobiographical
artist
can
achieve

within
the
movies
a
kind
of
greatness
and
attain
a
wisdom
which
perhaps
only

autobiography
can
offer.

Federico
Fellini
is
such
an
artist.
Even
Bruss

designates
him
as
the
“single
filmmaker
whose
work
best

summarizes
the
problematic
character
of
autobiographical

film,”
though
she
judges
him
finally
to
be
an

autobiographer
manqué
(313).
It
would
be
more
accurate,

I
think,
to
see
Fellini
as
an
exemplary
“major
man,”
as
the

American
poet
Wallace
Stevens
once
described
him
in

“Paisant
Chronicle”:


























All
men
are
brave,

All
men
endure.
.
.
.


























The
major
men—

That
is
different.
They
are
characters
beyond

Reality,
composed
thereof.

(Collected
Poems
335;
my
italics)


The
autobiography
of
such
an
individual
surely
would
seem
to
be
a

special
case.
For
such
a
man,
after
all,
imagination
is
reality,
and

even
one’s
life,
or
at
least
the
story
of
it,
is—like
Shakespeare’s—of

necessity
imaginal
but
nonetheless
“true.”

“My
childhood
is
a
dream
I
keep
building
my
whole
life
long,”

Fellini
has
announced
unashamedly.
“Nothing
real
has
ever

happened
to
me.
I
have
invented
it
all.”
And
on
another
occasion
he

has
explained
that
“I
have
invented
myself
entirely:
a
childhood,
a
personality,

longings,
dreams,
and
memories,
all
in
order
to
enable
me
to
tell
them”
(Hamblin

60).
But
then
again,
perhaps
such
an
attitude
is
not
really
that
odd
after
all.
For,
as

Georges
Gusdorf
has
observed
in
a
masterful
essays
on


The Collected Works of David Lavery 6

“The
Conditions
and
Limits
of
Autobiography,”
“To
create
and
in
creating
to
be

created,
the
fine
formula
of
Lequier
ought
to
be
the
motto
of
autobiography”
(44),

perhaps
even
cinematic
ones,
even
those,
especially
those,
of
“major
men.”

Fellini’s
autobiography,
we
might
say,
after
Trudeau,
can
be
best
understood

as
a
faithful,
imaginal,
ricorso
of
that
path
his
“bread
crumbs”
mapped
out
to
that

point
at
which
the
“non‐ordinary
reality”
of
imagination
becomes
not
just
the

miraculous
possession
of
childhood
but
the
memory
of
a
mature,
autobiographical

psyche.
“For
me
it
is
exactly
as
it
was
thirty
year,
when
I
was
a
boy,”
Fellini
admitted

in
a
1972
interview.
“Inside
myself,
I
am
exactly
the
same.
.
.
.
I
think
I
am
a
lucky

man”
(Ross
74).

When
fellow
director
Lina
Wertmuller
was
asked
in
an

interview
what
she
had
learned
from
her
apprenticeship
with

Fellini
(she
had
been
an
AD
on
8
1/2,
his
most
overtly

autobiographical
film),
she
replied
“When
you
were
with

Federico
you
can
only
learn
to
discover
that
there
is
nothing

to
discover”
(Huddy
1).
But
such
a
negative
capability
is
not

easily
learned.
It
must
itself
be
discovered,
sometimes
at
the

end
of
a
long,
circuitous
journey
which
it
might
well
take
the

genius
of
a
major
man
to
complete.


III

Fellini
often
complained
that
his
critics
lack
respect,
seeing
him
and
his
films

with
“indiscreet
eyes,”
and
insisted
that
their
practices
are
alien
to
his
own
desire

never
to
criticize.
He
asked
for
a
less
objective,
less
external
criticism
of
his
movies,

reminding
that
“A
truly
humble
critic
would
look
at
things
from
the
inside,
not
from

the
outside.
If
the
thing
is
vital
and
you
look
at
it
from
your
external
point
of
view

you
will
never
understand
but
will
only
project
on
it
what
you
think
it
should
be”

(Samuels
133).
Such
a
plea
seems
justifiable
from
a
direct
who
claimed
again
and

again
that
his
movies
were
inseparable
functions
of
his
own
growth.

Fellini
once
explained
to
Pierre
Kast
that
all
his
films
contain
a
certain
“figure

in
the
carpet”
which
he
feels
it
is
the
business
of
the
critic
to
get
at:


At
bottom,
I
am
always
making
the
same
film,
I
am
telling
the
story
of

characters
in
search
of
themselves,
in
search
of
a
more
authentic
source
of

The Collected Works of David Lavery 7

life,
of
conduct,
of
behavior,
that
will
more
closely
relate
to
the
true
roots
of

their
individuality.
(Kast
182‐83)


And
foremost
among
those
“characters”
is,
of
course,
himself.
All
art,
he
insisted

again
and
again,
is
autobiographical:
“the
pearl
is
the
oyster’s
autobiography”

(Walter
67),
he
observed,
or
as
he
put
it
on
another
occasion,
“If
I
set
out
to
make
a

movie
about
a
fillet
of
sole,
it
would
turn
out
to
be
about
me”
(Costello
36).

Consequently,
the
figure
in
the
carpet
has
a
still
deeper,
autobiographical

significance
for
him.


My
work
can’t
be
anything
other
than
a
testimony
of
what
I
am

looking
for
in
life.
It
is
a
mirror
of
my
searching
.
.
.
for
myself
freed.

In
this
respect,
I
think,
there
is
no
cleavage
or
difference
of
content

or
style
in
all
my
films.
From
first
to
last,
I
have
struggled
to
free

myself
from
the
past,
from
the
education
laid
upon
me
as
a
child

(“Interview,”
Playboy
58)


In
the
case
of
Fellini,
then,
art
and
life
are
so
inextricably

intertwined,
so
much
an
integral
part
of
a
single
“seamless
web”
of

experience/imagination,
that


Making
a
film
is
something
quite
other
.
.
.
than
a
simple
professional
fact.

It’s
a
way
of
realizing
myself
and
giving
my
life
a
meaning.
That’s
why,
when

you
ask
me
which
of
my
films
I
prefer,
I’m
stuck.
I
don’t
know
what
to
say.
I

don’t
consider
my
films
as
professional
facts;
if
I
did
so,
I
might
be
able
to

look
at
them
objectively
enough
to
say
this
one
seems
more
of
a
success
than

that.
But
as
it
is,
I
find
getting
such
a
detached
position
absolutely

impossible.
The
way
I
want
to
speak
about
a
film
is,
not
to
say
what
I’m

expressing
in
it,
but
the
stages
of
my
life
I
pass
through
making
it.
I
have
just

the
same
difficulty
as
I
would
if
somebody
asked
me
“Which
do
you
prefer,

your
military
career,
or
your
marriage,
your
first
love,
or
meeting
your
first

friend?”
They
are
all
facts
of
my
life.
I
like
it
all,
it’s
my
life
and
consequently

I
can’t
choose.
(Burgeon
91)


The Collected Works of David Lavery 8

Fellini’s
work,
then,
was,
in
his
eyes
at
least,
he
instrument
of
a
personal
evolution:

the
figure
in
the
carpet
traces
out
an
autobiographical
journey.
Like
Yeats,
Fellini

knew
well
that
in
his
elaborate,
“obsessional”
working
and
reworking
of
his
favorite

themes
and
images
and
characters,
his
personal
iconography
(has
there
ever
been
a

major
artist
who
repeated
himself
as
much
as
Fellini?),
it
is
himself
that
he
remakes.

“I
love
the
feeling
of
peering
in
on
my
own
life,”
he
noted,
thinking
of
what
his
life
in

film
and
on
film
has
given
him
in
return
(Costello
36).

And
yet
it
would
seem
that
Fellini’s
autobiographical
art
is
a
work
more
of

design
than
truth.
Can
he
be
accused
of
bad
faith?
Many
of
Fellini’s

critics,
after
all,
discount
him
as
a
baroque
inauthentic
fantasist,
an

egotistical
purveyor
of
self‐indulgent,
needlessly
enigmatic
visions.

David
Thomson,
to
cite
an
extreme
example,
has
ruthlessly
assaulted

Fellini
(in
his
Biographical
Dictionary
of
Film)
as
an
“obsessional
vacuous

poseur
.
.
.
a
half‐baked,
play‐acting
pessimist,
with
no
capacity
for

tragedy,”
whose
films
are
a
“doodling
in
chaos.”
As
a
personality,
moreover,
he
was

perhaps
the
most
outlandish
and
controversial
among
modern

directors
and
was
considered
by
some
to
be
an
almost
pathological

liar.
His
own
wife,
the
late
Giulietta
Masina,
once
claimed
in
fact

that
“Federico
only
blushes
when
he
tells
the
truth.”
And
Fellini

himself
once
even
proclaimed
the
need
for
a
“cine‐mendacity”
to

replace
“cinema‐verite”
because
“a
lie
is
always
more
interesting

than
the
truth”
(“Interview,”
Playboy
58).

Not
surprisingly,
Fellini
proclaimed
again
and
again
a

commitment
to
his
own
sense
of
wonder,
to,
as
he
puts
it,
“anything
that
tends
to

restore
man
to
a
stature
that
is
more
vast,
more
mysterious
even,
and
more

anguished,
but
in
any
case,
neither
pacifying
nor
consoling”
(Kast
185).
For
the

“real,”
he
has
explained,
is
not
what
we
assume
it
to
be;
it


is
neither
an
enclosure
nor
a
panorama
that
has
just
a
single
surface.
A

landscape,
for
example,
has
several
textures,
and
the
deepest,
the
one
that

can
be
revealed
only
by
poetry,
is
no
less
real.
It
is
said
that
what
I
wish
to

show
behind
the
epiderm
of
things
and
people
is
the
unreal.
It
is
called
my

taste
for
the
mysterious.
I
shall
readily
accept
this
description
if
you
will
use

a
capital
“M.”
For
me
the
mysterious
is
man,
the
long
irrational
lines
of
his

spiritual
life,
love,
salvation.
.
.
.
For
me,
the
key
to
the
mystery—which
is
to

The Collected Works of David Lavery 9

say,
God—is
to
be
found
at
the
center
of
the
successive
layers
of
reality.
.
.
.

(Murray
35)


Thus
art’s
allegiance,
and
the
autobiographer’s
loyalty,
Fellini
insisted,
must
not
be

to
the
“real”
but
to
those
“long
irrational
lines”
which
constitute
the
true
reality,

especially
for
one
to
whom
the
world
is
at
once
both
“everything
and
nothing.”
The

authentic
artist,
then,
is
a
“visionary,”
and
conversely
only
visionary
art
is
realistic,

as
Fellini
once
explained
to
Charles
Samuels.


For
me
the
only
real
artist
is
the
visionary
because
he
bears
witness
to
his

own
reality.
A
visionary—Van
Gogh,
for
instance—is
a
profound
realist.
That

wheat
field
with
the
black
sun
is
his;
only
he
saw
it.
There
can't
be
greater

realism.
(Samuels
226)



That
Fellini
was
himself
such
a
visionary
is
not
to
be
doubted.
Ingmar

Bergman,
for
example,
once
called
attention
to
Fellini’s
special
genius
as
a
defense

against
interviewer
John
Simon’s
all‐too‐common
accusation
that
Fellini
“is
not

honest.”
Dismissing
the
validity
of
the
design/truth
distinction
for
understanding
an

artist
like
Fellini,
the
great
Swedish
director
insisted
that
his
Italian

colleague


is
not
honest,
he
is
not
dishonest,
he
is
just
Fellini.
.
.
.
he
has
no

limits;
he’s
just
like
quicksilver—all
over
the
place.
I
have
never

seen
anybody
like
that
before.
.
.
.
He
is
enormously
intuitive;
he
is

creative;
he
is
an
enormous
force.
He
is
burning
inside
with
such
heat.

Collapsing
.
.
.
.
The
heat
from
his
creative
mind,
it
melts
him.
.
.
.
He
is
rich.

(Simon
221‐22)

T h e C o l l e c t e d W o r k s o f D a v i d L a v e r y 10


Like
Shakespeare
in
Borges’
characterization,
Fellini’s
life
and
art
together
may
be

understood
to
be
a
“directed
hallucination,”
an
hallucination,
though,
more
of

images
than
words,
though
every
bit
as
“copious,
fantastic,
and
agitated
as
the

bard’s.



 

Blake,
Chagall


And
yet
Fellini
has
insisted
that
he
is
“completely
incapable
of
inventing”

(Vilallonga
95).
Like
William
Blake,
who
claimed
that
“I
see
Every
thing
I
paint
in
This

Word,”
like
Marc
Chagall
who
once
characterized
his
own
fantastic
art
as
“poetic

without
poeticizing,
mystical
but
without
mysticism”
(Sorlier
119),
Fellini
would
deny

that
his
creations
are
the
products
of
some
secondary

process.
For
him,
imagination
and
perception
are

indistinguishable
from
one
another,
and
indistinguishable
as

well
from
his
art
of
autobiography.
As
the
artist
and

experimental
filmmaker
Hans
Richter
saw
when
he
visited
the

set
of
Fellini‐Satyricon,
Fellini
“creates
the
way
he
sees”

(Hughes
157).

Fellini’s
experience
is,
we
might
say,
like

that
envisioned
by
Wallace
Stevens
as
the
great

dream
of
the
artist‐as‐major‐man:
the
attainment
of
“a
degree
of

perception
at
which
what
is
real
and
what
is
imagined
are
one:
a
state
of

clairvoyant
observation,
accessible
or
possibly
accessible
to
the
poet,

or,
say,
the
acutest
poet”
(Stevens,
Opus
Posthumous
166).
And
when,
it

seems,
such
an
artist
chooses
to
work
in
an
autobiographical
mode,
as

Fellini
has
done,
the
substance
of
that
work
will
appear
not
autobiographical
at
all,

not
the
story
of
a
life,
but
the
story
,
but
the
story
of
life.
“No
one
was
ever
so
many

T h e C o l l e c t e d W o r k s o f D a v i d L a v e r y 11

men
as
that
man:
like
the
Egyptian
Proteus
he
was
able
to
exhaust
all
the

appearances
of
being.”



 

Bazin


Upon
viewing
Nights
of
Cabiria
(1956),
André
Bazin
speculated
that
Fellini

would
take
film
on
a
journey
to
the
“end
of
Neo‐Realism,”
and
to
the
“other
side
of

things”
(Bazin
83‐92).
And
so
he
has,
by
way
of
an
excursion
into
the
grotesque
and

the
fantastic—into
non‐ordinary
reality—that
has
turned
out
to
be
no
mere
detour

but
inseparable
from
the
journey
itself—the
essence
of
it,
reality
itself—what
Bazin

calls
“a
realism
of
appearance,”
at
least
for
a
major
man.

Leafing
through
Christian
Strich’s
coffee
table
volume
Fellini’s
Films:
The
Four

Hundred
Most
Memorable
Stills
from
Fellini’s
15
1/2
Films,
taking
note
of
the

cornucopia
of
human
faces,
bodies,
gestures,
costumes—beautiful,
comic,
grotesque,

tragic,
copious,
fantastic,
agitated—exhibited
there,
it
seems
clear
that
these
are

pages
from
an
autobiography.
These
multitudinous
yet
singular
presences
comprise

the
face
of
Fellini.


IV

Fellini’s
story,
as
his
films
tell
it,
would
seem
to
be
morphologically
similar
to

Shakespeare’s,
at
least
as
Borges
has
described
it.
It
is
the
story
of
an
individual

who,
fleeing
from
small‐town
life
(Rimini,
not
Stratford‐upon‐Avon),
embarks
upon
a

prodigal
journey
to
the
Big
City
(Roma,
not
London),
where
he
immerses
himself
in

its
life
and
becomes
captivated
by
an
art
(the
movies,
not
the
theatre)
which

becomes
a
means
of
self‐fulfillment.
(Several
of
Fellini’s
finest
films,
it
should
be

noted,
have
been
directly
concerned
with
the
subject
of
moviemaking:
8
1/2,
A

Director’s
Notebook,
Roma,
The
Clowns,
Intervista,
in
the
four
of
which
Fellini

T h e C o l l e c t e d W o r k s o f D a v i d L a v e r y 12

himself
appears
as
dominant
on‐screen
presence).
But
the
story
ends,
however,
in
a

prodigal
son’s
return
to
his
home
town,
not
in
Fellini’s
case
to
buy
a
house
or
to

become
somebody,
not
even
to
retire,
but,
in
Amarcord
(1973),
in
order
to
make
a

kind
of
autobiographical
imaginal
peace
with
his
own
genesis,
coming
full
circle,

realizing
like
T.
S.
Eliot
in
“Little
Gidding”
from
The
Four
Quartets
that
“What
we
call

the
beginning
is
often
the
end/And
to
make
an
end
is
to
make
a
beginning./The
end

of
where
we
start
from.”




Though
I
Vitelloni
(1953),
8
1/2
(1963),
and
Roma
(1971)
are
certainly
more
overtly

autobiographical,
at
least
in
the
traditional,
literary
sense,
Amarcord
should,
as
the

end
of
the
journey,
stand
as
the
most
important
film
to
consider
in
any
analysis
of

Fellini’s
work
as
a
whole..
The
film
consists
of
a
series
of
imaginally
reconstructed

reminiscences
of
Fellini’s
early
years,
cast
in
the
form
of
a
saga
of
one
year
in

Rimini’s
life,
beginning
with
the
coming
of
spring
and
ending
with
spring’s
return
and

the
climactic
marriage
of
Gradisca,
Rimini’s
chief
sex
symbol,
to
a
very
ordinary

policeman.

In
all
previous
Fellini
films
the
local
and
provincial
had

been
viewed—especially
in
I
Vitelloni
and
La
Dolce
Vita
(1959)—
as
a
kind
of
hell
from
which
Fellini’s
imagination
(and
hence
his

characters)
must
escape
for
the
sake
of
growth.
And
marriage,

both
as
institution
and
symbol,
had
always
before
resulted
in
the

near
destruction
of
all
involved,
most
notably
in
The
Nights
of

Cabiria
and
Juliet
of
the
Spirits
(1965).
But
in
Amarcord
Fellini

seems
to
have
made
his
peace
with
those
very
aspects
of
his
life

and
of
his
memories
which
had
launched
him
on
his
journey
in
the
first
place.

T h e C o l l e c t e d W o r k s o f D a v i d L a v e r y 13

Over
the
outdoor
banquet
table
at
the
wedding
reception
which
ends
the
film

appears
a
sign
which
proclaims
simply
“Il
Paradisio.”
Fittingly


Though
there’s
many
a
charming
town

And
the
world
abounds
with
beauty,

At
evening
when
the
sun
goes
down

And
finds
you
in
some
far‐off
place

Sitting
at
a
stranger’s
hearth,

The
Borgo
[Rimini]
in
your
heart
will
seem

The
loveliest
place
on
earth.

Oh,
how
will
you
will
live,
so
far
from
home?

(141)


And
before
the
movie
ends,
Pinwheel,
the
town’s
raconteur
and
notorious
liar
(not

unlike
Fellini
himself),
comes
forward
to
address
the
camera,
raises
his
hand
in
a

farewell
gesture,
and
announces
joylessly,
“That’s
all.
Goodbye!’

The
antecedent
of
Pinwheel’s
“that”
we
may
take
to
be
not
just
the
present

film
but
Fellini’s
development
as
an
autobiographical
filmmaker.
Like
Prospero’s

dismissal
of
his
creations
in
The
Tempest,
it
represents
an
artistic
culmination,
the

realization
of
the
end
of
a
journey.
For
after
Amarcord,
imaginally.
in
his
14
1/2/

films,
the
great
“monomyth”
which
according
to
Joseph
Campbell
in
The
Hero
with
a

thousand
faces,
lies
at
the
heart
of
the
human
imagination.

“Where
are
we
really
going?”
asks
the
Romantic
poet
Novalis,

“Always
home.”
And
truly
the
figure
in
the
carpet
of
Fellini’s
films

must
be
taken
to
be
a
prodigal
journey
home,
a
journey
in
which
the

discovery
dawns—discovered
by
the
imagination—that
there
is

nothing
to
discover.
It
is
a
discovery
Wallace
Stevens
too
once

sought
to
express
in
“Notes
Toward
a
Supreme
Fiction.”
in
words

which
remind
us
of
Amarcord’s
closing
scene.































the
going
round


And
round
and
round,
the
merely
going
round,

Until
merely
going
round
is
a
final
good,

The
way
wine
comes
at
a
table
in
a
wood.

T h e C o l l e c t e d W o r k s o f D a v i d L a v e r y 14


And
we
enjoy
like
men,
the
way
a
leaf

Above
the
table
spins
its
constant
spin,

So
that
we
look
at
it
with
pleasure,
look


At
it
spinning
its
eccentric
measure.
Perhaps

The
man‐hero
is
not
the
exceptional
monster,

But
he
that
of
repetition
is
most
master.


And
only
such
an
artist,
and
such
an
autobiographer,
master
of
repetition,
can

become
a
character,
and
create
characters,
“beyond
reality,
composed
thereof.”



“On
that
day
when
I
will
have
used
up
all
my
memories,”
Fellini
predicted
in
a

1966
interview
“I’ll
probably
find
that
I’ll
need
a
total
new
kind
of
experience
.
.
.
?—
a
non‐autobiographical
one
(Levine
81).
True
to
his

prediction,
he
did
in
fact
seek
that
experience
in

Casanova
(1976),
Orchestra
Rehearsal;
(1979),
City
of

Women
(1980),
And
the
Ship
Sails
On
(1983),
and

Ginger
and
Fred
(1986),
films
in
which
he
moved

decisively
outside
the
realm
of
personal
history
into

history,
beyond
the
private
vision
on
a
more
public

stage,
from
the
dream
of
the
self
to
the
dream
of
the

world.
When
I
met
with
him
in
1979
in
Rome
he

insisted
that
at
60
he
felt
“reborn”
and
believed
his

greatest
films
lay
still
ahead
of
him.


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