This penultimate film by The Maestro Fellini is what you would expect from the master of Surrealist Cinema, but the manic imagery and the dizzying rush of the story from his earlier days had mellowed by the time he made “Intervista” (or “Interview” in English) in 1987. Like a wine whose flavors have blended and smoothed with age, Fellini’s imagination too had blended and become more complex. “Intervista” is an intimate glimpse into the thought process of one of the most creative figures in film history and it could only have been made by a mature, skilled and experienced Fellini. The film shows the understanding and acceptance of a man who has lived, a man who has cultivated a life and been cultivated by life, a man who is wise; this is not to say a man who is perfect and understands life in toto, but one who has reconciled himself, one who has acquiesced to all that life is and can be.
“Intervista” is a bit like a set of Russian nesting dolls with films within stories within films within preparing to make a film. It starts with a simple enough premise: while Fellini is directing a film, a Japanese camera crew arrive to interview him for a documentary. But that premise quickly takes on an additional layer as Fellini tells them the story of the first time he came to Cinecittà, the Roman studio compound where he ended up making most of his films. This story turns out to be something that Fellini is filming. We become immersed in watching the construction of sets, and casting actors for this memory, only to seamlessly enter the memory itself without any warning. From there we bounce back and forth between Fellini’s interview, his memories, his directing the filming of said memories, Fellini casting for and shooting an adaptation of Kafka’s AMERIKA, and a film about it all. Fellini’s actual entourage and crew play themselves in the film, including his real-life cinematographer Tonino Delli Colli and assistant director Maurizio Mein. But the most surprising cameos come from Marcello Mastroianni and Anita Ekberg, the two stars of Fellini’s 1960 masterpiece “La Dolce Vita.” At Cinecittà, Fellini stumbles upon Marcello who is making a commercial for a brand of detergent. Fellini and entourage whisk Mastroianni away to the Roman countryside where they arrive at the home of Anita Ekberg. An impromptu party ensues and Marcello magically conjures up a sheet on which is projected scenes from “La Dolce Vita.” From the privacy of the opposite side of the sheet, Mastroianni and Ekberg reunite to watch their iconic Trevi Fountain scene, and to watch themselves frolic in the water nearly thirty years before. It is a lovely, poignant, heartbreaking, and heartwarming moment in cinema history, one which makes us yearn for other such reunions. Imagine Bogart and Bergman, as themselves sometime in the 70s, watching themselves in “Casablanca.” It gives me goosebumps.
The mood of “Intervista” is tender, loving and surprisingly upbeat and buoyant. Fellini allows us to slip effortlessly with him between memory and current life, between film and reality, in front of and behind the camera. It is a loving ode to cinema, to this kind of storytelling, and to a life dedicated to this pursuit.
Recommend? I am a huge Fellini fan so of course I am going to respond with an enthusiastic “Yes!”