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Federico Fellini

His Life and Work

Tullio Kezich; Translated from the Italian by Minna Proctor with Viviana Mazza

Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Federico Fellini Download image

ISBN10: 0865479615
ISBN13: 9780865479616

Trade Paperback

464 Pages



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With the revolutionary 8 1/2, Federico Fellini put his deepest desires and anxieties before the lens in 1963, permanently impacting the art of cinema in the process. Now, more than forty years later, film critic and Fellini confidant Tullio Kezich has written the work by which all other biographies of the filmmaker are sure to be measured. In this revealing account of a lifetime spent in pictures, Kezich uses his friendship with Fellini as a means to step outside the frame of myth and anecdote that surrounds him—much, it turns out, of the director's own making.

A great lover of women and a meticulous observer of dreams, Fellini, perhaps more than any other director of the twentieth century, created films that embodied a thoroughly modern sensibility, eschewing traditional narrative along with religious and moral precepts. His is an art of delicate pathos, of episodic films that directly address the intersection of reality, fantasy, and desire that exists as a product of mid-century Italy—a country reeling from a Fascist regime as it struggled with an outmoded Catholic national identity. As Kezich reveals, the dilemmas Fellini presents in his movies reflect not only his personal battles but those of Italian society. The result is a book that explores both the machinations of cinema and the man who most grandly embraced the full spectrum of its possibilities, leaving his indelible mark on it forever.


Praise for Federico Fellini

"The subtitle of Kezich's book, His Life and Work, aptly describes the author's narrative strategy, his organization, and his belief that his subject's life and films were intricately merged . . . It is a thoroughly readable book."—Thomas L. Erskine, Magill's Literary Annual

"A loving, passionate, wonderfully detailed and exquisitely written look at one of the few truly indispensable film artists who have come our way, from one of the people who knew him and his films best. I can't think of a better companion piece to the incomparable work of Federico Fellini."—Martin Scorsese

"Both an outsider (Kezich is one of the best, if not the best Italian film critic) and an insider (as screenwriter, playwright, and occasionally producer) Tullio Kezich was in the ideal position to write the best biography of Fellini, an analytical study of his work combined with the story of his relationship to Italian cinema and society. Kezich's forty year friendship with the maestro allows him to offer up an intimate and lively portrait of Fellini filled with revealing anecdotes and psychological insight."—Michel Ciment, author of Kubrick and Kazan on Kazan

"Trenchant in its critical analysis, engrossing and sympathetic in its account of his private life, Tullio Kezich's definitive biography of Fellini is a revelation. It effaces virtually everything written to date about the Italian maestro. Kezich's intimate knowledge of the man and his work is quite simply peerless."—Peter Cowie, author of Coppola and Revolution! The Explosion of World Cinema in the Sixties.

"An extraordinary book that gives the reader a personal insight into the life and the career of one of the purest geniuses of cinema from the invaluable perspective of a close friend and a great film critic"—Antonio Monda, Professor of Italian Cinema, New York University

"A solid biography of the famed Italian director, particularly strong on the evolution of his movies' style and subject matter. Corriere della Sera film critic Kezich first met Fellini (1920-93) after a screening of The White Sheik at the 1952 Venice Film Festival, forming a lifelong friendship that enables the author to knowledgeably discuss the director's working methods and discreetly allude to his complicated personal life. (The arrivals and departures of various girlfriends are noted, though in Kezich's judgment he remained fundamentally loyal to wife Giulietta Masina.) Fellini's youth in the provincial town of Rimini, seedbed for I Vitelloni and Amarcord, is covered briefly; like most ambitious young Italians, he departed as soon as possible for Rome, where he was a popular newspaper columnist and radio writer before discovering his life's work as screenwriter for Roberto Rossellini's Open City and Paisan. Growing up in fascist Italy, young Fellini displayed a cheerful political apathy that disconcerted dogmatic critics when he achieved his first real fame in the 1950s with La Strada and Nights of Cabiria, both starring Masina. 'Why was the political left so slow to recognize whose side the director was on?' asks Kezich, who correctly discerns sympathy for the underdog and hatred of repressive authority in all of Fellini's work. Tracing the director's progress from the scandalous La Dolce Vita and the revelatory, autobiographical through such later films as Satyricon, Orchestra Rehearsal and And the Ship Sails On, the author sees Fellini moving beyond the nostalgic, folkloric atmosphere of his early films to a more adult confrontation with modern life, explored in a bold, idiosyncratic, often surreal style. Longtime collaborators like composer Nino Rota and cinematographer Giuseppe Rotunno get their due, and Kezich astutely anatomizes Fellini's tumultuous interactions with practically every Italian producer of note, including Dino De Laurentiis, and his affectionate yet charged relationship with cinematic alter-ago Marcello Mastroianni. Fellini's personality remains slightly elusive, but Kezich delineates his artistic achievements with authority and perceptiveness."—Kirkus Reviews

"One of the towering figures of mid-20th-century cinema, Italian director Federico Fellini (1920-93) created such enduring masterworks as La Dolce Vita, La Strada, Juliet of the Spirits, and 8-1/2. His audiences knew just what to expect: an examination of humanity's most extreme fringes. Fellini was also a delicate observer of memory's effect on the life of an individual and often mined his own experiences for examination, though as film critic and playwright Kezich notes, the director often exaggerated or simply fabricated details from his past. What is known is that the young Fellini was a talented artist who went on to become a respected journalist, a screenwriter, and an Academy Award-winning director. Numerous authors have written about Fellini, including Fellini himself (Fellini on Fellini), but Kezich has the advantage of having known the director well. He writes with perceptiveness and seeming objectivity about the man and, in considerable detail, his major films. As such, his book compares very favorably with the others in the Fellini canon and is recommended."—Roy Liebman, Library Journal

Reviews from Goodreads


Read an Excerpt

Excerpted from Federico Fellini: His Life and Work by Tullio Kezich. Copyright © 2002 by Giangiacomo Feltrinelli. Published in March 2006 by Faber and Faber, Inc. All rights reserved.

Introduction: September 1952, on the Terrace...

About the author

Tullio Kezich; Translated from the Italian by Minna Proctor with Viviana Mazza

Tullio Kezich is the film critic for Corriere della Sera. He has written numerous books on cinema as well as other subjects, and is a widely performed playwright.