(The Young and the Passionate)
Director: Federico Fellini
Production: Peg Films (Paris) and Cité Films (Rome); black and white, 35mm; running time: 104 minutes. Released 1953, Venice Film Festival. Filmed December 1952-Spring 1953 in Viterbo, Ostia, and Florence.
Producer: Lorenzo Pegoraro; screenplay: Federico Fellini, Tullio Pinelli, and Ennio Flaiano, from their screen story; photography: Otello Martelli, Luciano Trasatti, and Carlo Carlini; editor: Rolando Benedetti; art director: Mario Chiari; music: Nino Rota.
Cast: Franco Interlenghi (Moraldo); Alberto Sordi (Alberto); Franco Fabrizi (Fausto); Leopoldo Trieste (Leopoldo); Riccardo Fellini (Riccardo); Elenora Ruffo (Sandra); Jean Brochard (Fausto's father); Claude Farell (Alberto's sister); Carlo Romano (Michele); Enrico Viarisio (Sandra's father); Paolo Borboni (Sandra's mother); Lida Baarova (Michele's wife); Arlette Sauvage (Lady in the movie theater); Vira Silenti (Chinese maiden); Maja Nipora (Chanteuse).
Fellini, Federico, Tullio Pinelli, and Ennio Flaiano, I vitelloni, in Il primo Fellini: Lo sceicco bianco, I vitelloni, La strada, Il bidone, edited by Renzo Renzi, Bologna, 1969; translated as I Vitelloni, in Fellini: Three Screenplays, New York, 1970; also published in Quattro film, Turin, 1974.
Renzi, Renzo, Federico Fellini, Parma, 1956.
Taylor, John Russell, Cinema Eye, Cinema Ear, New York, 1964.
Rondi, Gian Luigi, Italian Cinema Today, New York, 1965.
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Ketcham, Charles B., Federico Fellini: The Search for a NewMythology, New York, 1976.
Murray, Edward, Fellini the Artist, New York, 1976; revised edition, 1985.
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Alpert, Hollis, Fellini: A Life, New York, 1981, 1998.
Fruttero, Carlo, and Franco Lucentini, Je te trouve un peu pâle: Récitd'été avec trente fantasmes féminins de Federico Fellini, Paris, 1982.
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Grazzini, Giovanni, editor, Federico Fellini: Intervista sul cinema, Rome, 1983.
Burke, Frank, Federico Fellini: Variety Lights to La Dolce Vita, Boston, 1984.
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Costantini, Costanzo, editor, Fellini on Fellini, translated by Sohrab Sorooshian, London, 1995.
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Fellini, Federico, Fellini on Fellini, translated by Isabel Quigley, New York, 1996.
Fellini, Federico, in Cinema Nuovo (Turin), 1 January 1963.
Castello, Giulio Cesare, in Cinema (Rome), 31 August 1953.
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* * *
After Lo sceicco bianco, which despite its formal brilliance was a critical and financial failure, Fellini found himself unable to obtain backing for La strada, already in scenario form. Together with scenarists Ennio Flaiano and Tullio Pinelli, he devised the story of the prankish middle-class youths—or vitelloni (meaning literally "big slabs of veal")—that he remembered from his Romagnan boyhood. Having high opinions of their limited talents, these aging provincial good-for-nothings prefer banding together to amuse themselves at the expense of their neighbors in lieu of settling down into responsible lifestyles and the work they consider demeaning.
The film focuses on the lives of five buddies, drawn with the profound social observation of a great satirist. Each must come to terms with the inevitable alienation that they face when confronted with their worthlessness and with the bleakness of their futures. Alberto, the saddest of the group, lives with his mother and is supported by his sister. He tries desperately to remain an adolescent for everyone except his sister to whom he acts the commanding brother and man of the family. Against his will, his sister elopes, leaving him to become the breadwinner. Fausto, the handsome Don Juan of the group, is coerced into marrying Moraldo's sister whom he has gotten pregnant; however, he doesn't hesitate to abandon his new wife at the movies to pursue the woman in the seat next to him. Fausto loses his job in a religious statuary shop (a typical Fellini touch of uncommon satirical depth) after trying to seduce the owner's wife. Through Alberto and Fausto, Fellini comments on the predatory nature of that society, and of the middle-class in particular. Leopoldo, a romantic dreamer, plays the tortured dramatist to the maid across the courtyard. His hopes shatter when he petitions a fustian travelling actor for help. Pretending to be interested in Leopoldo's play, the actor makes homosexual advances toward him. Riccardo is the least clearly characterized of the group, perhaps only used to make the group a more convenient size. Moraldo represents an ethical center in the film; while he contributes to the group's sport, he clearly does not have the avocation. In moments signalled by camera placement, editing, and music, Moraldo merges with the subjective authorial consciousness that will become more direct and forceful in the later Fellini films. He is the only one with any curiosity about life and any courage to break away for good. Moraldo is undoubtedly Fellini. His story was to have been continued in the scripted, but never filmed, Moraldo in città. A similar character gets off the train at the beginning of Roma. Much of the wistfully tragic cadence of the film is derived from a despair behind the merry masks of the vitelloni, a rhetorical figuration actualized in the town's frenzied carnival celebration. This Dionysian event is the perfect visual and rhythmic representation of misdirected energy, leading to a critique of the grotesque, inebriated alienation and neurotic sexual frustration at the base of the Italian society in the 1950s. The mask motif points to the director's skill in utilizing Pirandellian themes with pointedness and originality. Alberto's drag costume and enormous mask, with its features set into a grotesque, scream-like demeanor, are indications that farcical anarchy and psychological anguish are never too distant from each other.
Like Gramsci, Fellini attributes Italian fascism to these inseparable adolescent qualities, and continues to explore this problem in different contexts in his later work. Specifically, Il bidone, a work of less technical polish, stands out as a transmutation of these provincial vitelloni from harmless, middle-class parasites into hostile, ruthless con-men and thieves.
I vitelloni was enormously successful, even among critics of the left, and became the director's first film distributed internationally.