Friday, 20 February 2009

Fellini's Satyricon

Having posted my re-experience of La Dolce Vita I will add my only other Fellini revisit to-date. His Satyricon set in pre Christian Italy. I had little recollection of the original cinema experience except the collapsing of tenements and leaving the theatre bemused.
I have no idea if the visual package is historically accurate or the language authentic, or simply an individualistic presentation of concepts, explored to the satisfaction of their creator.

The main character is distraught, revengeful, and desperate because the slave boy he abuses was taken from him by his best friend, partner, lover, fellow student and then sold off to a notorious actor, whose performance includes chopping off some ones hand or so it seems. Caesar arrives and intercedes for the main character and the boy is returned to him because the alternative is to risk losing the theatre and livelihood. Does anyone care?

Returning to their quarters the main character turns on his best friend and tells him to leave. The Jerry built tenements rising up like some tower of Babel start collapsing with terrible consequences but this was the norm for the times, as has been the situation in the Lebanon and Iraq and countless other places throughout subsequent time.

Then man and slave boy appear to set off and experience the sights and sounds of Rome in all their splendid colours of excess but to what point and where will it lead?

It leads o the valley of death a bleak sterile landscape where one character feigns death while the body of another is used to replace a hanging man who has been removed, and whose disappearance would cause death for the lover of the woman who is burying her husband.

At this point the main character, his friend's brother and their beautiful boy slave are captured by a marauding sea captain collecting young men for the pleasure of the diseased Caesar on his island, and during which voyage the main character is married as the wife the marauding captain in great ceremony. However fortunes change dramatically when a new Caesar with forces arrives to kill and depose the old Caesar and this frees the young men who are able to continue their travels which become a mystical odyssey.

They encounter a woman afflicted with nymphomania whose husband pays them to ease the problem while on the way to visit an oracle healer who is a pale girl boy child who for some reason the trio capture/transport to somewhere, with the consequence the being dies from lack of water and exposure to the sun. They then encounter a being with the head of a creature and the body of human.

The fake Minotaur leads the principle character into an arena where the nobles sit resplendent in their robes and metal headdresses while the young man looks on from high up on rocks as if all the people of his past are there to witness. However the gladiator listens to his appeals because he is a sensitive poet and not a fighter and in turn appeals to nobles to accept the young man.

The nobles explains that this is all a joke and everyone laughs and as a reward he is given a woman, and required to perform before the multitude he fails, and she scorns him and he is left in disgrace distraught again, and goes off again with his friend when he encounters a former friend who leads him to the garden of delights where at one point he is gently whipped by gentle women rhythmically but this fails, but he is revised after meeting an interesting female who has spurned a magician who retaliates by dowsing the village fires and then these can only be reignited from the loins of the woman. They then go off on further sea voyages, his friend dies but we do not know how. The film ends abruptly leaving his portrait in stone.

The film shocked and still shocks because of some of its excesses, but I remained bemused, wondering if I had nodded off and missed bits.

I looked for enlightenment in the reviews of others. The film is based on the segments of a work written at the time of Nero and Fellini intentionally made the film that way with disjointed inexplicable changes of scene which suggest the actual reality of history chaos theory coupled with Jung theories of the collective unconscious.

My memory was of a piece of self indulgent nonsense, adding nothing to any contemporary experience. I remain to be convinced that I am wrong. I also remembered Roma which I am yet to view.

So as with my one time reactions to contemporary art judgement had to be based on more experience with Amarcord, La Strada and others. And then I discovered Giulietta Masina, who he married, and something of why Fellini achieved four best foreign film Oscars.

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