Monday, 12 January 2015

La dolce vita

The news of the death of Anita Ekberg hit me with a shaft of nostalgia. I remember seeing  Federico Fellini's rambling masterpiece  as a callow young civil servant in London and thinking: "Aye, aye, something different is happening here." It was one of the films that marked the transition from the so-called kitchen-sink era to the swinging sixties, which, as the film attests, actually got started in the late fifties. It is not surprising that one of its characters, Paparazzo, gave his name to a species of freelance photographer. From the stunning initial shot of a statue of Christ being airlifted to a site in the Eternal City, surely a sardonic reference to Leni Riefenstahl's Triumph des Willens, to the deliberately incoherent final scene on the beach, it chronicles a decadent society and the progress through it of a disillusioned journalist. (There is also a superb score by Nino Rota, with a little help from JS Bach.) I wonder if the latter-day decline of Silvio Berlusconi, who must also have seen La Dolce Vita on its first release, also marks the end of a period of hedonism or whether Italy will renew her excesses.

Ekberg was the survivor of a trio of blonde bombshells from the 1960s (and probably the nearest to a genuine blonde among them). In the last of a series of BBC films about Monroe, Mansfield and herself, she was seen in her late sixties giving one of what appeared to be a regular series of parties at her home in Italy. She was rather proud of the fact that she was physically so much bigger than the other two (though, to my mind, Mansfield had the greater acting ability - when she put her mind to it) and complained how her first husband was lovely when sober but a wife-beater when drunk and had robbed her of the money she had made up to that point. (There was not much sign of poverty in that BBC profile.) The impression of ungraciousness tends to be confirmed by the Indy's obituary.

No comments: