Some days I think that Federico Fellini’s early, neo-realism films are his finest achievements. The some days I think it was surreal, dreamy, visually stunning films like this one, Juliet of the Spirits, and 8½ were his crowning glory. Some days it just depends on what Fellini film I’m looking at. For some reason I had never seen this one. I’m so glad that I finally did, before I die.
I learned a new word while finding out what the title means. It translates roughly as I Remember, and it is a univerbation, which means the gradual process of merging two or more words into one, as in albeit from all be it. To complicate things even more, it is from the Romagnol dialect of Italian, also known as vulgar Latin, “a m’arcord,” “I Remember.” It then became a neologism in Italian, connoting nostalgia. Whew! You got all that?
Fellini said it was not really autobiographical, but I think he was lying. It is not really a single story, but a gathering of memories from one year in Mussolini’s Italy, before the War. And aside from a nasty scene of Brown Shirt thugs interrogating a former anarchist, who is the pater familias of a wonderfully rowdy family, it is mostly funny or charming or both. It is also, I think, a good example of magical realism. We are not meant to take all these scenes literally. They are distorted with the lens of nostalgia. The worst thing, for me, was to be often thinking of how grim this sweet, picturesque little town would be in a few years, with the Germans occupiers and then American liberators taking over. But this is one of the most charming movies I have ever seen. I almost feel I could watch it again right now, only three days after I saw it.