And the Ship Sails On
Federico Fellini was incapable of composing an uninteresting scene, framing a dull shot, shooting a single frame of film that wasn’t fascinating to look at. But he sure could make some stinkers. Beautiful, ravishing stinkers, but stinkers nonetheless. Satyricon, Roma, Casanova; all amazing to look at and, for me, empty of significance. I guess they mean something to Federico, and to a lot of pretentious film critics, but not to me. In fact, after Amarcord in 1973, he didn’t make a single film I liked. And he lived and worked another 20 years!
This film was made entirely on sound stages at the Cinecitta Studios in Rome. Big sound stages! Fellini deliberately went for a phony, stagy look, but on a massive scale. The “ocean” was a vast sheet of plastic manipulated by stagehands. The deck of the ship, big enough to play a baseball game on, is a huge platform mounted on hydraulic jacks.
It gets off to a damn good start, as a silent film in sepia tones, and it looks real. Then sounds begin to mix with the title cards, music begins to be heard, then a little dialogue, and finally it fades into color. And there were a few more interesting scenes, but only a few. The film drags horribly, I cared for none of the characters. The dubbing is bad even for an Italian movie, and that’s pretty bad. And I don’t mean dubbing into English; this is Italian dubbing. And you can see by their names and by reading their lips that at least three of the actors are actually speaking English. (Including one named Sarah-Jane Varley!) It’s really too bad, all that technical artistry squandered on so little content.