Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

Fellini: I’m a Born Liar

(Federico Fellini: Sono un gran bugiardo, France/Italy/UK, 2002)

Not long before he died Federico Fellini did a longish interview on film. About half of this movie is that interview. The rest is scenes from his films, intercut with present-day shots of the locations, scenes of him directing, and interviews with people who worked with him. It is by no means a biographical movie. Not much is said about his life or career. Instead, it is the creative process that is explored, and Fellini’s was unusual. He mentions several times that he doesn’t view actors as cattle, like Hitchcock, but rather as puppets. Both Donald Sutherland (Casanova) and Terence Stamp (Spirits of the Dead) tell us that this wasn’t always a lot of fun. Since Italian directors often don’t record sound on the set but prefer to overdub later, Fellini can stand by the camera and tell the actors exactly what he wants. You can almost see the strings. It is the antithesis of the Hitchcock method. Hitch never improvised, he had the whole movie, frame by frame, in his head before he even started shooting; he said he found the shooting itself boring. Fellini made it up as he went along, changed things he didn’t like, was much more concerned with the look of it all. Different strokes for different folks. So it’s an okay documentary, if a little long. A lot of what Federico says strikes me as impenetrable, but he did say one thing I identified with. “I’ve accepted an advance to make a film, and I don’t want to give it back, so I make a film.” The pressure of making a living is one of the great unsung causes of great art. Artists like to talk about their muses, their visions, the way the art is pushing to get out of them. It pushes a lot harder when there’s no money in your pocket, and I’ll bet even Michelangelo would have told you that.