La Dolce Vita is a very evocative expression.
As you say it, an iconic scene from the movie “La dolce vita” comes to mind: Anita Ekberg calling out “Marcello! Come here!” while sensually bathing in the middle of the fountain.
Federico Fellini’s “La dolce vita” is perhaps the symbol of the Italian cinema all over the world.It’s 1960 and those are the golden years of the Italian cinema and, probably, of the whole Italian history after the Second World War.
And yet, the road towards that fountain is totally upward, starting with the heavy riding of a bike in “Ladri di biciclette” (1948), directed by Vittorio De Sica, the most popular film of the new artistic movement called Neorealismo, which doesn’t use professional actors or studios to film the scenes but wants to capture the realism of every single details, from the lightening to the language, filled with slang and dialect’s words.
Moving to the ’50s and the “economic miracle”, the Italian cinema gets off the hard bike of real description to sit more comfortably at a bar table, sipping a cup of coffee and smoking cigarettes with friends while examining people’s life with a more introspective look.
No more bikes for these new cinema characters of the ’50s. They have earned the luxury of a car, even though sometimes it stops leaving our heroes in pretty tough situations, like in “I Vitelloni” (1953).
The usual gang of poor, unlucky, reckless but pleasant characters facing everyday challenges, especially economical ones, can be found in “I Soliti Ignoti” (1958) directed by Mario Monicelli, a film that opens the new genre of “commedia all’italiana”.
Italy is rapidly moving from a traditionally agricultural and family-centered society into a shallower, individualistic and consumeristic one.
The life of Italian people gets more and more complicated, facing new issues of the modern era, like divorce. “Divorzio all’italiana” (1961) directed by Pietro Germi, is one of the best comedies of the first ’60s, with an Oscar prize for best original script.
Marcello Mastroianni and Stefania Sandrelli are extremely good in showing the crash between traditional way of living and new modern liberties.
The high speed with which the Italian life-style is running towards the future is superbly represented in “Il Sorpasso” (1962) directed by Dino Risi.
Vittorio Gassman’s character represents the average Italian man at the time. He’s loud, direct and braggart and yet he has a strange, dangerous charme from which is not easy to escape.
The careless attitude shown by Gassman’s character contrasts with many different difficult situations in his life, which he hides under a cover of pretended success and care-free life-style. He lives the day, recklessly, focused only on the here and now, like many Italians do during the “economic miracle”, unaware of the actual danger beyond the corner.
But that high speed described in Dino Risi’s film could lead to a bad end also in real life.
The spider car Italy is driving could jump over the cliff as well. Society has changed, there is a lot more distance between classes and life doesn’t seem coloured in pink anymore.
The post neo-realistic “Uccellacci uccellini” (1966) directed by Pier Paolo Pasolini, describes a difficult world where love, happiness and “la dolce vita”, as a way to live, are far away.
Between the ’60s and the ’70s Pasolini’s unconventional voice rises against consumerism, economic globalization and the power of television.
Italy has changed again, a new chapter begins and life gets slowly less naive and “dolce”.
But those are still the Italian golden years, fixed forever in many different beautiful movies and especially in a magical scene of a bath in the Trevi Fountain.