|What is Fellini-esque? Evil clowns are Fellini esque.|
I vitelloni (1953)
d. Federico Fellini
Criterion Collection #246
I vitelloni is an example of one of the big Criterion Collection categories: Early works by film makers who would late go on to create masterpieces, where the early film has some but not all of characteristic attributes of the later masterpieces. Depending on the number of non-masterpiece early works and the level of interest in the film maker, Criterion Collection may be inclined to relegate non-important early works to the Eclipse collection (see Ingmar Bergman) or not do Criterion Collection editions at all.
Fellini didn't have many non-masterpiece early works. His first widely acknowledged masterpiece is usually considered to be Nights of Cabiria, and that was released in 1957. Before Nights, he only released five feature films, and I vitelloni is second. There is nothing "Fellini-esque" about I vitelloni is as much as that word describes a certain style of film making that equally combines the realistic and the bizarre/grotesque. There is nothing grotesque about these characters except perhaps the caddish behavior of Fausto, as the cheating husband in a group of 20 something lay abouts in a small Italian town in the years after World War II. Working a job is anathema for these lot, and their wives, fiances and mothers seem to put up with their loafish behavior with a shrug.
I vitelloni didn't do a whole lot for me, emotionally. There was little to distinguish it my mind from other Italian films of the 50s and 60s, though perhaps the fact this was early 1950s makes it somewhat "ahead of its time" in terms of neo-realism, which is avowedly NOT a style that one associates with "Mature Fellini."
Unlike Michelangelo Antonioni, Fellini is actually concerned with incident. At his neo-realist "best" the pacing is anything but slow and moody. He's also not as "real" as Roberto Rossellini, even at this early stage. I vitelloni does not "push the envelope" in terms of limiting camera equipment and using natural, outside lighting. Roughly speaking if you are trying to assign the apex for each of the big 3 Italian filmmakers you are talking 40s-early 50s for Rossellini, Antonioni in the early 60s and then Fellini in the mid to late 60s.