Monday, September 04, 2023

The Truth About La Dolce Vita, on Film Movement Plus

Giuseppe "Peppino" Amato would have appreciated the notorious behind-the-scenes chaos during the production of Apocalypse Now. While the Vietnam drama nearly killed Coppola and Sheen, the stress of producing Fellini’s La Dolce Vita very directly led to Amato’s financial ruin and early demise. Filmmaker Giuseppi Pedersoli combines traditional documentary elements with re-enactments to tell Amato’s side of the story in The Truth About La Dolce Vita, which premieres Friday on Film Movement Plus.

Arguably, Amato only had himself to blame. He bought the screenplay from Dino De Laurentiis, after receiving the blessing of Padre Pio. He then brought in his frequent producing partner Angelo Rizzoli, who never really got the film and eventually left Amato holding the bag. Throughout much of the increasingly costly production, Amato acted as a go-between, taking heat from Fellini, Rizzoli, and everyone else the director was feuding with.

Truth, it is clear Pedersoli is showing us Amato’s truth. Fans of Fellini should be warned the hybrid doc often makes the auteur appear to be little more than a spoiled child—and Rizzoli fares even worse. (However, De Laurentiis, seen in archival interviews seems admirably philosophical about losing out on a masterpiece.)

Luigi Petrucci is also quite engaging playing Amato, in what nearly amounts to a one-thesp show. However, his dramatic sequences exclusively focus on the troubled titular production and they are largely drawn from studio memos and trade interviews. As a result, the re-enactment dialogue is a little dry at times.

Nevertheless, there is a lot of good dish for admirers of Fellini and his masterpiece. The clips Pedersoli incorporates still glow and virtually pop off the screen, thanks to the metallic film stock Fellini used. It remains an absolute classic of world cinema, which makes the grief and travails that Amato suffered seem so unjust.

As a film,
Truth About La Dolce Vita is not wildly cinematic, but it nicely evokes the spirit of vintage Cinecitta Italian cinema. For Italian Neo-Realist obsessives, it is a must and the rest of us will find much to be of interest too. Recommended for cineastes, The Truth About La Dolce Vita starts streaming Friday (9/8) on Film Movement Plus.