Combustible Celluloid
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With: Giulietta Masina, Marcello Mastroianni
Written by: Federico Fellini, Tonino Guerra, Tullio Pinelli
Directed by: Federico Fellini
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Language: Italian with English subtitles
Running Time: 127
Date: 01/13/1986

Ginger & Fred (1986)

4 Stars (out of 4)

Last Dance

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Federico Fellini's career can almost be traced across a line chart. When he began, he partially kept to his Neo-Realism roots (Variety Lights, The White Sheik, etc.). Soon after, he abandoned them for less realistic, more dreamlike films like La Dolce Vita (1960) and 8 1/2 (1963) before dissolving completely into phantasmagoric excess (Juliet of the Spirits, Satyricon). But at some point after that, as he approached retirement age, he merged into a more wistful approach, half-nostalgic and half-fantastical. These later films don't enjoy the reputation of Fellini's earlier works, but then again, few films made by senior citizens do. On top of everything else, Ginger & Fred marks the first pairing of Fellini veterans Marcello Mastroianni and Giulietta Masina and, from their instant chemistry, you'd think they'd been together for years. Masina plays Amelia Bonetti, or "Ginger," a retired dancer who agrees to appear on a Christmas TV variety show with her former partner, Pippo Botticella, or "Fred" (Mastroianni). In the past, the pair earned a small measure of fame by impersonating the famous screen icons. Most of the film takes place in the hours up to and including the show itself. Amelia and Pippo haven't spoken for years, but Fellini avoids the obvious heart-to-heart talks or big emotional reveals. The characters instead perform a kind of friendly emotional dance, interacting with anyone nearby (mostly other impersonators) avoiding unpleasant topics and putting on a happy face. Fellini makes the most of scenes in which one dancer simply observes the other. Of course, he fills the frame with the bizarre, breathtaking colors and shapes of showbiz excess (and, yes, little people), but he keeps our heroes at the center. The director saves his best moments for when they hit the stage during the big finale. It's unmistakable Fellini, but also surprisingly heartwarming. Fellini's next was the equally good Intervista (1987).

DVD Details: Warner Home Video has released this 2007 DVD with a theatrical trailer and optional subtitles.

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