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October 26, 2017

The Voice of the Moon

La voce della luna.jpg

La Voce della Luna
Federico Fellini - 1990
Arrow Academy BD Regions A/B and DVD Regions 1/2 Two-disc set

Twenty-seven years? I can understand why English language film distributors might not have been battling to bring Federico Fellini's last film to theaters. And grazie to the Arrow team for stepping up to the plate. What shred of a narrative exists casually strolls from one incident to the next. Still, it took this long for an English language home video release, which is shameful treatment of one of the all-time great filmmakers. And yes, much of the film looks like a rehash of moments from past films which places Fellini in the company of Howard Hawks and Jerry Lewis, as a couple of filmmakers who come to mind with their career closing entries.

The film takes place in a small, provincial town in Italy, but the sense of otherworldliness suggests that it could well be another planet. Ivo, played by a relatively restrained Roberto Benigni, is convinced he hears voices emanating from a well. Ivo is occasionally joined in his escapades by paranoid prefect, Genello, an older man who sees conspiracies everywhere. What there is of a story is virtually free association from encounters with eccentric characters and absurd events.

A later scene takes place in what looks like the world's biggest disco, with what appear to be hundreds of mostly young adults in tangentially punk style outfits dancing to Michael Jackson's "The Way You Make Me Feel". The revelry is interrupted by an older couple waltzing to Strauss's "Blue Danube". The scene seems to sum up Fellini's own bemusement with the contemporary world, at odds with an idealized romanticism. If the (then) present looks even stranger and more disorienting than it did at the time of La Dolce Vita, the past has become even more remote.

Most of the film was shot on a set constructed in the shell of an old factory. The artificiality aids in the dreamlike visual qualities, with painterly images from cinematographer Tonino Delli Colli. Time hadn't changed Fellini's working methods with much of the film improvised by the huge cast, with dialogue dubbed later. There is also much use of circular shapes with the moon, the round lenses of Ivo's glasses, the well, and even a large tire in the muddy ground.

The blu-ray comes with a documentary on the making of The Voice of the Moon which might have been a bit better had it not tried to be Felliniesque. The framing story of an young American female journalist should have been discarded. Still, we get to see Fellini in action on the set of what turned out to be his last film, with bits of interviews from several of his collaborators, and a glimpse of Jim Jarmusch on the set. I hope that someone has saved parts of that set - some of the wall graffiti was done by the master himself.

Posted by Peter Nellhaus at October 26, 2017 06:08 AM