By Alessia Ricciardi
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Additional info for After la dolce vita : a cultural prehistory of Berlusconi's Italy
Adventures in the outside world, curiosities . . all you enjoy so much . . is just a waste . . a convenient excuse to do whatever you like. . I am afraid you are becoming an endearing buffoon, my dear. . 51 That this episode was not included in the finished film might be explained in various ways, but the chief suggestion I wish to make is that it is redundant. We have already observed Steiner’s function in the narrative as a kind of substitute for Marcello’s potential suicide. A more analytic or nuanced representation of the defeat of his residual intellectual ambition would have been superfluous, particularly given the film’s interest in mapping the new cultural and intellectual territory that lies beyond modernism.
Despite all the levity that he and some of the other guests contribute to the occasion, however, the soirée itself is disfigured by the recurring appearance of an ominous sign. A distracting beam of light repeatedly flashes and expires through the living-room window. It is difficult not to feel that the insistent, mechanical reappearance of this spotlight threateningly signals from the outside that the sheltered world within is coming to an end. The discomfort is increased by Steiner’s idle entertainment of his friends with a tape recorder.
After momentary irritation at the intrusion, Marcello gives up and lets her turn the music up full blast. The loud, mindless pop tune and his rapid acquiescence to its assault dramatize his lack of commitment to the demanding vocation of art. 53 Of the Eternal City’s multitudinous strata of construction, it is the modernist layer that is assigned the most threatening role in the film. A useful contrast may be drawn between Fellini’s use of architecture and painting in the film. The camera approaches Morandi’s bottles, as it were, with an implicitly competitive attitude and a sure faith that cinema will have the last word.
After la dolce vita : a cultural prehistory of Berlusconi's Italy by Alessia Ricciardi