Fellini: I’m A Born Liar

Fellini: I’m A Born Liar


Reviewed by: David Stanners

I'm a Born Liar is not such a tongue in cheek title. After 100 minutes of sporadic philosophical jockeying into the mind of a master auteur, you may think, "Maybe Federico Fellini is just a bullshit artist." After all, that is the art of persuasion and, if this documentary is anything to go by, he loves his own way. With an unassailable grip on the artistic reigns, he appears like an unofficial emperor presiding over his little foot soldier actors.

In art house circles, Fellini is regarded as one of the greats. His contribution to world cinema is unequivocal, but, unless you are in the know, I'm A Born Liar will confuse and irritate the hell out of you. Director Damian Pettigrew has made a bit of a hash of it, producing little more than shapeless words and ideas. The wishy-washy structure drips from one level to the next, allowing Fellini to randomly dissect his own brilliant and, at times, incomprehensible theories on life, art, creation and everything.

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This is not the fault of the maestro himself, but Pettigrew, for allowing the film to turn into a laborious bout of self-importance, as if he wound Fellini up and let him go. With an absence of editing, and more importantly, untitled film clips, the overriding feeling is, "What the hell am I watching?"

Speaking in metaphors, like a true poet, Fellini outlines his early fascination with the Bohemian life in his home town of Rimini, his cinematic and artistic influences from Kurosawa through to Picasso and, in great detail, his own craft as a director, or "magician", as he would have us believe. What he has to say is interesting, albeit excessive.

Input from Donald Sutherland and Terence Stamp is also worthwhile. Sutherland comes right off the fence with a thud, describing his director as a demonic dictator: "The first five weeks of work was hell on earth." Terence Stamp reveals deeper layers of uncertainty and possibility. Insights into Federico on LSD, while filming, and his prolific habit of answering actor's questions with questions, are cited as part of his overall bravado.

If you are a connoisseur, you may forgive the fact that this is a dry, uninspiring documentary and appreciate Fellini's worldly visions. If you haven't heard of him and think art house movies are a pile of pretentious "pish", then you'll hate it. The material is here, but the strands are always tangled. Without a hint of professional editing, or citation, the whole shibang leaves Pettigrew guilty of answers even more ambiguous than those of his subject.

Reviewed on: 30 Jan 2003
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Documentary of a final interview with Federico Fellini, plus rare footage.
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Read more Fellini: I’m A Born Liar reviews:

George Williamson **

Director: Damian Pettigrew

Starring: Roberto Benigni, Italo Calvino, Federico Fellini, Terence Stamp, Donald Sutherland

Year: 2001

Runtime: 100 minutes

Country: Italy/ France/ UK


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