Reviewed by: Gary Duncan

Fellini's disjointed but stunningly original tribute to Rome could have been an unmitigated disaster. There's no plot, no main characters, no common thread linking the disparate parts that make the whole. It spans 40-odd years, jumps back and forward, mixes fact and fiction, gets off to a slow start and much of it doesn't seem to make any sense at all. But none of that matters because this autobiographical history of the Eternal City works brilliantly.

The set-pieces are breathtaking and surreal. A motorbike gang sweeps past the Colosseum at night. Subway construction workers unearth a 2,000-year-old fresco, only to see it disintegrate as soon as it's exposed to fresh air. Red-robed cardinals rollerskate down the catwalk at a fashion show.

We see Federico Fellini as a young man, seduced by the city's teeming restaurants and seedy whorehouses, and follow him and his documentary film crew years later, as he offers a more sober reflection of the city he came to call home - he was born in Rimini.

Nostalgic, but never sentimental, it paints a colourful picture of the city's past, but isn't afraid to show it for what it is, warts and all.

"People have become mean," laments an old man. "The true Romans have disappeared."

It's also wickedly funny. A music hall heckler lobs a live cat at a performer and a mother lets her child urinate in the aisle in the middle of a performance.

"It's only a child's little angel drops," she says, to a chorus of jeers.

Reviewed on: 14 Jan 2004
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Roma packshot
Impressionistic portrait of the Eternal City.
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Director: Federico Fellini

Writer: Federico Fellini, Bernardino Zapponi

Starring: Peter Gonzales, Fiona Florence, Marne Maitland, Britta Barnes, Anna Magnani, Federico Fellini, Gore Vidal

Year: 1972

Runtime: 128 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: Italy/France


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