stro!” Or in The Clowns (1970), Fellini himself, over whosernhead a glue-filled bucket suddenly drops, just as he is about torntell an inquiring journalist what the “message” of his film is. Sornit doesn’t really matter what Swinger Shift (or whatever) saidrnon NPR; Fellini had already put him in the right place on therngreat screen of his imagining.rnBut what does matter is the great difference between the responsernof Fellini’s detractors and that of his enormous and enthusiasticrnaudience—perhaps most cleady stated recently byrnanother visionary filmmaker, David Lynch. “He’s just therngreatest filmmaker in history in my book,” Lynch said in thernJanuary 1994 issue of Interview. “He really understood cinemarnand all the magical things it can do.”rnFellini has always had a large international audience. Hisrnfilms have won four Oscars for Best Foreign Language Filmrn(more than any other director), and he was given an Oscar forrnhis life’s work just last year. His influence on other filmmakersrnis large and international, ranging from Akira Kurosawa tornJuzo Itami to Lina Wertmiiller to Ken Russell to Bill Forsyth tornDavid Lynch. Ingmar Bergman’s Hour of the Wo/f (1968) andrnFace to Face (1976) were both strongly influenced by Fellini’srn]uhet of the Spirits (1965). 8-1/2 has essentially been remadern(without credit) at least three times: by Paul Mazursky as Alexrnin Wonderland (1970), by Bob Fosse as All That Jazz (1979),rnand by Woody Allen as Stardust Memories (1980). And couldrnRobert Altman ever have made The Player (1992) withoutrnFellini’s having shown the way?rnWhat, then, is there about Fellini’s films that causes thernStepin Shiftits among the intellectually and ideologically correctrnso much trouble? First, Fellini was an artist who dependedrnupon individual and particular vision and expression ratherrnthan politically codified generalities and stereotypes. There isrnnothing by today’s intellectual standards more offensive (to userna favorite word of the politically correct) than a belief in andrncommitment to the individual. We are informed by poststructuralistsrnthat the individual does not even exist, that it isrnthe culture as a whole that speaks through the individual whornis merely a conduit for the culture’s expression. (Substitute thernword “state” for the word “culture” in their writings, and you’llrnquickly discover why they seem so hauntingly familiar.) We arcrnalso informed by deeonstructionists that expression itself doesrnnot exist, that every decoding is a new encoding, and that thernvery idea of artistic expression is just another illusion. And sornon and so on, each intellectual or ideological coterie imposingrnits position upon the others and, alas, upon us all.rnAs Fellini’s films progressed from the relatively realisticrnforms of Variety Lights (1950) and his other eady films tornthe radical forms of the films following 8-1/2—especially thosernimaginary documentaries like The Clowns, Roma (1972), andrnIntervista—his commitment to an exploration of his own wayrnof seeing remained constant. Not since the later Dietrichrnfilms of Josef von Sternberg—The Scarlet Empress (1934) andrnThe Devil Is a Woman (1935)—has a director transformed therninterior of a soundstage into such a completely personalrnreality. Fellini was an artist determined to reveal his full visionrnas vividly and completely as possible, to discover the universalrnin the particular. “I don’t want to demonstrate anything,” hernsaid, “I want to show it.” He would agree with William Jamesrnthat the individual consciousness is “the workshop of beingrnwhere we catch fact in the making,” and certainly James’s descriptionrnof Wordsworth is applicable to Fellini: “that inner lifernof his carried the burden of a significance that has fed souls ofrnothers, and fills them to this day with inner joy.”rnii was an artistrndetermined tornreveal his fullrnvision as vividly and completely asrnpossible, to discover the universal in thernparticular.’ I don’t want to demonstraternanything,’ he said,’ I want to show it/rnSecond, Fellini was a Christian—an unorthodox one, granted,rnin trouble with Catholic dogmatists off and on throughoutrnhis career, but a genuine Christian believer. He did not believernin the perfectibility of humankind by social, psychological,rnmedical, political, or any other strictly human means. Rather,rnhe believed that all humans are sinners, that all are capable ofrnredemption, and that Providence moves in the world to providernthe means of that redemption. His films are filled with angelsrnin unlikely human forms: clowns and tightrope walkers, whoresrnon the beach and lovely blonde young actresses who can playrnthe saxophone, smiling young women who have come to therncity to be typists and sexy, smiling feminist terrorists whornshoot holes in the ballooning sexist fantasies of bumbling DonrnJuans. Even a life-size mechanical doll brings a glimmer of salvationrnto a thoroughly despicable Giacomo Casanova inrnCasanova (1976). “Cood luck to Guido,” the neurotic youngrnintellectual played by Barbara Steele says in 8-J/2, and even thernMafioso in Ginger and Fred (1985) has his moment of gracernwhen he wishes good luck to Pippo and Amelia in the darkenedrntelevision studio. Ginger and Fred and Intervista both take placernat Christmas with Christmas greetings managing to transcendrnthe ugliness and loss of values in the world in which they are uttered.rnHis films arc, therefore, comic, even at their darkest. “Rememberrnthat this is a comic film,” read the note attached tornthe camera during the filming of 8-1/2, and Dante, the divinerncomedian, is a presence in so many of the films from La DolcernVita on. Even those among his characters who seem to rejectrnredemption—Marcello Rubini in La Dolce Vita and the titlerncharacters in Toby Dammit (1968) and Casanova—are treatedrnby Fellini with a gentleness that can only be a product of hisrngenuinely forgiving and loving nature. His attitude toward hisrncharacters and their sinful natures is not, then, available or congenialrnto those who self-righteously proclaim their own virtuernwhile eageriy condemning the failings of others.rnThird, Fellini’s films are politically and socially honest, ratherrnthan correct. His films have always been anti-fascist while atrnthe same time admitting the deep Italian involvement in (or indifferencernto) fascism. Unlike Bernardo Bertolucci’s films inrnwhich the fascists are psychotics, like Marcello in L’he Conformistrn(1971), or seem almost to have come from anotherrnplanet, like Attila in J 900 (1977), Fellini’s fascists are the peoplernnext door or even yourself. Titta, the semi-autobiographi-rnAPRIL 1994/29rnrnrn