cal central character in Amarcord (1973), wears his fascistrnyouth uniform proudly if not very seriously, and Rubini, the actorrnhired to play the young Fellini in Intervista, snaps into thernfascist salute as easily as everyone around him. Orchestra Rehearsalrn(1979) and Artd the Ship Sails On (1983) don’t sornmuch condemn any one side as they reveal the tragic absurdityrnof having to take sides. No wonder that politically committedrncritics disapprove so strongly of his films. Being withoutrnsin, they are always willing to cast the first stone, apparentlyrnnot knowing, as Fellini does, that stones can hurt.rnSocially, his films are just as honest. “Why do you alwaysrnhave prostitutes in your films?” a reporter asks Guido in 8-1/2.rnFellini, perhaps in imitation of Christ and certainly to the consternationrnof ideologues of both the left and the right, did concernrnhimself with the lives of prostitutes and others who live thernlow (as opposed to the sweet) life, and almost all of his filmsrnconcern the near impossibility of honest and equal relationshipsrnbetween men and women. No director has (with the possiblernexception of Ingmar Bergman) shown more consistentlyrnthe intensity of the anger and fear that men and women are capablernof generating in each other. ]uliet of the Spirits is perhapsrnthe finest film concerned with a woman who is abandonedrnby her husband, only to find that the experience is actually arnliberation. And City of Women is, to my knowledge, the onlyrnfilm to explore the confusion of lust and fear that defines contemporaryrnmale responses to liberated women. What separatesrnthese films from their ideological counterparts (in which womenrndiscover that they have no need for or interest in the companyrnof men or men discover their primitive masculine identityrnby pounding drums around a fire far from women, like comicrnversions of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ apes performing the Dum-rnDum) is that Fellini really loved women. Dreaming of a timern”when men and women feel so naturally emancipated that theyrncan meet each other in a naturally relaxed state,” he neverthelessrnknew that such a time is a long way off and that love, betrayal,rnand forgiveness must remain natural allies in all caringrnrelationships between the sexes.rnFourth, Fellini the artist sprang from popular culture andrnused it in the creation of his art, while recognizing its essentialrnbarbarism and its real dangers. When asked to name films thatrnhe admired or that influenced him, he was more likely tornmention the American films of his childhood—Frankensteinrn(1931) or King Kong (1933) or the comedies of Chaplin,rnKeaton, and the Marx Brothers—than the highly regardedrnfilms of his European contemporaries. His films were regularlyrnpeopled by circus performers and vaudevillians, street performersrnand bit players. When the stars did show up, thernpoets and actors in Fellini Satyricon (1969), the celebritiesrnand beautiful people in La Dolce Vita and Toby Dammit, thernopera singers in And the Ship Sails On, they were shown to bernclowns, too—only sadder and more pathetic than the realrnclowns because they were blinded by self-regard and fame.rnBut he also recognized the pernicious leveling of values inrnthe modern worid caused by advertising and television. FromrnLa Dolce Vita on, he showed the omnipresence of tabloidrnjournalism and television to be the first sign of the return of thernbarbarians to the gates of Rome. Giulietta’s husband in Julietrnof the Spirits bids good evening to the face on the televisionrnwith far more feeling and warmth than he shows to any livingrnperson in the film—especially to Giulietta. At the end of Intervista,rnthe film crew is attacked by Indians (more Europeanrnbarbarian than American), whose spears are television antennae.rnIn Amarcord, Gradisca wastes the actual possibilities ofrnher youth while looking for a perfect and unattainable GaryrnCooper, and, during the funeral procession for Titta’s mother,rnthe cortege passes large posters featuring Norma Shearer andrnLaurel and Hardy. Fellini knew that already in the 1930’s thernreality of the tangible moment was being infected by the intangiblernimagery of modern technology and that Mussolini andrnHitler were very real and dangerous products of that infection.rnEven Dante was not immune; his head, with the top sheared offrnand filled with soup, appears on a large advertising poster in therntobacco shop where Titta’s sexual dreams are fulfilled in overwhelmingrnways he is unable to deal with.rnIn Ginger and Fred, Fellini makes the point most fully. Notrnonly does a puppet Dante in a television commercial find hisrnway out of the dark wood using a compass (and thereby miss hisrntrip to revelation as well), but the modern cult of celebrity withrnits absurd blurring of values and meaning is at the center of therncomedy. “Why is a convicted Mafioso appearing on a televisionrnshow with artists?” Amelia asks, to be answered by arnQueen Elizabeth look-alike who is also scheduled to appear onrnthe show. “He’s a star, too.” The Bobbitts would be on thatrnshow, also, if it were being broadcast today. Fellini, a child ofrnpopular culture, knew its limitations in a way that his intellectuallyrnsnobbish detractors like Signor Squazzi Scitti on NPR dornnot, for they are sure that they, too, are stars!rnFederico Fellini, for all those reasons, then, despite the astonishingrnbeauty of his images and the depth of his feeling forrnhumankind, must remain forever beyond the comprehensionrnor appreciation of those who, bound by ideological or intellectualrnabstractions, have neither ears to hear nor eyes to see. Andrnwhat they are missing is what all those people who claim thatrnhe never made a love story miss: the simple truth that all ofrnFellini’s films were and are love stories, are acts of love. Theyrnmust be understood with a lover’s comprehension, and, if theyrnare, they will feed your soul and fill you with inner joy.rnBy the way, for those of you who take offense at my vulgarrnand insensitive jokes at the expense of the noted critic StevenrnShiftless, I advise you to read Fellini’s brilliant essay “WhyrnClowns?” in Fellini on Fellini (1974), in which he explains thatrnwhen a slovenly Auguste clown (the fool) is confronted withrnthe purity and idealism and authoritarianism of an elegantrnWhite Clown, he has no choice but “to dirty his pants, getrndrunk, roll about on the floor, and put up endless resistance.”rnI confess to being such a fool, and I assure you that Mr. Shaftrnis an archetypal White Clown. With all the wisdom of thernfools, Stephen, here’s a big honker for you from Federico!rn30/CHRONICLESrnrnrn