The Clowns – Federico Fellini (1970)

“From his childhood days in Rimini, Fellini was fascinated by circuses, clowns and itinerant performers, and they figured in his films from his directorial debut, Variety Lights, onwards. They featured most famously perhaps in La Strada and Otto e Mezzo, and most explicitly in I Clowns, his second film financed by TV, which opened simultaneously on the small screen and in cinemas at Christmas 1970. Fellini saw himself as both a clown and a ringmaster and the circus as a metaphor for life itself, and The Clowns, which puzzled and disturbed audiences with its bitterness, ambivalence and obsession with death, is an uncategorisable combination of documentary, memoir and classic clowning, a sort of fantasia about the history and nature of a dying art form. Anticipating Amarcord, his autobiographical masterpiece of 1973, it begins by recreating eight-year-old Federico’s first experience of the circus as a dream that merges into nightmare and identifies the clowns with every small town’s grotesque outsiders. It then becomes a fake documentary in which Fellini himself and a crew of incompetent assistants investigate the state of the profession in Paris and Rome with retired practitioners and historians, most of them sad and pessimistic. When an interviewer confronts the director to ask him what is the film’s message, a bucket falls over Fellini’s head before he can speak and another over the interviewer’s. This is a question we must articulate for ourselves. Finally the movie modulates into an extended performance by a team of clowns built around the funeral of a great star of the big top. It’s a beautifully made movie with ravishing colour of a kind not normally seen on TV in 1970 and a haunting, eclectic score by Nino Rota. Far from being an offhand minor work by a maestro, it is one of Fellini’s most complex, allusive and elusive pictures, of which Sam Rohdie writes in his Fellini Lexicon: ‘I Clowns is a memorial to a childhood of clowns and the enchantment of clowns, including the terror of them. The film is their requiem and their return to life. It is thereby a reconciliation.’ The disc also contains Adriano Aprà’s ‘visual essay’ Fellini’s Circus, an illuminating and informative analysis of I Clowns that’s half as long as the film itself. …”
Guardian: I Clowns review – Philip French on Fellini’s beautifully made 1970 documentary/memoir
W – The Clowns
I clowns: Fellini’s Mockumentary
YouTube: The Clowns – Federico Fellini – Clip with English Subs

About 1960s: Days of Rage

Bill Davis - 1960s: Days of Rage
This entry was posted in Movie and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s