The question is, what can we do with Fellini now?
Rarely less than bludgeoningly gauche, he was once the Italian film genius for people who didn’t like Italian film geniuses, and today his decades-long hold on the minds of international moviegoers looks like a protracted grift.
No other major auteur from the salad days of the art-film golden age seems as questionable and out-of-sync as Fellini, and City of Women (1980), his autumnal launch at feminism, may have been his bluntest instrument. Or can it be, in 2016, a tribal icon, the ultimate ironic camp-fest for dykes, womyn, Fourth Wavers, and misandrists everywhere?
Marcello Mastroianni is again il maestro’s avatar, a guileless lothario who stumbles off a train after a woman and encounters a hotel in the forest inhabited entirely by rallying, castrating, inexplicably angry women. From there, it’s one loaded dream scenario after another, kind of like a 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T with fat-woman jokes, roller-skating harridans, vaginas that can vacuum coins off the floor, and Nazi regalia — what could go wrong?
Newly restored, the film awaits its opportunity at being co-opted by its enemy forces. After this, it’s unlikely to be remembered.
City of Women
Directed by Federico Fellini
Cohen Film Collection
Opens February 19, Film Forum