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Fellini - I'm a Born Liar
Fellini - I'm a Born Liar
Actors: Roberto Benigni, Federico Fellini, Terence Stamp, Donald Sutherland, Italo Calvino
Director: Damian Pettigrew
Genres: Indie & Art House, Documentary
R     2003     1hr 45min

What sets this film apart from other portraits of Fellini is that director Damian Pettigrew -- who knew Fellini fairly well after meeting him in 1983 -- was afforded a lengthy, privileged, unprecedented access to the man...  more »


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Movie Details

Actors: Roberto Benigni, Federico Fellini, Terence Stamp, Donald Sutherland, Italo Calvino
Director: Damian Pettigrew
Creators: Olivier Gal, Daniel Denis, No Mendelle, Herl De Pol, Giovanni Quaregna
Genres: Indie & Art House, Documentary
Sub-Genres: Indie & Art House, Biography
Studio: First Look Pictures
Format: DVD - Color
DVD Release Date: 12/02/2003
Original Release Date: 01/01/2001
Theatrical Release Date: 01/01/2001
Release Year: 2003
Run Time: 1hr 45min
Screens: Color
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 5
MPAA Rating: R (Restricted)
Languages: English, Italian, French

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Movie Reviews

Mastorna | New York, USA | 08/21/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)

"As a professional film editor and Fellini enthusiast (I own over 150 scholarly texts on Fellini published in English, Italian, French, German, Spanish, and Portuguese), I feel well equipped to assess whether a documentary on Fellini is remarkable or mediocre. I have viewed this film several times on DVD and conducted extensive research on the critical reviews it received in America and internationally. In my opinion, I'm a Born Liar is a remarkable feature-length study that takes the scholarship of Fellini and his complex personality forward in many subtle ways. There are several reasons for this assessment but I would like to share the seven most significant points with Amazon readers:
1) Anyone with a good knowledge of the great director's work will be impressed by the extreme rigor involved in "the paring down to essentials" that this film displays: and it does so without sacrificing content or clarity. 2) It is strikingly edited by one of France's best editors, Florence Ricard (she won the coveted French `César' for her work on Microcosmos). Ricard not only tailors the rhythm to capture Fellini's physical presence in long sequences filmed with two cameras, she deftly manipulates the interviews and archival footage so as to interact with the film clips in such a way that meaning is blended with ambiguity, a cinematic quality that Fellini himself would have appreciated. 3) Lavishly produced, the film is an archival goldmine. It exploits haunting imagery of past film locations interwoven with film clips and rare documentary footage rescued from the archival obscurity of Europe's major television networks. These lengthy clips showing the Maestro at work are a major attraction that will appeal to experts and novices alike. Footage includes behind-the-scenes of Satyricon, Amarcord, City of Women, Juliet of the Spirits and Casanova as well as a fabulous scene left on the cutting room floor where Donald Sutherland (Casanova) leans forward to kiss a Moor. An uncanny sense of poignancy builds as we watch even rarer footage of Mastroianni on the set of La Dolce Vita and realize that the interviews with Fellini are the last recorded before his untimely death in Rome on October 31st 1993. (To my knowledge, there is no DVD on the market that offers such varied behind-the-scenes footage or exceptional ephemera as the newly discovered portrait of Fellini as a baby.) 4) I'm a Born Liar is an internal monologue of a movie (which is why clips and interviewees are not identified until the end credits) whose main theme is Fellini's obsession with women to the detriment of his long-suffering wife, Giulietta Masina. Marriage and infidelity are given perceptive treatment in abundant clips from Fellini's masterpiece, 8 1/2. Hanging the film's narrative thread on this central theme allows the film's director (Damian Pettigrew) to shape and control the unbelievably rich material: all the archival footage, all the clips from other Fellini films, all the interviews including Fellini's eloquent meditations on aesthetics, women, memory and dreams, all the locations shots, are made to reflect back upon the Maestro's obsession with the feminine, both sacred and pagan. David Denby's New Yorker review accurately sums up the film's qualities: "I'm a Born Liar is an extraordinarily controlled piece of film in its own right... Pettigrew and his colleagues provide a surrounding texture of film excerpts and freshly shot footage that has the density of one of the Maestro's own movies, without the excess." It is precisely this question of density that initially confounds the casual viewer but the film is nothing if not controlled in its narrative shaping. 5) Right from the opening credits, the viewer is given to understand that the film is not at all conceived as an introduction to the Maestro's work or intended as an overview of his career. Pettigrew wisely avoided using an off-camera narrator to comment on the Italian filmmaker's historical background (virtually every bio on Fellini has mined this familiar territory anyways), an intelligent decision as it allows him for the next 105 minutes to focus squarely on Fellini's unique temperament and his ferocious insatiability. In the words of America's foremost Fellini scholar, Dr Peter Bondanella: "There is no question that Pettigrew's film on Fellini represents the most detailed and lengthy conversation with him ever recorded... and few viewers of this fascinating documentary will remain untouched." (Cineaste Magazine Fall, 2003). 6) The film has had a very successful career: it was shown on the Sundance Channel and sold to television worldwide; won the prestigious Banff Rockie Award for Best Arts Documentary (it won over stiff competition from PBS, BBC, and NHK); was nominated for Best Documentary at the European Film Awards; made several lists as among the Top Ten Best Non-fiction Films of 2003; has been shown theatrically in over 14 countries; screened at Cannes, Edinburgh, and over 35 major festivals worldwide. 7) I'm a Born Liar functions not only as a clever posthumous couch-trip, it also serves as a "thrilling master-class in aesthetics." (A.O. Scott, The New York Times) In fact, Pettigrew's achievement is to have crafted a documentary fantasia on film aesthetics that retains the authority of a valuable historical document. While the film undoubtedly makes demands on the viewer and forgoes analysis of Fellini's exceptional work of the 1950s (no doubt due to problems of international copyright), the rewards are many. Highly recommended for the aficionado.
Asa Nisi Masa
Robert Carlberg | Seattle | 05/30/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)

"It's rare after an artist passes away to find out anything new about him that surprises and delights you, but this documentary film, which draws heavily on Fellini's own work for inspiration and illumination, gives new insights into the oeuvre he left behind. We learn that Federico scripted everything out beforehand, then let the film lead him where it wanted. We learn that, far from fearing women (as he was often accused) Federico cannot imagine a life in which women do not complete the man. We learn that, although famously relentlessly hard on actors and actresses, he in fact adored them, and the puppetmaster wished he could have changed places with the puppets.This is a valuable addition to Felliniana, and a suitable bookend to the legacy he left behind."
At the Circus
Samurai Girl | Michigan | 10/31/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)

"If you are interested - in even the most casual way - in how directors make their films, this gem of a small documentary will not only satisfy that idle curiosity, but absolutely enlighten you as to the processes of genius in action.

Fellini may outrage some and bore others-and somehow manages to do both things at the same time for some viewers! But, most people "get" his films. For those lucky ones who love Fellini, this documentary will give you additional pleasure and understanding of his work!

Fellini's films speak to the most secret, private, creative spirits of joy, love, loss and longing...those emotions and feelings we all share. What is more, he makes this communication through mostly visual means-crossing boundaries of time, space and culture to speak quietly, like a friend confiding a secret, or grandly as under the big top, with the smell of animals and sweat, and the wizened eyes of the clown under his makeup communicating with one look everything...Everything.

This film is crazy-cool: showing Fellini directing! It's crazy to see "Satyricon" and then, to see how he directed the threesome scene! Oh, my gosh, this film reveals the humanity, the warmth, the wit of the man more clearly even than the written word!

How does Fellini really communicate? It is the sound of his voice, the look in his eyes...those eyebrows that appear so forbidding in still photos (Fellini always complained of looking less attractive in photos than he felt he was...and ended by saying "why do I look so unattractive...? I suppose it is because I really look that way...") those brows that seem to frame an enormous intelligence and spirit when you see him speak. It is movement that reveals his reactions, his humor. I dare say that reading a biography of Fellini will be a big fat letdown unless you view this film. You have to see the man ALIVE. He will amaze you, and you will begin to understand why "auteur" was a term coined to deal with this outsize personality and this engine of creativity and joy and lust and love. You'll know why "Felliniesque" refers to a vibrant, humorous, intelligent, deeply feeling, but sometimes strange and disconnected view of life.

I love, too, the idea of visiting the scenes of so many of his haunting images...contrasting the places as they appeared long after the films were made with the life they perpetually, eternally have in Fellini's films. The documentary shows us that, bereft of Fellini's spirit, these places have no real meaning. The rich, deep emotions that are stirred by the locations are due to Fellini's investment in them, and his genius in sharing that with us.

This is the best documentary on any filmmaker I've seen: non-pedantic, non-explanatory ("I'm A Born Liar" says it all!) non-authoritarian (there is no "one" correct view of the filmmaker) just a glimpse into the man as he works, and as others who worked with him saw him."
A Lot of Truth to a Born Liar
Martha Ann Kennedy | San Diego, CA | 02/21/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)

"In the midst of working on a project about five of Fellini's films, I rented this DVD. I was absolutely stunned. Fellini's candor, the choices of cuts from several of his films, Pettigrew's sense of Fellini's gentleness, fury, determination and compassion I found all very moving. Interviews with Terence Stamp, Donald Sutherland, some of Fellini's producers, set designers, etc added a depth to this that made it much more than a paeon to Fellini. That he was a human being, fixated on the realization of his idea shows he was a true artist, and, at the same time, a challenge to work with. It is a film as visually stunning as Fellini's own works and as inspiring. If you are not familiar with Fellini's work this is probably not the film for you. Fellini is not -- in my opinion -- a huge challenge if you simply allow the images to do their magic, still, it would be better to start with Amarcord which is tender, funny, ironic and accessible."