My favorite neo-realist Fellini film
bowery boy | seattle | 01/07/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"First thing first, the DVD cover is misleading. Guillietta Masina does not star in Variety Lights. She is a co-star with a fair amount of screen time. It's worth picking up simply for her performance because when she is on screen she shines. Masina plays Melina a woman who is wronged by her man (a reoccurring theme she will revisit in La Strada, Nights of Cabiria and Juliet of the Spirits). Checco, Melina's man, is a delusional womanizing manager of a vaudeville troupe who takes under his wing Liliana, a girl with stars in her eyes who will stop at nothing to achieve her goal. Liliana's "skirt less" number is a highlight for me. What a great song! Checco, much to Melina's chagrin, unsuccessfully tries his hardest to impress Liliana with his so called "connections" and can barely contain his jealously over Liliana's many suitors. Liliana slowly transforms from "innocent" girl to a calculating manipulative shrew who uses Checco to further her ambitious career goals and thinks nothing of squashing his dreams. The changes in Checco and Liliana are so subtle that by the time the inevitable climax is reached I was hard pressed to tell which character I disliked the most. Ultimately, it's the tragically loyal Melina with whom I sympathized. This film is a true testament to Fellini's genius as a filmmaker. Out of all of Fellini's tragic neo-realist films this is my favorite. I passionately loved and hated many of the characters and at times found myself yelling at the television. A must for any Fellini fan.
Fellini's fascinating debut.
darragh o'donoghue | 11/09/2001
(3 out of 5 stars)
"This is the '1/2' film alluded to in the title of Fellini's masterpiece '8 1/2', Il Maestro's debut, co-directed with the now-forgotten Alberto Lattuada. it tells the story of a troupe of small-time entertainers travelling through the provinces of Italy, playing in poky, leaking theatres to small, abusive audiences, their meagre fees impounded by hotel owners with long memories; they're usually forced to sneak train rides or walk miles between stops. Against this lively backdrop is a tragicomic romance, part-'A Star is Born', part-'The Blue Angel', between a middle-aged performer and a budding starlet. The former deludes himself about his greatness and influence in order to hide the cruel realities of failure and aging, but when the latter takes him at his word, he throws up the very real security his shambling peripatetic life offers, to promote his ambitious charge, with tragedy lurking around the corner. This tale has a nasty, misogynistic undertow, with Carla de Poggio's Lily portrayed as cold and almost homicidally calculating, and Peppino de Filippo's besotted loser Checco sentimentalised (although his is the one emotionally truthful performance in the film), but luckily it isn't the film's main interest. Although it's only half his work, many of Fellini's motifs, themes and stylistic trademarks are present - the uneasy co-existence of dusty, small-town Italy with the American-fuelled dreams of theatre and showbiz; the nocturnal, dream-like scenes on empty streets, where the lead meets strangers and has a kind of group epiphany in which reality is enchanted or suspended; the indulgent (though clear-eyed) portrait of flawed, family-like artist life against the soulless commericalism of the nouveau riche; the cinematic momentum in which plot is less important than set-pieces in which accumulated incidents and protracted character interaction achieve a kind of carnivalesque truth. Fellini would refine these elements later - scenes that should be magical fall a little flat; the characters aren't interesting or comic enough; the blaring music definitely lacks the Nino Rota touch - but the film is fascinating to see Fellini struggling with the limitations of his neo-realist apprenticeship."
First Glimpse at Fellini and Masina
bowery boy | 10/17/1999
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Though this was a joint directorial effort, Fellini's style shines through in many ways. A rambling, at times almost incoherent film, it nevertheless remains watchable for the liveliness of its characters and the story of the girl who literally "steals the show." It is also most noteworthy for the performance of the brilliant Giuliette Masina, whose character here is much different from the others she would play in Fellini classics, but her unique talent still shines through. It is worth the film price just to see her in action."
THE FIRST MOVIE OF A GIANT
wdanthemanw | Geneva, Switzerland | 12/30/2000
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Co-directed by Alberto Lattuada and Federico Fellini, VARIETY LIGHTS is without a doubt already in the library of those of you who long for quality titles available in the DVD standard. If you can find now almost the entire filmography of Jean-Claude Van Damme or Jackie Chan in DVD, only one Luis Bunuel movie for instance can be found amidst the thousands of titles you can buy.With VARIETY LIGHTS, you are going to join, before LA STRADA, the peculiar world of the artists with no name, the world of the Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire look-alikes performing in the 1950 Italy. The camera of Federico Fellini is always tender with these artists and doesn't judge them. Even the ambitious girl who will cheat on the man who has discovered her is depicted as a naive girl blinded by the lights of show-business.The copy presented by Criterion is far from being perfect but nonetheless is above-average. No bonus features except for a scene access, an interesting booklet, color bars and english subtitles.A DVD for Giulietta Masina."