JONH BAXTER ON FELLINI + FELLINI VS VISCONTI
SAT 9 MAY @ 2PM | Arc Cinema | $12/$10
2014 | TBC | 55 mins | DCP | France | D: Marie-Dominique Montel, Christopher Jones
Expatriate Australian author and filmmaker John Baxter returns to Australia - where he was born - to present a lecture on Fredrico Fellini to be followed by the Australian premiere of Fellini vs Visconti - Italian Standoff, a documentary tracing the 20-year feud between the two great Italian directors.
John Baxter's book Fellini (published by Fourth Estate in 1993) is the only biography of the director in English and is regarded as the standard work on the geat filmmkaer. John worked with Fellini himself on the book.
The feud between Fellini and Visconti started at the Venice Film Festival in 1954 when Visconti supporters, led by his assistant Franco Zeffirelli, booked throughout the screening of Fellini's La Strada. Fellini's film shared the Silver Lion. Visconti's film Senso recieved no award.
The directors then traded insults over the event. Fellini, said Visconti, made 'neo-abstraction'. Visconti, said Fellini, 'made films for queers'. For the next two decades, the directors 'perfected the art of ignoring each other' and their friends amd filmmaking colleagues (including Nina Rota, Marcello Mastroianni, Giuseppe Rotunno) divided into camps of 'Viscontians' and 'Fellinians' until it'became impossible to be friends with both of them'.
Many of their films were in similtaneous production on the Cinecitta soundstages and many were released in the same year, causing heated competition at film festival between the two antagonist cineastes.
After La Strada vs Senso came La Dolce Vita (Fellini) vs Rocco and His Brothers (Visconti) in 1960; 8 1/2 (Fellini) vs The Leopard (Visconti) in 1963; Satyricon (Fellini) vs The Damned (Visconti) in 1969 and Roma/Amarcord (both Fellini) vs Ludwig (Visconti) in 1972.
Claudia Cardinale remembers being cast for both The Leopard and 8 1/2, alternating between sets and having to change her hair colour from blonde to brunette and back again to satisfy the demands of both directors.
Visconti and Fellini had nothing in common but Rome and making films. One was a communist, the other a Vatican supporter. One a 'dreamer', the other a 'disillusioned aristocrat'. One saw life as an opera and the other like a circus.