I Vitelloni

I Vitelloni ★★★★½

One of the great aspects of cinema - and, art in general - is what it means to us and what we take from it at certain times in our lives.

However, I don’t know anymore if I’m intentionally watching films with themes of that transition period where you are young enough to be forward looking but old enough to reflect, where adolescence is behind you and a true, mature form of adulthood awaits. Or, if I’m just reading in the themes of this period into what I’m watching - the impulsivity of youth, the concern of one’s trajectory, the burden of responsibility, the determinative nature of time and place.

As someone nearing 30, these themes weigh on me. But, with I Vitelloni, one extended sequence really resonated with me.

Alberto is impulsive, gregarious, and, frankly, can be quite annoying and immature. That party sequence that shows him drinking and dancing feels like the centerpiece. He is the last one there dancing with a mannequin head, a decoration of the party. 

And, while although, we’ve always seen him in good spirits, Fellini shows us a drunken and delirious rant about being a nobody and needing to get married. Alberto is the last one at the party, everyone else has gone home, he has nothing to go home to. In this moment he verbalizes his own anxieties and projects them on others - his sense of his youth fading, that despite how he presents himself publicly he is dissatisfied.

In the preceding scene, he is getting ready and joking with his friends about how the woman in the other room is attracted to him. Seemingly simple but Fellini is saying a lot. Externally, it’s a bunch of men being immature. Internally, Alberto makes this joke as a form of masking (fitting since he is wearing a costume) - he makes these jokes because that’s all he can do, he knows he doesn’t have the emotional maturity to settle down or have a meaningful relationship. He is not mature enough, he is not responsible enough, he is not secure enough. Humor to mask the work he needs to do on himself - in simple terms, to grow up. Which, he has no real desire to do.

Then Alberto returns home to see his sister leaving. She’s moving on with her life - something Alberto seems incapable of doing.

This is a rich film by Fellini; however, it is a very masculine film - in many ways a critique of it. A confrontation of not being a young man anymore and needing to grow up. Fleeting moments of humor, but at its core a melancholic reflection on idleness, personally and physically.

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