News  ·  11 | 08 | 2023

La città delle donne

A film about the existential defeat of man at a time when no one would have even thought about it, at least not in Italy.

© Collection Gaumont

Federico Fellini's masterpiece arrived in Italian and world cinemas in 1980 came to close a decade in which the filmmaker had speculated with almost disarming lucidity on the role of the "male" in modern society. La città delle donne is cloaked in metaphorical meaning even higher if seen as a brilliant "mirror" of Federico Fellini's Casanova. Both films reflect in depth and pessimism on the "lie" of the man-lover as the supporting fulcrum around which the society of hedonism and emotional consumption revolves. If the first film, however, featured the extraordinary performance of Donald Sutherland as a fallen angel in an unmade and funereal universe, in the second case Fellini instead relies once again on a suave and impalpable Marcello Mastroianni, and builds around him a work that, despite its obvious aura of decadence, is sunnier and airier.

On closer inspection, the Snàporaz protagonist of La città delle donne is a ghost, that of his archetype of a Latin lover reduced (rightly) to a sacrificial lamb on the altar of a world that now belongs to women. And it becomes even more so thanks to the caustic incipit of the film, in which the volatile and vain character tries to seduce the beautiful stranger on the train. Never as in this feature film Fellini uses his actor-fetish to tell instead of himself, and his hedonic relationship with the opposite sex. The mumblings of Snàporaz while he cannot contain his lust lost in the Roman countryside are a mixture of Italian and English that seem to belong to the torn mind of the director, just as, in the painful scene of the confrontation with his estranged wife, the physical conformation of the woman clearly resembles that of Giulietta Masina. From this point of view, La città delle donne wants to be an explicit and joyful act of contrition by a filmmaker always willing to question himself, constantly looking for the most aesthetically appropriate way to tell the public that his poetics, his obsessions, his cinematographic world are based on the ephemeral, on the transience of ideas and personal convictions and therefore perfectible. Fellini is a filmmaker without a past or future precisely because he has always shown us his limits, and with them the extraordinary ability to see beyond. Using, as in his best works, against a setting of suffocating expressive power, Snàporaz crosses the lines of his "male" hell with a melancholic lightness that only Marcello Mastroianni could give him. And not because the actor, of course, knew both the character and the filmmaker behind it. There is something more suffused and complex in this psychology, as if it were a last attempt at emotional denial of one's "male" faults before the definitive acceptance of one's mistakes. La città delle donne is a film about the existential defeat of man at a time when no one would have even thought about it, at least not in Italy. As it was written, Federico Fellini has no past or future: he is an eternally timeless filmmaker.


Adriano Ercolani


Snàporaz is the nickname with which Fellini affectionately called Marcello Mastroianni since the time of filming on the set of 81/2 and derives from a character of a comic book he invented.