At their ripest, director Federico Fellini’s oddities were a heavy brew of John Waters and Luis Buñuel, topped with a fat squirt of Russ Meyer jiggle. They weren’t always good (and frequently so) but they were an unforgettable concoction of surrealism, snottiness and sex. Film students worship the decadent second act of Fellini’s career for giving the standard plot-characters-action-climax routine the finger (though his perfect execution of it in films like Nights of Cabiria and La Strada is what bronzed his reputation), and even when most grow out of it, they always love Amarcord. And rightly so.
This handsome Criterion Collection DVD set, with accompanying book of the late auteur’s journal, showcases the finest film of Fellini’s self-indulgent late period where he finally hit upon the perfect balance between honesty and magic doing his autobiography, fractured and melting under the distance of memory. Characters—the buxom vamp, the suicidal mama, the uncle in the asylum—are larger than life (even the midget nun), and as they bicker, lust and dance as the onset of World War II creeps ever closer, their tale takes on a gloomy gravity; we know the party’s about to end, with a wicked hangover on the horizon. (Amy Nicholson) On DVD from Criterion