Federico Fellini’s second feature, *I Vitelloni* (literal trans.: “fatted veal calves”; figurative trans.: “the guys”), is an honest, unpretentious work from the Master before he became besotted with his own self-indulgence.
It’s autobiographical in several indirect ways. The depictions here of young men who are not quite so young anymore, living with their mothers, settling for dead-end jobs or simply not working, and generally languishing their lives away, are based on Fellini’s own observations of such fellows in his boyhood home of Rimini. Autobiographical too in its sense of style: the movie is inescapably stamped by the Neo-Realism of Fellini’s apprenticeship. The grimy faces of working-class people, crumbling tenements, and weed-choked rail-yards are all here. But with a difference: Fellini casts a critical eye on this scene, eschewing the usual Neo-Realist appeal to our presumed socialist sympathies. *I Vitelloni* is not a political film in the usual mid-century Italian manner. Fellini gives us a quintet of heroes who, for the most part, aspire to be bourgeois big-shots of their shabby seacoast town. Not content with that, he makes them lazy, as well . . . and then he asks us to root for them, to actually like them! Needless to say, the intelligentsia of the period didn’t warm to this film, even as the film-going public in Europe loved it, recognizing themselves and their friends and their own hometowns in it. Read More »