If anyone ever asks why Federico Fellini is one of the greats of filmmaking, all that should be necessary is to direct them to his 1973 film Amarcord. (If that fails, I suppose you might try 8 1/2 (1963), and if that fails, give up trying to reason with them.) Amarcord and 8 1/2 strike me as the most perfect of Fellini’s films, though I give a slight edge to Amarcord simply because of its generosity of spirit. When this screened locally back in 2006, I wrote that the film “is a reminiscence on Fellini’s childhood in the town of Rimini. The narrative covers a year of life there in an often-quirky manner (as befits a quirky town), but in an always affectionate one. Whether dealing with the discoveries of adolescence, the simple delights of an earlier era, local myths, the rise of Mussolini and fascism, the influence of the town’s priest, a family outing, an early sexual encounter, assorted eccentric characters, the wonders of a sudden snowfall—what have you—Fellini’s touch is assured and loving. Characters are seen as peculiar, foolish, even ricidulous, but no one—save a fantasy image of Il Duce and the fascists—is observed cruelly. And even Il Duce is presented more as an outrageous absurdity than anything else.” That’s pretty much still where I stand on this film—a work that is of such beauty that it rivals that of the peacock that shows up in the film. The really remarkable thing about the film to me is the way in which it depicts memory—makng no attempt to present it realistically, but as a brightly colored flood of images and experiences as they exist in the filmmaker’s mind years and years later. Calling it a fantasy actually does it a disservice, because it’s more true than realism could ever hope to be—and infinitely more alive.
Classic World Cinema by Courtyard Gallery will present Amarcord at 8 p.m. on Friday, April 6, at Phil Mechanic Studios, 109 Roberts St., River Arts District, upstairs in the Railroad Library). Info: 273-3332, www.ashevillecourtyard.com