Amarcord (1973)

Genres - Comedy Drama  |   Sub-Genres - Coming-of-Age, Ensemble Film  |   Run Time - 127 min.  |   Countries - France, Italy  |   MPAA Rating - R
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Review by Dan Jardine

"Amarcord" is the phonetic translation of the Italian words "Mi Ricordo" (I remember) as pronounced in the dialect of Emilia-Romagna, the birthplace of director Federico Fellini and the setting of this wonderful film. Little surprise, then, that it is a poignant and bawdy semi-autobiographical coming-of-age tale, with an ethereal, dreamlike quality that combines sharply drawn memories with vividly engaging fantasy. Like William Wordsworth, Fellini implies that the child is father to the man, and Amarcord is a both a lament for and an homage to his hometown. Employing a picaresque style, Fellini expertly weaves the tales of a wild menagerie of characters in pre-WW II Italy. No mere sentimentalist, he also tackles the prickly issue of the emergence of Fascism. The film takes careful aim at fanatics, while conserving its empathy for the lost, questing, confused, and lonely individuals in its midst. The family at the center of it all, loosely based on Fellini's own, is a well-drawn melange of coarse, pathetic, colorful, clever, and cranky characters. While Fellini does not choose nostalgic sepia tones, he does shoot much of the film in muted colors that seem slightly out-of-focus, as if he were attempting to transport us into a dreamlike state. Blending scenes of pathos and humor, vulgar carnal desire and transcendent magical illumination (the peacock's standing in the newly fallen snow, spreading its magnificent plumage is this film's signature image), Amarcord won the lion's share of 1974's Best Foreign Film awards, including the New York Film Critics Circle, the National Board of Review, the Golden Globe, and the Academy Award, and it remains a triumph of personal filmmaking.