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Fellini, La Grande Parade at Jeu de Paume

Sarah Moroz writing for VINGT ParisFellini_DolceVita1                        

Self-described as "neither chronological nor filmographic", the exhibit Fellini, La Grande Parade seems to structurally mirror the merry mayhem of a Fellini movie itself. The array of materials too is like a Fellini film: copious to the point of brimming over, with a vast scope of archival photos, press clippings, drawings, and film excerpts at regular intervals, all of which the two floors at the Jeu de Paume seem barely to be able to contain. A row of small archival photos from Pierluigi and Cineteca di Bologna usher the visitor into the exhibit, where things quickly devolve into a dizzying chaos of information and images. The first floor picks out thematic threads in Fellini's oeuvre, while the second floor explores the personal relationships he had with his stars and crew.

Federico Fellini was truly all-encompassing. He was prescient about modern pop culture (i.e. about rock & roll, the effects of celebrity, the paparazzi and the view of Rome as a European Hollywood) all while playing with Catholic traditions (even at the expense of angering religious authorities with his satirical interpretations) and maintaining a fascination with people both in the spotlight and in the margins.


His early work as a caricaturist has a different sensibility than the glamorous romping of his films, and yet both media forms are bridged by an overt love of the bawdy. His sketches are heavy on the tongue-in-cheek: a sense of the absurd is always capitalized on. This lucidly translates into the ethos of his films: the hedonism of free spirited creativity, the pageantry of performance, the indulgence of appetite - visual, sexual, gastronomic - creates a world where all desires are explored. The circus and the music hall, filled with costumes, bare flesh, movement, and song, serves as a modern homage to the commedia dell'arte. The ceaseless sensuousness of his films, from stripteases, to pin-ups, to tawdry affairs, and the ever present beauty worship, is on full display. And Fellini's female fetishization clearly did not just manifest itself onscreen. Many extracts from Le Livre de Mes Reves, Fellini's visual and textual dream diary written under Jungian influence, depict gouache fantasies peopled by enormous women whose hilly curves Fellini insatiably craves.

Fellini_DolceVita3 His personal relationships are mentioned, but glossed over somewhat. It would have been interesting to know more about his friendhsip with Marcello Mastroianni, the actor frequently considered his onscreen incarnation. Learning more about his relationship Giulietta Masina, his wife of many years and star of some of his most beloved films, would have been of interest as well. But at least his collaborations with Nino Rota (music) and Piero Gherardi (art direction and costume design) are each given attention. The indelible impact of Anita Eckberg is given quite a tribute: her cavorting Trevi fountain scene is given its own corner, a wall full of her glamor shots is on display, and there's a somewhat sad meditation on aging as the elder Mastroianni and Eckberg look back at their young performances ("helplessly", according to the museum's descriptive panel) in Fellini's 1987 film Intervista. In the latter, the gorgeous era of youth becomes firmly sealed in the past -- mythological, yes, but long gone.

A feeling of oversaturation starts kicking in on the second floor. There is so much displayed, in so many domains. In and of themselves, the films provide an incredible breadth of material to discuss, on top of which are heaped the creativity of the production team behind-the-scenes, the mythos of the stars and the clout of their celebrity, Fellini's fascination with women, plus the rolodex of crazy characters recruited as extras. It really is a "grande parade", and the exhaustive schmorgasbord of Fellini's legacy is thrilling if at times almost overpowering.

Fellini, Grande Parade on through January 17, 2024 at Jeu de Paume.

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