Isn’t the seaside a beautiful place? No, not particularly. I have been to the place Dracula terrorised in that fictional piece from centuries ago, and the only other beach I’ve been to I split both knees open and had two ice creams plugged on them to stop the bleeding. Such is the life of the Englishman, which is far, far removed from that of Amarcord and the sensational memories director Federico Fellini has for his childhood and family life. The differences between the beaches of sunny England and rainy Italy are night and day. For one thing, there are no broken bottles, heroin needles or plastic bags littering this beautiful seaside resort where Titta (Bruno Zanin) spends his childhood.
As he grows, we grow with him, developing as we see him navigate the stern warnings and life lessons he picks up from a variety of clunky but earnest characters. That is the beauty of the later Fellini features. He has made his peace with the image of a director in 8 ½ and has removed himself from the seedy brilliance of Nights of Cabiria. But what is the alternative? There has always been a tone of sentimentalism to the work of Fellini, but here it feels muddled and unwilling to part from the comfortable blanket that defines so many memories.
Sentimentalism can work as an intelligent and striking tool. There are flickers of such strong utilisation within Amarcord, but not enough to persuade me that it is effective more than a handful of times. Fellini has stories he wishes to tell, and whether or not they are of any use or interest to an audience is up entirely to the individual themselves. A palette as wide as that can only lead to disaster. To offer such a variety and attempt a broad appeal leads to no fixed tone. Titta is a great leading character, and his scenes share the musings Fellini has for his own life at the time. Will he be remembered by those that mean the most to him? Only time will tell, and it is something audiences should think about too. It is hard to grasp because Fellini is busy both reminiscing of the childhood he longs to return to, the implications of never growing up, and also knocking the terrifying reign of Mussolini.
Fellini has bitten off more than he can chew, but Amarcord on the whole is an engaging piece of film. It is not the most memorable of his work, it would be hard to achieve the greatness that 8 ½ managed, but Amarcord is in a similar vein to that self-analysis. Where that may have been an invitation into what the role of a director is in society, Amarcord is trying to understand the role of the individual. What is the importance of someone clinging onto their glory days in the little village that raised them? Fellini tries to understand it and asks the right questions, but he has no way of answering them. Not just because he does not know, but because these experiences are so far removed from what he had worked with and through for so many decades after his childhood.