Fellini’s ode to the city of Rome is far from a coherent narrative, but as a selection of images and sounds celebrating the famed Italian capital, it’s dazzling and hugely enjoyable. Stylistically, it’s a perfect bridge between the excesses of Satyricon and the nostalgia of Amarcord, and it showcases the true love that Fellini had for the Eternal City. Mixing autobiographical flashbacks with the travails of a present-day movie company making a film about the city (headed up by Fellini himself), Roma is an impressionistic tour de force, delivered via Fellini’s unique cinematic vision. If you can’t tolerate Fellini’s larger-than-life approach, the sometimes-garish colors, or the circus atmosphere, you’ll probably find Roma insufferable. But fans of Fellini will be in seventh heaven, especially during some of the wonderful set pieces–a music dance hall performance that’s interrupted by bombing during World War II; a papal fashion show that’s so surreal it must be seen to be believed; and a breathtaking sequence in which the film crew, tagging along with an archaeological dig, happens upon an ancient Roman catacomb and watches as the beautiful murals disintegrate before their eyes. Through it all, Fellini’s passion for Rome (and moviemaking) shines through, especially in the film’s climax, a dialogue-free sequence of motorcycles roaring through the city at night, a tour that ends at the magnificent Colosseum. At that marriage of past and present, Roma is about as perfect as cinema can get.
Peter Gonzales plays the young Fellini, and the film features mainly unknowns in the cast, but includes uncredited guest appearances by Anna Magnani, Marcello Mastroianni, Feodor Chaliapin, Jr., Alberto Sordi,Gore Vidal, John Francis Lane, Elliott Murphy and Fellini himself.