The flying statue of Jesus, hovering over Rome via helicopter; Anita Ekberg, voluptuously traipsing around the Trevi Fountain; that climactic metaphor of a bloated, beached sea creature, staring dead-eyed at Marcello Mastroianni's fatigued urban Candide. It's so easy to reduce Federico Fellini's three-ring satire of the Euro-chic "good life" to iconic scenes, or to accept the movie simply as a canonized classic (of course it's great; they teach it in college courses!), that you can forget what a damning indictment of This Mondo Modern World it really is.
Yes, Film Forum's two-week revival of il maestro's groundbreaking work should be considered mandatory attendance anyway, given that this new 35mm restoration is gorgeous; the movie's aristocratic filth has never looked so pristine. But the real reason to wallow once more in its parade of faux Madonnas and real whores, rich junkies and jerkwads, parasitic paparazzi (a term the film coined), dim-bulb starlets, drunken louts and the lowest of the low---that'd be journalists---is to recognize, with stunning clarity, the morally bankrupt, media-fried here and now. Historians can laud it as the transitional pause before the director fully abandoned any neorealistic flourishes and dove into the psycho-personal surrealism known as the Fellini-esque. Yet everyone else will simply admire, in slack-jawed stupor, the way this 51-year-old time capsule thoroughly predicts the era of TMZ, Paris Hilton and celebutante overload. Everything has changed, and nothing has changed. How sour it still is.