Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

La Dolce Vita (1960)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

La Dolce Vita (1960, It./Fr.) (aka The Sweet Life)

In Federico Fellini's landmark masterpiece, the episodic tale of a journey of seven days to search for and discover "the sweet life" by a frustrated, shallow, gossip and publicity-seeking, celebrity writer; most of the film's activities occurred over seven nights (either consecutive or disconnected), and were always followed by a disappointing, dawning morning:

  • the image in the opening scene of a helicopter lifting and transporting a huge plaster statue of the figure of Christ with outstretched arms over the city of Rome (the Eternal City), flying next to the ancient ruins of a Roman aqueduct and then across to the Vatican's St. Peter's, while a second news-papparazi helicopter flew close behind - and over a group of four pretty bikinied females sunbathing on a high-rise rooftop who were waving, and drowned out by the loud helicopter noise (this scene was book-ended by the final sequence - again emphasizing blocked conversations or communications)
The Lengthy Opening Fly-By Sequence
  • the main character - playboy gossip writer-journalist Marcello Rubini (Marcello Mastroianni) in the second helicopter, who lived a decadent and hedonistic lifestyle of parties, night life at clubs, orgies, and paparrazi-fueled events
  • Marcello's early dalliance with bored and restless, nymphomaniacal rich socialite Maddalena (Anouk Aimee) whom he met in a nightclub - then she drove them to the flooded basement apartment of a prostitute where they made love, while he was in a live-in relationship with miserable, sickly, possessive, suicidal and depressed Emma (Yvonne Furneaux), who had overdosed and was hospitalized
  • the arrival and entry of bosomy, sexy, and seductive blonde Hollywood starlet Sylvia (Anita Ekberg), a Swedish-American actress, surrounded by photographers, reporters, her film producer Toto Scalise, and her abusive boyfriend-fiancee Robert (Lex Barker)
  • the classic night-time sequence - following a dull party attended by both Marcello and Sylvia dressed in a revealing black evening gown - the two drove off and then the voluptuous Sylvia spontaneously went wading, dancing, cavorting and cooling off in the water of Rome's Trevi Fountain (a practice now banned) to tempt Marcello to join her - and after he did, she anointed his head with some fountain water
Famed Trevi Fountain Sequence
  • the memorable rural sequence of two children alleging to have seen the Madonna in a tree - but then fooling the hysterical crowds of devotees and reporters by falsely claiming to see Madonna everywhere, and ending with the tragic trampling of a sickly child
  • the scene of Marcello's short reunion with his estranged father (Annibale Ninchi) who became ill as the result of too much drinking and a mild heart attack, and wished to leave Rome abruptly; during their parting, Marcello lamented about the infrequency of their visits: "We never see each other"
  • the Bassano di Sutri sequence in an aristocratic castle outside of Rome, beginning with Marcello at a Via Veneto cafe, where he met up with ex-German-born model Nico (Nico Otzak) - who accompanied him to the Roman villa where a dissolute party was in progress; there he again met up with Maddalena, to whom he admitted he could find love, although after losing interest, she departed for a tryst with another man
  • the shocking suicidal death of Marcello's idolized writer friend Steiner (Alain Cuny) who murdered his two small children and then himself
  • later, in the beach-house scene, recently-divorced, exhibitionist Nadia (Nadia Gray) performed a depersonalizing, modified strip-tease to the cha-cha musical sound of Patricia - removing her fur stole, pearl necklace, and bra from under her dress, and then her dress, shoes and stockings as she laid on the floor; under the fur stole, she removed her black slip - with only her black panties remaining on her nude body; however, after being mostly ignored by her disinterested and jaded guest audience, she covered herself up and ran off
The Decadent Party - Striptease, Piggyback Ride, Feathers
  • soon after, Marcello unsuccessfully attempted to instigate an orgy (he rode horse-back on a young blonde woman crawling on all fours; he struck her butt a few times, then grabbed her hair, slapped her face, doused her with a pitcher of water, and threw pillow feathers onto her)
  • the final scene of the partiers proceeding to the beach by the ocean at dawn, where they discovered a monstrous, grotesquely-ugly sting-ray fish (with two giant eyes) caught in a fishermen's net and dead for three days - but still staring: (Marcello: "And it insists on looking"), and the still drunken Marcello gesturing that he was unable to hear (or couldn't understand) the calls of adolescent waitress Paolo (Valeria Ciangottini) from afar and across a small estuary; she watched and enigmatically smiled as he was joined by another woman and they walked away

Marcello Rubini (Marcello Mastroianni) with Maddalena (Anouk Aimee)

Ovredosed Emma (Yvonne Furneaux)

Arrival of Starlet Sylvia (Anita Ekberg)

Marcello's Ailing, Estranged Father

Beached Sting-Ray Fish

Adolescent Waitress Paolo (Valeria Ciangottini)


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