Variety Lights

Film - Feature | January 19 | 4:30 p.m. |  Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive

 Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive

In his first film, Fellini shared directorial credit with Alberto Lattuada. Critics have traditionally attributed the film’s idiosyncratic tenor and imagery to Fellini, although, as film historian Mira Liehm wrote, “both [directors] were intrigued by the Pirandellian unknowable worlds and by the existential quest for identity . . . the multiple personalities of . . . protagonists caught in a tangle of frustrations.” Certainly we can find in Variety Lights prototypes for the downtrodden eccentrics and comic grotesques, and the mood of pathetic humor, that would fill Fellini’s films right up to Ginger and Fred. The story deals with a motley troupe of small-time vaudevillians led by the incorrigible dreamer Checco (Peppino De Filippo), who fancies himself impresario and lothario in one. His fiancée, Melina (Giulietta Masina), bears the brunt of his ridiculous conceit when he betrays her for Liliana (Carla Del Poggio), whose star is on the rise. Fellini cast Masina in a role she would own for years to come: the only one among the clowns who never wears a mask.

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