Thursday, December 23, 2010

12 Days of Favorites: La Dolce Vita

The story of Love & Squalor begins many years before the fateful meeting of Wilde.Dash and M, long before the almost nightly movie marathons on uncomfortable and rank smelling dorm furniture and Sound of Music sing-a-longs. From the mid 80’s on, unaware of each others’ presence, M and Wilde.Dash were bonding with family, not over board games or a large family meal (ok, there was a lot of that too), but over the likes of Woody Allen and Walter Pidgeon. The holidays in said families were filled with the usual Christmas fair, but also with strange family film favorites and traditions. So hang your stockings with care and when your sister starts complaining about your billionth viewing of It’s a Wonderful Life and how boooooring it is, spend your 12 Days of Christmas with the movies that have followed Love & Squalor from infancy to bloggerhood.


I wasn't going to include La Dolce Vita this time around.  There are quite a few reasons for this.  It would be best to save the film for lists of actual favorites, for example. Or, I should hold off until we get around to counting  the movies that inspired us.  The main reason for its exclusion, however, would be because it's actually my favorite movie.  Period.  As such, my repeat viewings have absolutely nothing to do with tradition or family connection.  There's not a thing in the film I can relate back to holidays or gatherings around the television.  Yet, excluding it feels wrong.  La Dolce Vita is generally a solo affair, and there are points in my life where I just need to put that DVD in and totally disappear into Fellini's sparkling black and white; into that dark, beautifully twisted Rome.  As with the bulk of Fellini's work, there's much that could be written about the film and its impactwhich is why for the purpose of this entry I'll skip over that completely and do as I've been doing.  My first encounter with the film was actually during a very black period of civilization in which La Dolce Vita was not available to purchase or rent in any format.  How could one of the masterworks of cinema be out of commission for so long?  I haven't the faintest idea, but let's all look back and reflect for a quick second upon how limited our options were with home video, shall we?  And done.  The first time I ever saw the film, it was in a double set of VHS tapes that had lost their cardboard packaging at some mysterious point just after the dawn of time.  It was the summer just after my freshman year of college and, for academic purposes (as I was in fact basically getting a crash course in world cinema courtesy of a research scholar position), I convinced the normally obtuse media librarian to dig through the stored portions of the under construction school library and dig up this particular artifact.  That's not all, I also talked her in to letting me take the film off campus.  If it sounds like no big deal, let me tell you: you never met this woman.  She was terrifying.  I kid you not when I tell you that (in the old library) her calendar was pinned to the wall with a knife.   Somehow, though, I talked my way through it.  After all, I couldn't be expected to park myself for three hours in such squalor.  I mean, come on?  I heard they were testing for asbestos and everything.  Moving on.  There's no other way to say this: that viewing, in the midst of roughly 75 other films during the course of those two months, changed everything.  When I watch it, it's because I have to.  It's art, and it simply doesn't feel like anything else out there and I love it, am in love with it, and am terribly jealous that I will never make it.  One day, when you're older, I'll talk your ear off about the film itself...

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