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VIDEO REWIND : 'I Vitelloni' Remembers Tender and Callow Fellows

November 10, 1994|MARK CHALON SMITH

There's not much action in "I Vitelloni," one of Federico Fellini's earliest and finest films about coming of age in southern Italy.

In fact, the ever-present narrator tells us at one point that the only news worth reporting in the lives of the five young men at the center of Fellini's 1953 movie is this: "In the next few months, the most important things that happened were that Riccardo grew a mustache and Alberto grew sideburns, while Fausto shaved his mustache off."

Of course, that bit of info is pure irony, for in "I Vitelloni," Fellini is actually looking closely at what makes Riccardo (Riccardo Fellini, the director's brother), Alberto (Alberto Sordi), Fausto (Franco Fabrizi), Moraldo (Franco Interlenghi) and Leopoldo (Leopoldo Trieste) tick.

The picture, whose title loosely translates into "The Big Loafers," is an insightful and gently sarcastic take on men in perpetual adolescence--doing nothing out on the corner, chasing girls and avoiding as much responsibility as they can. They don't work, and you wonder if they'll ever grow up.

We first see them cruising down a town square. The narrator lets us know that Fausto is the group's "leader and spiritual guide," a snide crack, considering that the womanizing Fausto is, at the moment, trying to pick up a woman. Fausto eventually gets another girl pregnant and they have to marry, causing assorted complications. He still chases other women, though, often with his pals at his side.

The imagery is, as usual with Fellini, colorful and more than a little sexy. An especially wild scene at a carnival foreshadows Fellini's later fascination with anything circus-like. It also shows just how foolish these boys can be; the actors, although relatively inexperienced, are all first-rate at being callow.

But even when having fun with who they are, Fellini is rarely cruel. We go along with him in this casual dissection, realizing that they may all be a bit ridiculous, but they're also likable and genuine.

"I Vitelloni" (1953), directed by Federico Fellini, 104 minutes. Not rated.

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