In pre-World War II Sicily, just as the fascists come to power, two men fall in love with the same woman. The changes in their country's politics ultimately take all three on a journey across the ocean to New York City.
In 1914, a luxury ship leaves Italy in order to scatter the ashes of a famous opera singer. A lovable bumbling journalist chronicles the voyage and meets the singer's many eccentric friends and admirers.
Six separate episodes: would-be suicides discuss their despair. A provincial dance hall. An investigative reporter posing as a husband-to-be. A young unwed mother. Girl-watching techniques of Italian men. A glimpse into prostitution.
Aging small-time con man Augusto, who swindles peasants, works with two younger men: Roberto, who wants to become the Italian Johnny Ray, and Bruno, nicknamed Picasso, who has a wife and daughter and wants to paint. Augusto avoids the personal entanglements, spending money at clubs seeking the good life. His attitude changes when he runs into his own daughter, whom he rarely sees, and realizes she's now a young woman and in need of his help to continue her studies. His usual partners are away, so he goes in with others to run a swindle, and they aren't forgiving when he claims he's given the money back to their mark. They leave him beaten, robbed, and alone.Written by
French visa # 17397 (original version) and 17367/D (dubbed version) See more »
Do you still carry a skull with you?
[to Picasso in the back seat]
If you shake his hand, make sure to count your fingers. There might be a couple missing.
Look who's talking!
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The DVD released by Image Entertainment in 2001 is 91 minutes. A 114-minute print of the film is circulating art houses and festivals (2003). See more »
Though I'd seen Il Bidone many years ago on TV, I didn't realise it was a Fellini film until the internet joined the dots between film titles and synopsises. I always did remember its starkness, its raw beauty and its redemptive narrative - and at last I bought the DVD and was reunited with this minor classic.
This is where the re-watch proved its worth - the multi-layers of post- war Italian society; its Catholicism fighting at odds with poverty and corruption. The characters interweave their human stories to take us on various personal journeys. Fellini's attempt to include American actors as the male leads, dubbed, fooled me - the oft drawling Broderick Crawford seemed perfect as the guilt-weary protagonist (aka The Swindler) who in actuality was often drunk on set.
For me, the audacious nature of the Swindlers in action, abusing the Catholic position of power by posing as high clergy and conning penniless peasants was bold; certainly for its time. Re-watching brought the trademark Fellini wild party in full swing - as wild and spirited as any he's staged - all rather sickened and over-the-top; portrayed as being funded by immoral, criminal money and in total pursuit of power and hedonism. The ending is one of those that etches itself into your psyche, both haunting and provocative.
However, unlike most 'popular' Fellini films, the leads aren't that likable and one doesn't rally with them in the way of, say, Cabiria or La Strada. That maybe explains why this Fellini isn't generally known, or loved. It's actually rather closer to La Dolce Vita in tone and could be seen as a precursor to that classic.
Il Bidone isn't the easiest film to watch and has its faults; a jarring narrative and inconsistencies that one accepts from amateur crowds on location. But this does add up to a naturally buzzing and strident film, balanced by occasional poignant moments of tenderness as consciences are so sorely pricked, it's heartbreaking.
So, if you're into Fellini, don't let this one pass you by. The director is in his prime here, as voyeur and narrator rather than the self-satisfied but still genius of his indulgent 8 and a half.
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