I Vitelloni (1953)

i vitelloni poster 1953 movie
8.5 Overall Score
Story: 8/10
Acting: 8/10
Visuals: 9/10

Good looking, Fellini is finding his form

Fellini usually isn't for people hoping for a story driven film

Movie Info

Movie Name: I Vitelloni

Studio:  Cité Films

Genre(s): Comedy/Drama

Release Date(s):  August 26, 1953 (Venice Film Festival)/September 17, 1953 (Italy)/October 23, 1956 (US)

MPAA Rating: Not Rated

i vitelloni italy beach

Why work?

In a small coastal town, Fausto Moretti (Franco Fabrizi), Moraldo Rubini (Franco Interlenghi), Riccardo (Riccardo Fellini), Alberto (Alberto Sordi), and Leopoldo Vannucci (Leopoldo Trieste) spend their days lounging and laying about while others work.  The group discover the first cracks when Fausto is forced to marry Moraldo’s sister Sandra (Leonora Ruffo) when he gets her pregnant and finds himself in an unsatisfying job.  While each man tries to find their way, Fausto realizes that just because he’s married, he isn’t ready to give up the single life.

Written and directed by Federico Fellini (based on a story created by himself and Tullio Pinelli with additional scripting by Ennio Flaiano), I Vitelloni is an Italian comedy-drama.  Translating as The Bullocks or The Layabouts, the film followed Fellini’s 1952 film The White Sheik.  The film premiered at the Vince Film Festival where it won the Silver Lion and also received an Academy Award nomination for Best Original Story.  The Criterion Collection released a remastered version of the film (Criterion #246) and also included it in the Essential Fellini boxset.

i vitelloni fausto marries sandra leonora ruffo franco fabrizi

When the guy tries to run away when he learns you’re pregnant, this might not work out

In Fellini’s third outing, Fellini really finds his footing in the cinema.  While the first two films were kind of rom-com type movies, I Vitelloni gives that slice of life presentation that Fellini is often known for.  With a quintet of lazy, slackers, I Vitelloni shows that no matter how things change, young adults struggle with that transition to adulthood that is often forced upon them.

While comedic at times, the movie isn’t a comedy in the strict definition.  The humor in the film comes from the humor in life and the people that live in the world.  While Fausto is rather despicable in his behavior (even hitting on a married woman while sitting next to his pregnant wife in the theater), the viewer doesn’t necessarily hate him which would be more apt in a straight drama.  The characters are very human.  They have their faults and sometimes their faults direct their actions more than hinder them…it feels truer than a straight-up comedy with punch lines and yuks built into the script.  Life has drama, and life has comedy.

i vitelloni leopoldo triest achille majeroni

He likes me…he really likes me!

While the film proclaims to be about the five characters, Fausto, Moraldo, and Sandra get the juiciest roles.  Franco Fabrizi plays the type of guy that gets by on his machismo and confidence more than his looks, and it serves him well.  Franco Interlenghi feels largely like the quiet observer that has to turn his eyes with Fausto wrongs his sister.  Sandra has the battered housewife syndrome that keeps her with Fausto despite his philandering.  Leopoldo Trieste gets a nice storyline when his dreams are shattered when his admiration is mistaken for something else and Alberto Sordi plays the mama’s boy who has too much fun at the party.  Federico Fellini’s brother Riccardo Fellini is the least developed of the bunch and feels like he needs more of a role in the script or should be eliminated to allow more time for the Leopoldo or Alberto characters.  I spent most of the movie thinking the characters were supposed to be in the late teens or early twenties, but later in movie Fausto says he’s thirty…making his slacking even worse (though none of the actors look young).

i vitelloni alberto sordi

Ain’t no party like an Italy festival party!

The first two Fellini movies were rather standard fare on visuals, but this starts to get more distinctive.  In addition to the city streets of the small town, you get a wild carnival sequence that really pops…even in black-and-white.  You can practically see the color and feel the music.  The cleaned up HD versions of Fellini’s films really pop regardless if they are in color or black-and-white.

I Vitelloni is more of what you picture a Fellini picture to be.  It doesn’t have much of a defined plot and it is more about the idea of the movies and life.  These slackers, if they are in their late-twenties, have nothing on Benjamin Braddock from The Graduate or Ferris Bueller from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off…times change but people often don’t, and it is another reason that people admire of like the laissez-faire world of European coast.  The film has a lot of resemblances to Amarcord which has the same personal quasi-biographic feel to it.  It is interesting to look at these two pictures together to see the similarities and differences in story and style.  Fellini followed I Vitelloni with the “Un’agenzia matrimoniale segment of the anthology film Love in the City also released in 1953 and then the feature film La strada in 1954.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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