Variety Lights (1950)

variety lights poster 1950 movie federico fellini
8.0 Overall Score
Story: 8/10
Acting: 8/10
Visuals: 8/10

Nice first outing by Fellini

Not as dynamic as later Fellini films

Movie Info

Movie Name: Variety Lights

Studio: Capitolium

Genre(s): Drama/Romance

Release Date(s):  December 1950 (Italy)/May 6, 1965 (US)

MPAA Rating: Not Rated

variety lights fellini cast

I don’t know who wouldn’t want to go to a performance by these wacky guys!

A small, down-on-their-luck performing troupe has a new member.  Liliana (Carla Del Poggio) first seems like a boon when she accidentally saves the show from a disastrous performance.  The fading show star Checco Dal Monte (Peppino De Filippo) has taken a particular interest in Liliana and her “talents”.  As Checco tries to woo the young Liliana, Liliana fame grows…and Checco finds that the lights of fame might soon leave him in the dark.

Directed by Federico Fellini and Alberto Lattuada (Fellini is credited with the story and shared scriptwriting credits), Variety Lights (Luce del varietà) is an Italian romantic drama.  Fellini’s first credited directing film, the movie was released to positive reviews.  The Criterion Collection released a remastered version of the film (Criterion #81) and also included it as part of the Essential Fellini boxset.

variety lights peppino del filippo carla del poggio

Using you?!?! Using you?!? You’re crazy…I’m totally into you…for now

When people talk about the arthouse style and storytelling of Fellini, they are often referring to his later works.  Variety Lights is a nice movie, and there isn’t a lot of pomp and circumstance to it.  It is just a classic story of the stage.

The movie has a person on the path down and a person on the path up.  Both Liliana and Checco are trying to use each other, except Liliana is much more successful at using Checco than Checco is at using Liliana.  Checco becomes blind to Liliana and forgets he’s using her…which leads of course to his downfall.  What is smart about the story is also the very ending of the film which has Checco making eyes at another young woman.  Checco is the type of person who never learns his lesson and can’t be happy with what he has.

The cast and the performances are strong.  Peppino De Filippo plays a good “sad sack” and despite his zeal when dealing with Liliana, the audience can still see how pathetic it is…and how he’s the one being used.  Carla Del Poggio also does a good job being more than a pretty face.  She is great at batting her eyelashes for her own benefit but can also be cold.  The tragic character of course is Giulietta Masina who plays Checco’s love who can’t seem to get off the Checco wagon no matter how bad he treats her.

variety lights liliana carla del poggio

I will be star!

The film isn’t the most dynamic of Fellini’s movies, but it still is a nice, good picture.  It is good to look back on some movies like Variety Lights to see that Fellini isn’t always about creating innovative shots and crazy storytelling methods…sometimes he does just tell a story.

Variety Lights is a nice movie with familiar themes.  It is a good start for Federico Fellini who went on to have a career that many directors dream of (and you an see nuggets of future films here).  While some directors seem to peak with their first film, Fellini demonstrates that he is just warming up and even the warm-up is pretty good.  Fellini followed Variety Lights with The White Sheik in 1952.

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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