La dolce vita (1960)

Federico Fellini’s epic charts a week in the life of a tabloid journalist (Marcello Mastroianni) as the excesses of modern Roman life go on around him.

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Film details

Alternative titles

  • The Sweet Life Alternative
  • La Douceur de vivre Alternative French


“La dolce vita transcended its meaning as a work of art and came to be regarded as a landmark pointing to important changes in Italian and European society.”
Peter Bondanella, A History of Italian Cinema, 2009

Beginning with the startling image of a statue of Christ being transported over the city by helicopter, Fellini’s three-hour panorama of the contemporary Roman ‘good life’ marked a decisive turning point in the director’s career. Leaving behind his small-scale, realism-rooted dramas of the 50s, this episodic story of a tabloid reporter’s comings and goings within the decadent upper reaches of modern Italian society found Fellini moving in a flamboyant new direction.

The film’s atmosphere of moral lassitude, together with its then scandalous sexual frankness, created a popular sensation, introducing the world to the word paparazzi. Together with Antonioni’s L’avventura (1960), its modernity of form and subject matter ushered Italian arthouse cinema into the 1960s. The image of Anita Ekberg cavorting in the Trevi fountain is one of the era’s most iconic.

In Fellini’s follow-up, 8½ (1963), Marcello Mastroianni plays film director Guido Anselmi struggling to get started on his latest project.

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