City of Women (Federico Fellini, 1980)
“Federico Fellini’s City of Women is lavish, is about woman and is all Mastroianni, made in 1980 I’m sure many find it his best post 1970 film, more engaging than Roma, as confronting as Amarcord, like Satyricon without the orgies, music as out there as 8 ½ and woman of the Dolca Vita variety. At 150 minutes Fellini set himself a high degree of difficulty, largely succeeding in showing Snaporaz wonder through the fascinating city of women, offering more humor and surrealism that he very good vague homage to the Eternal City, Roma in 1972. Marcello Mastroianni plays Snaporaz, a variation on Guido, a businessman on a train who falls into a physical/metaphysical land of woman, arriving at a hotel where women are the butches, the babes, the old, the young share freedom, anarchy and inconsistent feminist thoughts and ideals.
Snaporaz wakes in his carriage to the essence of a woman, Bernice Sterges, as the first school of young woman begin to threat this one man who is so very attracted to the innocence the woman merely physically express, Snaporaz is old and continues in vain to catch any of the girls, who lead him to a hotel which seems like the centre for a female group, with tens of thousands of members. Many of the fabulous play women are at least reminiscent of the many female partners Snaporaz has had. City of Woman is for Fellini what Sin City is for Robert Rodriguez, his most uniquely dream-inducing shoot film which plays against he & Rodriguez’s more favorable opinion of femininity in early works, having a contradictory undercurrent of female reliance on the man, his questions and answers here could have been more profoundly open-ended. Fellini possibly is showing in the woman the cult-ness of Italian Catholicism, as compared with others 80’s pictures, the film offers above all a open look at a disorientated fifty plus years old man.
One of the funniest sugar-daddy performances is offered by Ettore Manni as Dr. Katzone, word plan on his use of hound dogs to prey off women hunger round his mansion. The soundtrack listened in sequence would be like a trip through a city: gospel, pop, rock, classical, protest song. Amongst the riot Fellini offers that seems motherly symbolism, Snaporaz possibly fantasising of a woman who can love and mother him, the mother figure a god to Fellini? Take the scenes outside of his dream, the imagery. Without introduction or development the best female performances are expressionistic, Helena Calzarelli, Dominique Labourier, Isabelle da Maya & Catherine Carrel are note worthy. Like Juliet & the Spirits Fellini plays with set-designs and soundstages creating a hyper-reality that looks belle-belle amongst Giuseppe Rotunno’s deep-focus photography.
La Citta delle Donne isn’t a mixed-erotica like Satyricon which saturates the sex in color, it seems even more of a male fantasy then 8 ½ & La Dolca Vita, woman here are even more everything to Fellini film-ego Mastroianni, is as sexy and wide-eyed as ever. A lack of conflict among the main relationships makes it less intriguing than Fellini’s personal favourite Amarcord and my favourite Fellini color film Juliet of the Spirits, on one viewing however it’s as entertaining and excessive as La Dolca Vita; one may also come to realise it lacks the on/off story and pacing of 8½ to be groundbreaking and timeless. The film is for me the beginning of a streak of diminishing returns that Fellini turned in from 80-90’, Giulietta Mazzina & Roberto Bengini two great/narrow actors shone through his later shooting misfires, as in 1980, Federico outdid the other two foreign kings Ingmar Bergman & Akira Kurosawa with City of Women, an M-rated through-the-mirror-journey for man, woman and acid-tripper.” - Darcy S. McCallum