RIMINI, Italy – Federico Fellini is one of a select group of filmmakers to earn an Oxford English Dictionary sanctioned adjective: “Felliniesque”, which is defined as “fantastic, bizarre; sumptuous, extravagant.
This description could easily apply to the Fellini Museum, which opened in the Italian coastal town of Rimini – the director’s birthplace – earlier this month: a multimedia project that draws visitors into the cinematic universe idiosyncratic of Fellini.
The museum is by turns fantastic (pages from the so-called “Book of Dreams”, Fellini’s drawings and reflections on his nocturnal reveries, appear on a wall when visitors blow on a feather); lavish (it includes extravagant costumes from the liturgical fashion show from his 1972 film “Roma”); and bizarre (what to do with a gigantic plush sculpture of actress Anita Eckberg, on which visitors can lie down to watch scenes from “La Dolce Vita?”).
“We wanted a museum that goes beyond the primary resources displayed in display cases and allows the visitor to become an engaged spectator,” said Marco Bertozzi, professor of cinema. at Iuav University in Venice, which organized the museum with art historian Anna Villari.
The museum occupies two historic buildings, with a large square in between, effectively reconfiguring an important part of downtown Rimini.
“It is an operation that has changed the face of the city,” said Marco Leonetti, one of the city officials who oversaw the project. Besides the museum sites, the same square features a bombed and destroyed theater during WWII, now meticulously rebuilt and reopened in 2018, as well as a renovated medieval building that has been turned into a contemporary art museum, opened there is one year old.
“We are slowly rebuilding the memory of our city,” said Francesca Minak, archaeologist and city tourism manager.
Rimini administrators hope the museum will attract both longtime Fellini aficionados and those too young to see his films in theaters. They hope the latter group will be entertained by the facilities and interactive displays (now in automatic mode due to the pandemic) that offer a glimpse into Fellini’s rich imagination.
“The museum functions like a kind of time machine,” said Leonardo Sangiorgi, one of the founders of the Milanese art collective Studio Azzurro, who created the museum’s multimedia screens, allowing viewers to savor the details. and the nuances of Fellini’s films.
In Castel Sismondo, a Renaissance castle that is part of the museum’s buildings, installations featuring the people with whom the director worked and the places he captured in celluloid immerse visitors in the land of Fellini.
One of the first rooms is dedicated to Fellini’s wife, Giulietta Masina, who starred in “La Strada” (1956) and “Les Nuits de Cabiria” (1957), films that won back-to-back Oscars. Best Foreign Language Film and brought Fellini into the international spotlight.
Fellini won two more Oscars in this category, for “8 ½” (1963) and “Amarcord” (1974), and Masina is the only person Fellini thanked by name in his 1993 Oscar acceptance speech for an honorary title. award “in recognition of his place as one of the screen’s master storytellers.” Fellini died seven months later, on October 31.
There are interactive panels, some souvenirs, including pages of musical scores by Fellini’s collaborator, Nino Rota, and a reconstruction of the director’s library (with books by Georges Simenon and Kafka but also “Pinocchio” by Collodi). There are photos galore and numerous clips of his films, obtained after lengthy negotiations with the copyright holders. If you had the patience and the time, it would take about six hours to see them all, Bertozzi said.
The second place is in an 18th century palace whose ground floor is occupied by the Fulgor cinema, where Fellini discovered cinema in his youth, Leonetti said, and later immortalized in “Amarcord”, the montage by Fellini of the fascist era. Rimini. (In an interview in the documentary “Fellini: I am a born liar”, the director said that the Rimini that he had “completely rebuilt” in “Amarcord” “belongs more to my life than the other, topographically accurate, Rimini. “)
The Fulgor was restructured by set designer Dante Ferretti, who worked with Fellini on five films, and it reopened in 2018 as a working movie theater. An exhibition space on the upper floors is slated to open in October.
Calls for a museum in Fellini began in Rimini shortly after the filmmaker’s death. The city gave its name to a prominent seaside park, plaza and primary school, and several streets now bear the names of its films. But even so there was a feeling that Fellini had been somewhat neglected at home.
The Fellini Museum project gained momentum in early 2018, when the Italian Ministry of Culture allocated 12 million euros, roughly $ 14 million, to its creation. Originally slated to open in 2020, to coincide with the 100th anniversary of his birth, the coronavirus has put the brakes on the timing.
Fellini was no stranger to controversy. When “La Dolce Vita” hit screens in 1960, it sparked a national scandal, including parliamentary debate and the scathing backlash from the Vatican’s official newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, who called it “disgusting.” . (Times have changed. This month the Osservatore Romano published a glowing review of the museum.)
A redesign of Piazza Malatesta to accompany the opening of the museum has caused similar disdain on the part of heritage protection groups.
“They turned the square into something intended to attract tourists, without thinking of the inhabitants of the city,” said Guido Bartolucci, president of the local branch of the conservation group Italia Nostra.
The square now includes a large circular bench, intended to evoke the circle of actors in the final scene of “8 ½”, with rotating stools in the middle so that the children can turn. There is also a life-size rhino statue from “And the Ship Sails On” (1983); city officials had to put up a “Do not drive” sign next to it, to prevent people from climbing on it.
But the element that most irritated some locals is a huge fountain that sprays mist every half hour, reminiscent of the Rimini fog featured in some of Fellini’s films.
Bartolucci said the fountain violates strict Italian heritage laws, as it encroaches on the historic remains of Rimini’s basement. Authorities could have redeveloped another part of the city, he said, adding that the decision to transform the square was taken with little debate or public input.
Italia Nostra proposed to turn Castel Sismondo into a museum to present the hidden history of Rimini, from its Roman past to its Renaissance heyday, in a way that would nurture “a sense of community” for residents, Bartolucci said. “Instead, the Fellini Museum canceled the name of the castle,” he said.
Leonetti, the city official, said that “Putting armor in the rooms is not the only way to keep a castle alive” and added that the new square had supplanted a parking lot and a low-end market. In the few weeks since it opened to the public, “it has become a gathering place,” he said.
On a hot morning last week, several children waded happily in the fountain, watched by their parents. “If the kids like it, then we’ve got it right,” Leonetti said.