I Vitelloni Review

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A sensitive character study of five young men trapped in a small town on the Adriatic.


Despite its importance as an early Fellini, this has been rarely revived - which means that fans are liable to see it for the first time and realise that many later films (American Graffiti, Mean Streets) adopt its bunch-of-guys-hanging-out format. The vitelloni ('young bucks') are thirtyish, mostly unemployed, long-time pals in an Italian seaside town, too old to be kids but still uncertain about settling down.

Made during the Italian neo-realist boom, it is rooted in observation of specific behaviour and 'realistic' detail. But already Fellini is starting to dream of a more fantastical, carnivalesque cinema and finds strange moments (such as a simpleton falling for a stolen angel statue) amid petty stories of infidelities and lost illusions.

It's as wistful and sad as it is funny and charming, with the first of Nino Rota's great scores to keep it burbling along.

A key early work from a budding maestro, this is fascinating viewing, especially when you know what is to come.