Tag Archives: Feminism

272. CITY OF WOMEN (1980)

La città delle donne

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“It’s the viewpoint of a man who has always looked at woman as a total mystery.… Through the ages, from the beginning of time, I’m certain man has covered woman’s face with masks. They are, however, his masks, not hers.”–Federico Fellini defending City of Women

DIRECTED BY:

FEATURING: , , Ettore Manni, Bernice Stegers, Donatella Damiani

PLOT: Waking on a train across from a seductive woman, Snàporaz pursues her into the carriage’s wash-room. Abruptly, the train stops and the woman de-embarks, heading across a field with Snàporaz in close pursuit. During his long journey he explores an hotel teeming with Feminists, hitches a ride with a crew of drugged-out teenage motorists, and meets a doctor whose “manly” villa contravenes local law.

Still from City of Women (1980)

BACKGROUND:

  • A massive re-work of the story was required when the second male lead (Ettore Manni, who played “Dr. Katzone”) died from a fatal, self-inflicted gunshot wound to the groin.
  • Before returning to his reliable proxy Marcello Mastroianni, Fellini offered the role to Dustin Hoffman. Hoffman declined, as he was concerned about the post-dubbing process being detrimental to his performance.
  • Though it received largely positive reviews on its general release, it fared poorly at Cannes. , in Rome at the time working on Nostalghia, dismissed City of Women in his diary, saying “…it’s true, his film is worthless.”
  • Production designer Dante Ferretti was kept on his toes while making of the film, as Fellini would constantly request that new, elaborate sets be whipped up in a small amount of time. Farretti invariably obliged the director’s requests, and his success allowed him sole billing as “Production Designer,” a title usually nabbed by Fellini himself in the movie’s credits.

INDELIBLE IMAGE: After the brief introduction of the train ride turning into a romp across a field, virtually everything that follows in Fellini’s City of Women starts globbing on to the memory. From a long list of choices (addled Feminists fomenting in an hotel, drugged-out [?] minors driving the middle-aged protagonist to a haunting techno-pop tune, and an aged Lothario blowing out 10,000 candles among them), perhaps the best choice is the joy-filled sequence in the museum of women at Katzone’s villa. Snàporaz darts back and forth with an innocently lecherous glee as he flicks on the photographs’ illumination and hears a snippet from that woman’s sexual history. The visual and sonic overload goes up to eleven when Snàporaz’s ex-wife appears at the end of the corridor and turns on all of the displays. Women, women everywhere—in sound and vision.

THREE WEIRD THINGS: The hall of sexual conquests; memory lane slide; ideal woman escape balloon

WHAT MAKES IT WEIRD: Traipsing along for two and one-half hours, City of Women somehow combines the sugary charm of a light-weight musical with the non-stop adventure of an epic film. Beginning with a tone bordering on the mundane (the tediousness of travel), Fellini quickly pushes things from believable, to somewhat believable (the feminist convention), then onwards and upwards to a literal and metaphorical peak of disbelief as our hero escapes an arena full of spectators by clinging to a hot-air balloon. Between the jostling in the train car and the flight into the unknown, it would be faster to answer the question, what isn’t weird about it?


Original Italian trailer for City of Women

COMMENTS: Obsession can be a dangerous thing, but it can also be Continue reading 272. CITY OF WOMEN (1980)

CAPSULE: FAQ: FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS (2004)

DIRECTED BY: Carlos Atanes

FEATURING: Xavier Tort, Anne Céline Auche, Manuel Solás, Marta Timón, Anna Diogene

PLOT:  A mute male slave’s involvement with romance and rebel pornographers lands him in

FAQ: Frequently Asked Questions (2004)

trouble in a sex-free future ruled by a totalitarian matriarchy.

WHY IT WON’T MAKE THE LIST: After producing a series of wildly experimental shorts in the 1990s (three of the most twisted of which were anthologized for the collection Codex Atanicus), Spanish filmmaker Carlos Atanes scaled back the surrealism for his feature debut, FAQ.  While plenty of weirdness remains (it’s hard to argue that a movie that casually drops dialogue like “unwrap the cat, we’re taking it with us” and includes a plotline regarding “architectural castration” doesn’t push the boundaries of normality), it’s stretched more thinly than in the shorts: it’s like drinking skim milk after having become accustomed to whole.

COMMENTS: “Failure is inevitable,” concedes a rebel, “but it is our duty to keep trying.”  He’s come to recruit Nono, a mute sound collector who’s never far away from his phallic microphone, to record some bird songs for the resistance’s archive of vanishing natural sounds; their ultimate dream is to someday record a breathing human female.  The quote, however, could just as easily apply to the scrappy spirit of independent cinema FAQ embodies.  As a philosophical dystopian science fiction, it’s not entirely successful: it frequently lags dramatically, especially in a languorous episode in the woods; with minimal sets and cheap-looking green screen effects, it struggles at times to hide its budgetary limitations; and it stumbles into a reality-bending non-resolution of an ending.  But the sincerity and professionalism of the production shines through, and the movie shows enough crazy imagination and intelligence to make you forgive its flaws, both budgetary and dramatic.  Some of the weirdest bits in this pretty weird feature involve the Internet porn of the future; adult actresses remain fully clothed at all times, and since human contact is verboten in the Brave New World, a woman touching a man’s bare chest is the height of salaciousness.  For reasons unknown, this forbidden erotica is created in an Continue reading CAPSULE: FAQ: FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS (2004)