Che strano chiamarsi Federico; AKA How Strange to Be Named Federico: Scola Narrates Fellini

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DIRECTED BY: Ettore Scola

FEATURING: Vittorio Viviani, Antonella Attili, Tomasso Lazotti, Giacomo Lazotti, Maurizio De Santis, Giulio Forges Davanzati 

PLOT: Film director Ettore Scola remembers his friend and contemporary, the legendary Federico Fellini, recreating moments from the great filmmaker’s life on the soundstages of the fabled Cinecittà Studios.

Still from How Strange to Be Named Federico (2013)

COMMENTS: If we’re being honest, How Strange to Be Named Federico is not a movie at all. It’s a eulogy, an Italian take on an Irish wake, replete with fond remembrances and amusing tales of a sadly absent friend. For most of us, it’s the kind of thing that might be shared at a bar or a VFW hall. But then, most of us aren’t successful filmmakers, and our friend isn’t a titan of the art form. So it’s only to be expected that Ettore Scola’s eulogy for Federico Fellini would have to take the form of a film.

Scola makes no effort to try and sum up Fellini’s career or the tremendous mark he left upon cinema. How Strange is a deeply personal account, and we see Fellini’s life exclusively through Scola’s eyes. Early scenes depicting Young Fellini’s big break drawing cartoons for the satirical magazine Marc’Aurelio are presented as a prelude to Scola’s own arrival at the periodical and his subsequent tutelage under Fellini and the staff of hard-bitten comedy writers. Later scenes depict the men holding court at an outdoor café, recounting Fellini’s successes. This isn’t an opportunity to analyze or deconstruct Fellini. Scola just wants you to know what it was like to hang out with the man.

If we learn anything about Fellini, it’s how much of his films seem to come from his observation of others. Scola suggests that Fellini’s intense insomnia, which he addresses by taking lengthy drives through his beloved Rome, provided inspiration in the form of passengers he picked up and encouraged to expound upon their views and experiences. We see two such raconteurs: a prostitute who deliberately overlooks the lies told to her by a thieving suitor because she derives happiness from the falsehoods, and a sidewalk chalk artist whose need to express himself is paramount. They don’t map directly to characters from Fellini’s films, but you kind find their spirit throughout his career.

This isn’t going to make much sense to the uninitiated, and the narrow focus of Scola’s memory play may be more likely to close off audiences, rather than invite them in. The wordless opening scene is like a parade of Easter eggs for Fellini aficionados, as a series of performers appear to audition for the director on a beach at dusk (one of many such scenes set on Cinecittà’s iconic Stage 5), evoking the memory of such classics as La Strada or . And there are occasional side trips into archival footage of Fellini at work: making a rare turn as an actor, traveling to Hollywood to pick up an Oscar, or finding ways to showcase his avatar, Marcello Mastroianni. (We see the actor’s mother confront Scola with the charge that Fellini makes her son look handsome while Scola’s films turn him into a monster.) But these are all part of the kaleidoscope of Scola’s reminiscence. He’s remembering his friend through the method of storytelling they both knew best.

The final scene is probably the most unusual – or Felliniesque – as the not-dead-after-all filmmaker bolts from his own funeral, eluding the honor guard and escaping to an abandoned fairground where he finds pleasure in the rides, and we are treated to a whirlwind montage of striking visions from throughout his catalog. It’s akin to a celebrity-themed version of Cinema Paradiso. But the moment is affecting, because this is truly Scola’s farewell to the man he loved and admired, using Fellini’s own cinematic language to render him forever free. It’s the wish we all hold for the ones we hold dear, but only a filmmaker can make it come true. 


How Strange to be Named Federico, Scola Narrates Fellini hits just the right notes of whimsy, nostalgia and mocking tomfoolery to bring this memory of Fellini and his times vividly to life… Scola leaps around casting bits and pieces of expressionist portraiture before us. This makes the film much more interesting to watch, even for audiences who know little about the director.” – Deborah Young, Hollywood Reporter (contemporaneous)

(This movie was nominated for review by Brad. Suggest a weird movie of your own here.)

How Strange to Be Named Federico ( Che strano chiamarsi Federico ) [ NON-USA FORMAT, PAL, Reg.2 Import - Italy ]
  • How Strange to Be Named Federico ( Che strano chiamarsi Federico )
  • How Strange to Be Named Federico
  • Che strano chiamarsi Federico
  • Non US Format, PAL, Region 2
Where to watch How Strange to Be Named Federico

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