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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Unveiled Fellini Ads Receive Critical Acclaim

There are classics, and then there are minor classics.

In the canon of Federico Fellini, "La Strada" (1954) and "La Dolce Vita" (1960) would fall into the first category. "Campari" (1984), "Barilla Rigatone" (1984) and "Banca di Roma" (1992) would slip into the second.

Near the end of his career, the director who brought human frailty so perfectly to the big screen turned his attention to a smaller one.

The retrospective "Tutto Fellini" is committed to bringing Il Maestro's minutiae to Russia along with his greater works, and Thursday held a screening and discussion of Fellini's three advertisements. An audience of enthusiasts starved for new material packed a mid-afternoon hall to see the advertisements, which have never been shown in Russia.

Viewed one after the other, Fellini's commercials make up about 300 seconds of visionary television -- like his films, his advertisements intelligently redefined their genre. But when the beloved filmmaker decided to venture into advertisements, he came under fire from the Italian press.

For years, Fellini had lambasted television as a destructive medium, and refused outright to let his dramas be interrupted by advertisements. In a 1993 interview with The Times of London, he charged that, "Television has distorted the taste of knowing how to narrate a story, look at an image, be together in silence, to go into the theater and wait for the lights to go out."

Fellini refined his stance in 1984, when he decided to make spots for Campari and Barilla, insisting that these miniature films could be a medium in their own right. Fellini's ads are simultaneously mini-dramas, advertisements and parodies of advertisements. Director and firm alike set a precedent for a new caliber of advertising work -- one that hopefully will rub off on the Russian industry, said Cinema Museum Director Naum Klejman.

"I hope that, after the first tasteless experiments, the attitude towards commercials has changed," Klejman said, as he presented what he called the director's "miniature artworks."

"What Fellini made is especially precious for us, because directors like him bring their own world into the business of commercials."

Whether or not it sold spaghetti, "Barilla" is a witty vignette that pokes fun at the eroticism of food marketing. In the spot, two elegant customers gaze lasciviously at each other in an elegant restaurant, bypassing refined French cuisine for a plate of phallic rigatoni.

"Campari" sets a young blonde across a train compartment from a leering, corpulent dandy. With the flick of a remote control, the bored woman selects new landscapes to fly past the window. She rejects the desert, the mountains, ancient Greece, and when her companion takes the remote and switches on Pisa -- complete with a monumental bottle of Campari -- she looks at him with sudden coquettish interest, and winks.

"Banco di Roma" subverts itself, if anything, more flagrantly. This piece was serialized in three segments, representing the surreal nightmares of a paunchy middle-aged man in a grey suit. As he follows a beautiful woman into a basement room, she steps out and returns as a lion. As he travels through an endless tunnel singing opera at the top of his lungs, the rock ceiling begins caving in. As he dines with a beautiful blonde in a meadow, she wanders away and he realizes he is tied to his chair, which is stuck in a train track. "Just when I decided to tell my wife everything," he moans, as the train bears down.

Then, the film cuts to a psychiatrist, who tells the man that deep insecurities are at the root of his dreams. "Bank at the Bank of Rome, and you will sleep at night," he intones, and the man falls into a deep, undisturbed sleep in a bank lobby.

"Tutto Fellini" is playing through Sept. 25, with simultaneous showings at the Kinocenter and the Cinema Museum, at 15 Druzhinnikovskaya Ulitsa. Tel. 205-7306, 255-9095. Nearest metro: Krasnopresnenskaya. Films are also being screened at the Kinoteatr Illuzion, 1/5 Kotelnicheskaya Naberezhnaya. Tel 227-4353. Nearest metro: Taganskaya.