By turns vibrant and despairing, Federico Fellini's La Dolce Vita is a soul-searching portrait of celebrity-obsessed culture, perhaps more relevant now than on its initial release in 1960. Marcello Mastroianni stars as a fluff-peddling journalist caught up in the social whirl of the crème de la crème while slipping deeper into self-loathing. But rather than wallow in cynicism, Fellini's genius is characterised by a zest for life - albeit a tragically insatiable one - as he sprinkles dreamlike snapshots like glitter in the darkness.
Jesus Christ swings over Rome in a breathtaking opening sequence; a statue suspended from a helicopter where Marcello (Marcello Mastroianni) beckons to a gaggle of sunbathing beauties below. He's a spiritually bankrupt man who pushes girlfriend Emma (Yvonne Furneaux) to the brink of suicide with his incessant philandering. Nonetheless he cannot resist 'the sweet life' of sex and partying, seductively embodied by Hollywood movie star Sylvia - a voluptuous Anita Ekberg framed like a goddess as she cavorts in the Trevi Fountain.
Alas heady nights are followed by stark and depressing days as Marcello ponders writing his long-gestating novel. Perhaps then, he hopes, his life will find true meaning, but then night falls again and with it brings new temptation.
"BOUNDLESS APPETITE FOR BEAUTY AND PASSION"
Fellini steadily builds tension with each rise and fall in this episodic journey while Mastroianni instils depth into a character defined by emptiness and passivity. Especially heart-rending is a visit from his errant father (Annibale Ninchi), hinting at the lonely figure he will become and later confirmed by whispered words of desire echoing around a castle chamber, as his lover (Anouk Aimée) wraps herself around another man.
Tragic desperation is underlined, and also tempered, by Fellini's boundless appetite for beauty and passion. Whether it's an attention-seeking starlet frolicking in a fountain, or a creaky old clown playing his trumpet amid a swirl of balloons, human foibles are the stuff of divine inspiration. Fellini knows: it's the bitter edge that makes life sweeter.