LA VOCE DELLA LUNA (Federico Fellini, 1990)

When in a review I referred to Intervista (1987) as Federico Fellini’s final film, a reader corrected my mistake; I hadn’t even heard of La voce della luna (The Voice of the Moon), which Ermanno Cavazzoni, along with Fellini and Tullio Pinelli, adapted from his novel Il poema dei lunatici. Now I have seen it; what a shame its U.S. release still awaits.
     Perhaps this has something to do with the unchartable nature of the film’s narrative. A lyrical, dreamlike work (well, of course!), it is impossible to follow; for fullest enjoyment, one instead has to go along with it. It is a patchwork of memories, and some of the “memories” were dreams to begin with—the last effort by an artist who has confessed to possibly preferring remembering to actual living-in-the-moment.
     It is a spirit-infiltrated film of dark, mysterious interiors and the illimitable night. Two wanderers, who drift apart and come together, provide a human thread of continuity. One is Ivo Salvini (Roberto Benigni), sweet and wide-eyed, looking up at the full moon; the other is Gonnella (Paolo Villaggio—best actor, David di Donatello Award), who is perpetually at war with the chaotic, impersonal present. Both roles are beautifully enacted (this may be Benigni’s finest performance); combinately, they represent Fellini, with a bit of his Muse, wife Giulietta Masina, elusively contributing to Salvini’s aura. One must add that a plethora of female characters in the film resemble Masina—Masina, that is, thirty or forty years earlier.
     In an extraordinary passage, a vehemently noisy mob dance at a disco yields to a Strauss waltz danced by Gonnella and a former partner: surrounded by silence (the music, I presume, is in the pair’s heads), the evocation of a gentler, more elegant time.
     Intermittently magical.

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