Some films make your heart beat faster or prowl through your dreams – this one from 1953 I simply love for its humanity.
Federico Fellini’s I Vitelloni (which roughly translates somewhere between veal calves and young bucks) follows a group of young men in a seaside town like his birthplace, Rimini. These boys are well-dressed and pampered by mothers, sisters and girlfriends. They dream of fame as singers,writers or film-stars yet they simply kick around town, playing pool, taking the odd dead-end job and letting people down.
It’s less flamboyant or self-conscious than later Fellini but all the themes are there – wry memoir, fabulous interludes like a carnival ball and moments of casual absurd beauty. One baleful winter Sunday, the boys go to the deserted beach: it’s magical, elegiac. Fausto, the charmer, takes his adoring new wife to the cinema. While she’s rapt at the glamour onscreen (the fridge! the beautiful actors!) he spies a femme fatale in the audience and recklessly pursues his own fantasy.
Deep dissatisfaction with home versus the bonds that keep you there, paralysed with yearning – I Vitelloni is a hilarious, vivid, tender portrait of people who could be stars in their own lives, if they could only accept their frailty.
Francine Stock is a novelist and radio and TV presenter. Francine is the chair of the Tate Members Council and was the first female Honorary Fellow of Jesus College, Oxford. After stints presenting Newsnight, The Money Programme, The Antiques Show and Front Row Francine now hosts The Film Programme on Radio Four, and her latest (non-fiction) book is In Glorious Technicolor: A Century of Film and How it Has Shaped Us.