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  Ginger and Fred Seems Like Old Times
Year: 1985
Director: Federico Fellini
Stars: Giulietta Masina, Marcello Mastroianni, Franco Fabrizi, Friedrich von Ledebur, Augusto Poderosi, Martin Maria Blau, Jacques Henri Lartigue, Toto Mignone, Ezio Marano
Genre: Comedy, DramaBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: It's Christmas time in Rome, and the television station is preparing an entertainment extravaganza to celebrate. Arriving in the city is Amelia Bonetti (Giulietta Masina) who is there for a very special reunion for over twenty-five years ago she said goodbye to the other half of the dancing team she was part of and now they are to be brought together for one night only. They were known as Ginger and Fred, after the far more celebrated Rogers and Astaire who they imitated, but when Amelia reaches the hotel she finds that not only is the whole arrangement not going as smoothly as she would have hoped, but Fred, aka Pippo Botticella (Marcello Mastroianni), hasn't turned up yet - how will they find time to rehearse?

Nostalgia is a powerful feeling, and often involves a sense that the events of the here and now are somehow inferior to the days or moments of the past that you long for. So it is here, with director Federico Feliini's valentine to the "golden age" of entertainment, which he scripted with Tonino Guerra and Tullio Pinelli, adopting a view that this country has gone to the dogs, with television to one of the main culprits. Everyone we see in the opening is preoccupied with TV, and there seems to be a box everywhere you look from a mini model in the van that takes Amelia to the hotel for the driver to watch, to one in the foyer of the hotel where the staff are glued to a football match.

But it is television, tacky and shallow television at that, which is bringing Ginger and Fred together after all these years, so will they be able to add a touch of class to its cheap glitz? Well, first they have to meet, and Amelia deliberately stays up to wait for her erstwhile partner, wandering the hotel and venturing outside. Without the walls the landscape looks post-Apocalyptic, with threatening bikers roaring around and equally threatening beggars asking for money, so Amelia quickly returns inside. She eventually goes to bed but can't sleep because of the noise of her neighbour, so goes round to knock on the door to tell him to be quiet.

And who should the neighbour be but Pippo? Amelia is delighted to see him, but Pippo appears to be a little sozzled and after a perfunctory greeting he retires. Masina and Mastroianni make for a winning combination, he being roguish, slightly vague but with a hint of sadness, and she being prim and indomitable, yet not quite as confident as she would like to be. The characters were never in love, but there's a deep bond between them that reasserts itself as the film progresses. In the meantime they have to contend with being shuttled about like novelties in the chaotic atmosphere of the show's preparations, and not only them but a host of other novelties as well, including plenty of lesser quality doubles for other stars.

Typical of the more meandering later Fellini, there's plenty of colour added to the fairly simple main story, meaning a lot of waiting around with Amelia and Pippo as the various eccentrics are wheeled on around them. There's an elderly admiral, a woman who believes she can hear the voices of the dead on her tape recorder, a troupe of little persons, a glamorous transvestite, and many others. Amongst this, Amelia and Pippo are bewildered, with she wanting time to prepare and he wondering where his next drink is coming from. By the time the extravanganza comes around, we wonder if the duo will be able to go on as the nerves take hold, but the film ends on a surprisingly moving note as we know that to the viewers Ginger and Fred are just another turn in a procession of superficiality, but to us and each other they mean much more, so the lasting impression is bittersweet and hued with a mood of regret - but never gloomy in light of a small victory for our protagonists. Music by Nicola Piovani.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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