Francesca Fellini re­mem­bers her film-di­rec­tor un­cle Fed­erico

Francesca Fellini re­calls happy days spent with her un­cle, the Ital­ian di­rec­tor Fed­erico Fellini, in 1972 and 1985

The Daily Telegraph - Telegraph Magazine - - NEWS -

Both of these pho­tos of me with my un­cle were taken in Ri­mini, fed­erico’s birth­place and the town where I lived as a child. It was rare for him to visit us. he moved to Rome aged 19 and we tended to travel to meet him ei­ther in his apart­ment t here or in his mag­i­cal villa in fre­gene, which was hid­den among acres of an­cient pines.

fed­erico was the most pri­vate per­son I’ve ever met. from his port­fo­lio of glam­orous films, one might ex­pect that he spent his life dash­ing from one party to the next, gra­ciously ac­cept­ing awards en route, but he hated t he lime­light. When he had screen­ings or awards to col­lect – he won five Academy Awards dur­ing his life­time – he would of ten send his wife Gi­uli­etta Masina (pic­tured). Be it Venice, Cannes, New York: he’d ship her off in his place.

A daz­zling ac­tress, The New York Times fa­mously nick­named Gi­uli­etta ‘the fe­male Char­lie Chap­lin’. to me she was sim­ply Aunt Gi­uli­etta: warm, funny and an ex­cel­lent chef. to fed­erico she was a muse. Watch­ing her in the grips of emo­tional tur­moil in La Strada – the first film of fed­erico’s I ever watched and my favourite of his to this day – ig­nited in me an ad­mi­ra­tion that has never been ex­ting uished. one day I would be glued to my tele­vi­sion screen, mes­merised by ‘the fa­mous Gi­uli­etta’, the next she’d be serv­ing a de­li­cious home-made pasta and she was my ‘Zia Gi­uli­etta’ once more.

the photo of me on fed­erico’s shoul­ders was taken in 1972 while he was writ­ing the screen­play for Amar­cord, a comic rec­ol­lect ion of his child­hood. My aunt and un­cle were crazy about me. their only child had died shortly af­ter he was born and, marred by this tragic ex­pe­ri­ence, they came to see me as one of their own. the only rule fed­erico in­sisted upon was that we never talk about film. I was happy to com­ply.

While we never dis­cussed his work, I was for­tu­nate enough to wit­ness his ge­nius on set. he was a vi­sion­ary. Be­fore writ­ing his screen­plays he would al­ways draw the char­ac­ters and, to the poor cast­ing di­rec­tor, he would spec­ify ,‘ I want these ex­act peo­ple .’ on these to fA mar cord I re­mem­ber watch­ing him re cre­ate pre-war Ri­mini in the Cinecittà stu­dios out­side Rome. Is at silently, not dar­ing to say a word le st I dis­rupt his al­chemic han­dling of the cast. ev­ery de­tail of the film – the hair, the make-up, the char­ac­ters, not just the ac­tors but all the ex­tras – passed through his hands. he never let a thing slip.

to­day’s cinema owes a lot to my Un­cle fed­erico’s fer tile imag­i­na­tion and in­can­des­cent pas­sion for film. In his later years, he joked that one of his proudest achieve­ments was his con­tri­bu­tion to the Ital­ian lan­guage–fell i ni es­que .‘ My mummy in Ri­mini would be very proud of me,’ he once said. ‘Be­cause in my life, I be­came an ad­jec­tive.’ — In­ter­view by Rob­bie Hodges The stage adap­ta­tion of La Strada is on at The Other Palace, Lon­don, un­til 8 July (0844 264 2121; theother­palace.co.uk)

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