Conversations with Fellini

Costanzo Costantini, Author, Sohrab Sorooshian, Translator
Costanzo Costantini, Author, Sohrab Sorooshian, Translator Mariner Books $16 (256p) ISBN 978-0-15-600440-4
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The Italian film director who created La Strada, Amarcord and a host of other memorable films emerges, in these conversations, as an instinctual talent with no gift for analysis. This appears especially true when confronted by actuarial questions by journalist Constantini: ""At what age did you have your first sexual experience?"" ""What designer clothes do you wear? Do you also sometimes wear flashy waistcoats, like Gogol?"" An imperfect translation does not help, which the publisher claims is from the original Italian edition of this book, but awkward Gallicisms such as Fellini's reluctance ""to quit Rome,"" and speaking of an ""Enquirer"" when an Inquisitor is obviously meant, suggest that translator Sorooshian leaned on an already existing French translation of the book. Constantini ends his book with an account of Fellini's final illness in 1993 that is almost voyeuristically intrusive (""Sometimes Fellini could not even go to the lavatory. He was not fond of the bedpan"" and so forth). Constantini first met Fellini in the 1950s and says that he interviewed Fellini two or more times a year from the mid-1950s until 1990 when he became ""his permanent escort, both official and semi-official."" Sadly, in this compilation of questions and responses, Fellini comes across as an unread, uncultivated fellow, and Constantini gives little hint as to how such a man could have achieved as much as he did. (Feb.)
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