Satyricon (1969)

 

It's Lewd, Crude and Socially Unacceptable
It's Lewd, Crude and Socially Unacceptable

Genre: Fantasy Drama (Italy)

Starring: Martin PotterHiram Keller

Directed By: Federico Fellini ( • Amarcord)

Overview: In ancient Rome, during the reign of Nero, we follow the adventures of Encolpio as he travels the realm, including a quest for his stolen young lover, getting captured by pirates, kidnapping a Demi-God and engaging in combat with the Minotaur.

Love 'em or hate 'em, hearing the name of a director might conjure up images of their greater achievements, their specialties. Though all these men have had versatile careers, Kurosawa is to Samurai films what Scorsese is to Gangster moviesCronenberg is best known for his surreal Horror, Hitchcock for his suspense. Ask me what I think of when I hear Federico Fellini, I'll tell you his 'thing' is epic grandeur, the skill of making a room filled with a hundred people into a living portrait. I've seen no one else make a film with human murals as great as The Last Supper in the way Fellini has. Yes, he's that good
 
Satyricon, gorgeous as it, is an intentional mess of plot. Based on the remaining fragments of the original nigh-novel written by Gaius Petronius in the First Century A.D., Fellini kept his take on the adventure of the beautiful blonde Encolpio equally fragmented. Much of the story doesn't have a common theme aside from the main character, the days of Caesar and plenty of lust. This is more the story of a man's adventures told in a series of vignettes rather than a great-goal-oriented quest in the way Odysseus or Hercules engaged in. We begin with Encolpio's beautiful rant about his state in the world, his stolen lover Gitone and Ascilto, the man whore that stole him. Encolpio furiously hunts after his boy to learn that he was sold to a theatre troupe. Upon arrival, he interrupts the vulgar play to demand his boy back. After a few tense moments, Encolpio and Gitone are reunited and heading home through a montage of flesh and debauchery, to engage in their own flesh and debauchery. Gitone is a fickle one however, because once Ascilto returns, Gitone leaves with him. Encolpio's adventures begin there and go to the nigh-fantastical, which was my biggest issue with the film.
 
My overview, written above, makes this story seem rather mythological what with Demi-Gods and Minotaurs, but this tale is far more rooted in the real world than in stories like Clash Of the Titans or Jason And The Argonauts. The Demi-God is as mortal as anyone, and the Minotaur is without a doubt merely a man in a mask. For as beautiful, original and artistic as Satyricon is, it really was more drama than fantasy, with legend replaced by elaborate costumes. I would go so far as to say that the bar set by the look of Satyricon from the first scene through to the end made me almost feel as though I was denied the potential of something far more mythic. But that's my issue... well not entirely, since I would never recommend this to the average moviegoer - it's just too disjointed with too thin a plot.
 
Looks promising but Fellini is more gay sex than gore.
Looks promising but Satyricon is more gay sex than gore.

Performance: 7 Cinematography: 9 Script: 8 Plot: 8 Mood: 7

Overall Rating: 78% (Feel The Fellini)
Aftertaste:

Previous to this viewing, I've only seen bits and pieces of Fellini's works, and the only feature I'd seen was Roma. Though Satyricon was not exactly my bag, this director's skill at storytelling is undeniable. I'm looking forward to the education that the other 6 Fellini films in the 1001 tome are going to provide me.

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