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LIGHTS OF VARIETY

Italy, 1950 (MIFF 1962)

Director: Alberto Lattuada, Federico Fellini

Lights of Variety was Fellini's first major work; he shared directorial credit with Alberto Lattuada. The story concerns the rise to stardom of a stage-struck young girl, Liliana. She sees a performance by a second-rate touring company in a small Italian town, follows them to the next town where she finds her way on to the stage and turns a near-disastrous performance into a success.

Checco, the aging manager of the troupe, falls in love with her, much to the chagrin of Melina, his faithful mistress. But Liliana has her own way to make on the stage, and uses her influence with a businessman to gain a break in a bigger show. Disillusioned, Checco finds consolation with the forgiving Melina, and while Liliana sets off to fulfil her commitments in a first-class sleeping car, Checco's company is packed into third-class compartments, where he is soon winking at the next girl he thinks might make a star.

Here, already, are many of the Fellini trademarks —the long, lonely roads, the listless cabarets, the empty city squares. The centre of the plot is a satirically observed, if conventional, success story, complete with a rich and generous impresario— connected and contrasted with this is the somewhat rootless story of the doubts and longings of Checco, the troupe manager. The film, although sketchy, abounds in effective touches, as in the music-hall scenes or the final apotheosis of Liliana in a produc¬tion of incredible vulgarity.

Some of the gentler and more emotional scenes be¬tween the comedians are charmingly and deliberate¬ly ham-acted. Giulietta Masina appears not yet stereotyped into the pattern of her roles in La Strada and Cabiria, but her personality comes across just as clearly.

The film is unsubtitled but will be accompanied by an English commentary.

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© Melbourne International Film Festival 2013.

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