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Iconic director Federico Fellini dies

Helmer won four Oscars for foreign-language film

Nov. 1, 1993: Federico Fellini, the Italian writer-director whose visionary and surreal film images were so distinctive that they inspired a word in his honor —“Felliniesque” — died Oct. 31 in Rome. He was 73.

His fantasy-laden films, often slyly satirizing sexual and religious mores, were notable for his witty and heartfelt observations as well as for his striking visuals.

Fellini won four Oscars for best foreign-language film — for “La Strada,” “Nights of Cabiria,” “81/2” and “Amarcord”– and received eight nominations for screenplay and three as best director

As a young boy growing up in the Adriatic resort town of Rimini, Fellini escaped the restrictions of his private Catholic school education by running away to join the circus at the age of 12. Or maybe he didn’t. Throughout his career, Fellini has admitted that little of what he has told interviewers and biographers has been true. “If I ever go to hell,” he once said, “it will be because of lies. I tell lies all the time, even when I don’t have to.”

Unlike fellow Italian directors like Antonioni and Bernardo Bertolucci, Fellini eschewed intellectual matters in his films in favor of more theatrical, titillating and often sentimental treatment of subjects. His reputation was solidified by the international success of two dramas, “La Strada” and “The Nights of Cabiria,” both of which starred Giulietta Masina whom he had married in 1943.

His early pics as director showed the influence of the post-war Italian neo-realist movement. However, 1960’s “La Dolce Vita” marked a new style for the director, with films that were more earthy and dreamlike, and with scripts that were more anecdotal than straightforward narratives.

Unlike many fellow European directors, the Maestro, as he was nicknamed, declined offers to make films in the U.S.

By 1969 Fellini’s name had achieved such international prominence that, starting with his adaptation of the ancient Roman comedy “Satyricon,” his name became part of the title of his films (e.g., “Fellini’s Roma” and “Fellini’s Casanova”).

–Adapted from Variety’s Nov. 1, 1993 obit

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