Kurasowa’s Fellini (Directors Cut)
1962, NR (1998 Re-release)
dir. by Kurosawa/Fellini
Welcome to the world of the art cinema’s two greatest directors — Akira Kurasowa and Frederico Fellini. This unusual artistic collaboration by the two directors at the very beginning of their careers has been misplaced for over 30 years. Kurasowa films a semi-documentary of Fellini’s ill-fated attempt to make a low-budget Kung Fu epic, Six and a Half Flying Fists of Death . In 6 1/2 , six poor brothers and their midget Martial arts instructor battle various evil forces in the Hong Kong underworld. Starring the youthful Jackie Chan, long before he was known in the west, action takes place on a set of oversized and distorted Chinese and Japanese pagodas. While the set is dreamlike and distorted, the violence will make you wince, even by today’s standards.
Now, while Fellini makes THIS film, Kurasowa is documenting the process, portraying Fellini as a Samurai, doing lonely battle against the studio financial wonks, recalcitrant stars and their power-hungry agents. The distinction between film and film-within-a-film starts out pretty clear, but by the middle of the 3rd reel, all distinction is lost in a swirl of dreamlike symbolism. At one point, a desperate Fellini drafts part of Kurasowa’s Japanese crew for extras in a crowd sequence. His gaffer even gets in a few good chops with the midget Sensei.
This is not a film for those with weak kidneys. Nearly six hours, with two intermissions, this will keep you glued to your fast forward button. The dialogue is a mix of Italian, English dubbing (by that crew of voices that seems to do every Hong Kong cheapie), Japanese, and Cantonese, with equivalent sub-titles popping up in random parts of the screen. Alternately fascinating and boring, violent and cerebral, it’s the sort of thing you would get on a UCLA film school pop quiz. Don’t take your mom, take your dialogue coach.