The Voice of the Moon
directed by Federico Fellini
starring Roberto Benigni, Paolo Villaggio, Nadia Ottaviani
After Fellini moved the post-war art film universe from Los Angeles to Rome, he led the pack with his wild and color films – 8 1/2, Amarcord, and the ground breaking La Dolce Vita. As he aged, his style remained the same, but the world grew up around him; here we have his last film, 1990’s The Voice of the Moon. The film never had a North American release, and it remains a neglected obscurity. That’s a shame as this film has everything going for it his earlier works offered: fanciful characters, a stream of conscience dream-like atmosphere, and the thoroughly engaging Roberto Benigni as the freshly released from the loony bin Ivo Salvini. Ivo climbs through a hole in the ceiling, and we are off on his spirited adventure to the Gnocchi Festival. Ivo races through a friendly universe, climbing over roofs and spying on the women contenting for the crown of “Gnocchi Queen.” He falls in love with the distant and silent Queen, and eventually teams up with Doctor Gonnella (Villaggio) who complains about the world and the gnocchi at the festival. Ivo even visits an electronic dance hall with its “unz-unz-unz” rhythm modulated by Fellini’s romantic Italian music.
What can we draw form this colorful dream? I see a positive message here: the world is beautiful, its filled with your friends, and pursing happiness is your highest calling, so long as you aren’t a jerk to others. We get a bit of a cheat sheet in the hour long documentary feature. Here a reporter stumbles across the set and asks to observe. Fellini agrees, and she meets most of the cast and crew and inquiries about their interpretation of the story. She even approaches Paul Villaggio as makeup primps his nose hair, but he cannot offer insight, just gratitude for the gig. All defer to the director. It is not theirs to question, but to execute this talented artists vision. They prefer leaving the interpretation to the audience. Thus, the film is not some much imbued with story, but rather it abstractions life so we can interpret to our own desires. So long as we don’t argue the point, Fellini is happy. And while the main feature is in 4k Blu-ray glory, the documentary looks almost VHS quality. It is clearly intended to be subservient to The Voice of the Moon. And that my story, I’m sticking with it.