Paparazzi, divas, nuns and jazz clubs: Rome means Dolce Vita. We take a journey into the the city that defined the iconography of Federico Fellini's masterpiece and inspired the unique blend of genres of its timeless motion picture soundtrack by Nino Rota.
A stroll down Via Veneto, for a coffee, with gossipping eyes, to glance and be stared at. The light bulbs of the paparazzi restlessly flashing, as they ride their Vespas and the film stars shield their eyes with dark sunglasses.
Syncopated drums and latin percussion set the night clubs on fire to the rhythm of jazz, twist and cha cha cha, while journalists and intellectuals roam alienated on the fringes of the Eternal City, which is growing skyscraper after skyscraper.
A huge statue of Jesus Christ flies over this enigmatic metropolis, over its rooftops and churches, the shades of which shelter the gowns of cardinals and nuns, gently flapped by the breeze incoming from the Ostia beach.
It’s the other face of a libertine and mundane Rome. These are the years of the so-called Hollywood sul Tevere (Hollywood on the River Tiberis), the years of the Dolce Vita, when Rome was a cocktail to euphorically neck down, a luxurious lover to indulge with but also a sweet mother where to find expiation for one’s sins.
Marcello Mastroianni on the set of La Dolce Vita, 1959. Photo by Pierluigi Praturlon / Portfolio Mondadori.
A great beauty long before The Great Beauty, which Federico Fellini masterfully captured in his milestone La Dolce Vita (1960), winner of the Cannes Palme d’Or in 1960 and of the Oscar for Best Costumes to Piero Gherardi in 1962.
The film follows the story of journalist Marcello Rubini (Marcello Mastroianni) and his quest, during seven days and nights, of happiness and escapism in a mundane whirlwind made of journalistic scoops and love affairs, like the one with American divs Sylvia (Anita Ekberg), which culminates in the timeless night swim at the Trevi Fountain.
Around them is an ethereal Rome, suspended between the sacred and the profane, among artists, mistresses, nuns, dancers, paparazzi and intellectuals.
The movie is a true icon of Italian cinema in the world, and a manifesto of Italian style and elegance. To the point that the film ended up influencing our language, forging new expressions ex novo. Not only Dolce Vita became synonymous with a precise time in history, but the word paparazzo – which later came to identify a whole industry of professionals – was born from the same-named character inspired by real-life photo reporter Tazio Secchiaroli.
Even the term dolcevita, used to these days in Italy to describe a polo neck jumper, was born with the film and its main character Marcello. Despite Mastroianni is never seen sporting one throughout the whole film, his outfit in the final party – made of a black shirt and matching silk necktie worn underneath a white suit – was told to give the impression of a dark mock-neck garment. Hence, the birth of the dolcevita clothing in Italian pop culture.
To match Fellini’s ethereal visions, is the equally dreamy and timeless music by Nino Rota. In the soundtrack for La Dolce Vita the Maestro brings together his knowledge of classical music with jazz, swing, circus atmospheres and the popular music of the cafes and clubs of early 1960s Rome.
The outcome is a one-of-a-kind theme, loved and admired all over the world to these days. A melody able to make you daydream, evoking the elegance and charm of Rome, of its neon-lit streets, fairytale characters and bursting cafes. All of this not without the quintessential pinch of Fellinesque melancholia.
Now the soundtrack for La Dolce Vita shines again, thanks to CAM Sugar which brought it back to life from its archive, fully remastered from the original master tapes and for the first time on 2LP boasting 14 tracks previously unreleased on vinyl, including an extraordinary vocal version interpreted by Katyna Ranieri.
La Dolce Vita is now available on 2LP featuring an exclusive poster with the original music sheet by Nino Rota, on CD Digipak, streaming and download.