A landmark work in the lexicon of 1970s art film, Federico Fellini’s highly venerated opus Roma (1972) arrives in a pristine restoration as part of Eureka’s Masters of Cinema series, giving it the Blu-ray treatment it deserves. Coming after perhaps his most notable works La Dolce Vita (1960) and 8 ½ (1963), and ushering him into the highly impressionistic – and prolific – fugue of seventies Italian cinema, Roma is, like Fellini’s Satyricon (1969) before it, a work of meticulously non-specific memory-cinema and a semi-autobiographical perusal through a Rome in a state of continuous flux.
Something of a distillation of Rome’s past and how it both fed into the present and continued to offer moral and cultural values to be either maintained or quashed, this is a simultaneously searing, stark and frustrating portrait of the director’s home and upbringing, one which forgoes anything resembling a cohesive plot in favour of something far more gleefully scattershot. Fellini visually details his youth in a crude city of stifling uncertainty and unforgiving surroundings, cutting back and forth between a series of loosely connected episodes and a move from his native Rimini to Rome as a youth, which allows the film the semblance of an arc. One of many long-takes sees Fellini documenting the ring road (GRA) circling Rome.
Whether set during the wartime lows of the 1930s and early 1940s or depicting a film crew capturing (like Fellini himself) Rome in all its vibrant, colourful splendour, Roma deftly channels what appears to be a time in which the modern continues to impinge upon an ingrained way of life amidst the archaeological landmarks and the rise of the Catholic Church. Though perhaps not his finest work, Roma sees Fellini at his most all-encompassing, serving as something of an opportunity for him to take numerous cinematic excursions, delineate vastly dissimilar backdrops and tones, and ultimately create something of a definitive representation of the city akin to Walter Ruttmann’s exemplary Berlin: Symphony of a Great City (1927).