The Criterion Contraption: January 2008

Variety Lights, 1950, directed by Federico Fellini and Alberto Lattuada, screenplay by Federico Fellini, Alberto Lattuada, and Tullio Pinelli, story by Federico Fellini.

The showbiz movie has two basic archetypes, positive and negative. In the positive version, an innocent gets discovered and rises to the top: the conflict comes when they have to choose between violating some core principle and taking some kind of short-term gain—Singin’ In The Rain is probably the best example.

The flip side of the mirror are the movies where a ruthless protagonist slimes his or her way to the top; think of All About Eve or The Player. But while the positive and negative archetypes may portray show business at different levels of toxicity, there’s never any question of its seductive power.

Half the appeal for the viewer (especially in the negative showbiz movies) is the chance to vicariously experience the power and the glory of the entertainment industry. What makes Variety Lights so charming is its version of power and glory. Here’s Checco Del Monte as we first see him, embodying all the irresistable glamour of third-rate post-war Italian vaudeville:

via The Criterion Contraption: January 2008.

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