Introduction to Ritorno a “La mia Rimini”

Da: Federico Fellini, Ritorno a “La mia Rimini”, a cura di Paolo Fabbri, Guaraldi Editore, Rimini, 2012 (e-book).


“Amarcord” [I remember] should be entitled Asarcurdem [we remember]
(P.P. Pasolini)

1. Ithaca

“I was Odysseus, standing slightly to the side and looking far into the distance”.
This is how Federico Fellini recalls his imaginary position in a high school that was classically divided between the Greeks and the Trojans. A sign, among many, of the relationship with his city, little Ithaca from which he departed and to where he made his final return.
As scholars of Fellini and imaginative Fellini followers know, the great director never filmed in Rimini itself, and the name of the city is never mentioned, not even in I Vitelloni.
And yet Fellini loved Italian cities: he made a film about Rome and had plans for others on Naples and Venice.
I believe that Rimini was, for him, like the invisible Venice of Italo Calvino. Remember? When Khan asks why Marco Polo never gives the name of the lagoon city, he replies that Venice is the “implicit city”, which enables him to describe all the others. And he adds: “Memory’s images, once they are fixed in words, are erased […] Perhaps I am afraid of losing Venice all at once, if I speak of it, or perhaps, speaking of other cities, I have already lost it, little by little”.
In this way Fellini says “I always spoke of Rimini, even in films which were not set there” (FF). The city, defined obliquely by Ostia (“an invented Rimini, a Rimini more real than Rimini itself”, FF) which is found, moreover, on the same meridian, Rome (Romagna is a city that has the sense of Rome and the countryside), and finally of Cinecittà in the studio “a magic, alchemical, demiurgic laboratory” (FF), Rimini is not represented but reinvented or imagined.
Not only in the disguise of its characters, who end up being confused with original memories, but in its basic components: the sea, the fog, the light. Remember? “The sea is always in the background; a primeval element, a blue line cutting across the sky from which corsair ships can arrive, and the Turks, the Rex, the American cruisers with Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire dancing in the shadows of the cannons” (FF). Or the fog which gives the cathedral the gift of intravision or the summer light which cuts the square with dechirichian shadows. Bright images – for Fellini films were written with light – which only the cinema can create; only at Cinecittà could Fellini command: “Onwards sea. Away with the rain. Out with the sun”.
Fellini is a bad tourist – a testimony that declared him to be romagnolo (and for political passion, an Eskimo) because it seemed extremely complicated to him, perhaps useless, to call himself Italian. The place of his memory was limited by the four feet of his adolescent bed, baptized with the names of the four cinemas of his city. In the film, however, he wanted to avoid any sense of autobiography: “Anything except […] the annoying association with je me souviens (FF).
The wind and a music box are the sound signals in the mixing of memories. A film memory, which is not nostalgic: it is a deposit where you can find “discarded memories” (FF), which are needed to free oneself – to free ourselves – from fascist provincialism and its “fanatic, provincial, infantile, clumsy, unhinged, and humiliating” (FF) content.
Once the memory box is empty, the artist is obliged to rediscover the contents. The films of Fellini’s memory tell, therefore, completely made up stories – “I mean, what difference does it make?” (FF) – which owe their much discussed enigmatic transparency and indecipherable clarity to exactly this. And above all their situated and universal glocality: when he received his Oscar in 1975, Fellini stated that the characters in Amarcord live wherever and that America had noticed this “eternal province of the soul”.
In the director’s notes, Fellini recommended, “finishing with parts which were more and more stunted, lacerated, fragments […] to create a magmatic freeing of images”. Fellini’s Rimini is, in fact, like a body that has been loved and lost and which has spread its features and particulars all over; it has undergone a “picassian decomposition” (FF) which is reassembled in an artificial life, in the Frankenstein of our memory. As happened in the memorable projection of E la Nave va, at the Grand Hotel di Rimini, on September 25, 1983.
Odysseus was right: you need to look far to reinvent the places to which you return. “The only true realist is the visionary. Who said that?” (FF).

2. Words

This Rimini, implicit in the images, is always present in the language, dubbed in its words. In 1947, upon his return to the city destroyed by war, Fellini, by this time Roman, listens to the sound of the names and the words of the survivors in the “lunar crater” of the Rimini debris. He recognises them and they can be recognised in the synesthesia of his coloured listening. An ability to find a balance among the sounds, colours, and shapes, which Fellini attributes to some characters in his films (Lerinia, the Pina Bausch of E la nave va or in the planned film Viaggio a Tulùn), but which is, above all, his. “There was a time during my childhood – he explains in an interview – during which I suddenly visualized the chromatics corresponding to sounds. An ox bellowing in my grandmother’s stall, I saw an enormous reddish-brown rug that was flapping in the wind in front of me. It came closer, compressed, and became a thin strip which entered my right ear. Three bells in the bell tower? Here are three silver discs removing themselves from up there in the bell and reaching my eyebrow fibrillating, disappearing into my head. I could go on for a good hour, believe me”. We are also bound to believe in his colourful perception of city names. While he only associated Rimini with “a word made up of poles, toy soldiers in a line”, Rome sounds to him like “a big red face, an expression rendered heavy and thoughtful from gastrosexual needs: I think of a brown, slimy Southerner: of an expansive broken sky, forming the base of the works, with the colours violet, yellowish glows, black, silver: gloomy colours. But, in summary, it is a comforting face”.
Fellini lives his dialect – not easy to understand: “like a Chinese person talking with his head under water” (FF) – to the point that even a swearword like “Osciadlamadona” [Host of the Virgin Mary] seemed to him like a more beautiful sound than “Roshomon“. This is proven by the phonetic sequence that – as with “AsaNIsiMAsa”1, – made up his talisman word: “Amarcord”. Discovered through scribbles, this “hard, gothic, arcane word” is chosen in place of the old title “Ebourg” to be conserved forever in the memory. Amarcord, however, writes Fellini, is “a bizarre little word, a music box, a phonetic somersault a cabalistic sound, the brand of an aperitif…” ” A word which, in its extravagance, could become the synthesis, the reference point, almost a sonic reverb of a feeling, a state of being, a behaviour, a way of feeling and thinking which is twofold, contradictory, the co–existence of two opposites, the fusion of two extremes such as detachment and nostalgia, judgement and complexity, rejection and adhesion, softness and irony, annoyance and torment”.
Is Amarcord, as a proper noun, the explicit synonym for Rimini?!

3. Ghosts

Many cities live in the literary and artistic genre of their mysteries.
Despite overexposure by the media, even Rimini has its own: Caesar’s Rubicon and the die, the medieval drama of Paolo and Francesca, the mysterious remains of Gemisto Pletone, the Malatesta Temple, among the Cantos of E. Pound and the zodiac of A. Warburg, the Masonic echo of Cagliostro, up to the enigmatic and disconsolate verse of E. Pagliarani: “even the sea dies”.
Fellini added his own ghosts to this string of secrets; firstly those of his dead with whom he enters into moving conversations (see, the cemetery of 8 ½). “When I come to Rimini – he said on more than one occasion – I am confronted by ghosts, who ask questions to which I am embarrassed to respond”. Rimini is a place where “you sense things” and even the horizon of the sea, even when reduced to scenery and background is a “great creator of ghosts” (FF).
The dialogue with or without response from the dead, with the unseen, is the paradigm of every communication, and Fellini captures this with his media experience and his extrasensory curiosity. He wants to “go through life succumbing to the seduction of mystery” and rediscover the figures of the unconscious (“or the souls of the deceased which are the same thing”, FF) as information on the conscience and on the self. More than contact with mediums and magicians (in the company of Dino Buzzati or Castaneda) what counts is the “spectrologic” intuition of the filmmaker. The media –photography, phantasmagoria, radio and sound recorders, cinema, television (“Inexhaustible gloomy dream disguised as a music hall”, FF) – generalize incorporeal phenomena and telepathy. They multiply, disperse and conserve disembodied ectoplasms, ghosts of the alive and dead. Among Fellini’s films, the whole Satiricon or the Venetian Carnival of Casanova are evocations of “an ectoplasmatic witch-like operation” (FF). In tragic or facetious form: his clowns, white or majestic, process as in a pagan carnival of the dead. The space gladly extended by his dreams is filled with ghosts: in their sensual gags of enigmatic obscenity these apparitions represent the comic side of sexuality; they awaken the mechanisms of desire, without repression and without surrender (Kundera).
Fellini’s cinema, mysterious par excellence, cannot be written in dead letters. As “the door to the impossible, the incredible” (FF) is full of sulphurous seduction, asserted in ambiguous messages, angelic and diabolic: as in the (flaubertian) Tentazioni del Dottor Antonio, like E. A. Poe’s Toby Dammitt of. For the author of Amarcord, even the mysterious gift of talent “is a great treasure, but there is always the fear that as it mysteriously appeared, just as mysteriously it could be taken away from you” (FF). And creativity – “means of knowledge, science of visual impressions, which makes us forget our logic and retinal habits” (Deleuze) – is an unusual adventure and one into the dark, night at the bottom of the deep sea.

4. Luna Park

The cinema is a place of enchantment in the double sense of its etymology: “canto” and “in quantum”, that is beauty and charm, luxury and money. Over the years Rimini has tried to keep up with the great Luna Park of Fellini’s imagination. It transformed itself from a village to the fair of all fairs, universal expo, music hall, or cabinet of wonders. It brings dreams to light, and exchanges the, natural daylight of the sea with the artificial night–time light, of parties. While Fellini moved from the proper noun to the adjective: “Felliniano”, or Fellinian, Rimini was derived in the nouns: “Divertimentificio” and “Riminizzazione” [‘enjoyment factory’ and ‘Riminisation’].
Mimicry with respect to the works of his fellow citizen, conducted at times with success, with the same courage as placing the “art pompier” and the non “art pompier” at the service of one another, going beyond beauty and ugliness: what is known in aesthetics as kitsch.
The great director, Master of litotes and understatement, had the opportunity to compare the new Rimini to the graphic capital of the world of Flash Gordon. Perhaps he appreciated it for the same reasons as the great philosopher of cinema, G. Deleuze, considered his work to be unforgettable: the simultaneous vitality, the rapid overlapping of images – signs of signs – without depth; the horizontal succession, like a row of people present.
An internity (Deleuze) not entirely fleeting, which opposes the pretences of consistency and eternity.
Every being is an organism, natural or symbolic, to exist one has to define oneself as that which they want to be. It is Fellini who has determined one of the definitions of Rimini. I believe, or rather hope, forever.

  1. The word ‘AsaNIsiMAsa’, invented for Fellini’s film 8 ½, is said to be a play word or chant used by children at bedtime that supposedly brings creatures to life. The uppercase letters reveal the word ‘anima’ or ‘soul’. torna al rimando a questa nota


Various authors
Federico Fellini – La mia Rimini, edited by M. Guaraldi and L. Pellegrini, Guaraldi, Rimini, 2003, 2007
Fare un film, Einaudi, Turin, 1980
Intervista sul cinema, edited by G. Grazzini, Laterza, Rome-Bari, 1983
Raccontando di me, edited by C. Costantini, Editori Riuniti, Rome, 1996
Bondanella, P.
Il cinema di Federico Fellini, Guaraldi, Rimini, 1994
Deleuze, G.
Cinema. Vol. 2: L’immagine-tempo, Ubulibri, Milan, 2004
Fabbri, P.
“San Federico decollato”, in Mimmo Rotella, A Federico Fellini, Catalogue of the Galleria Fabjbasaglia, Rimini, 1998
“Prima Donna: la Saraghina tra Kafka e Picasso”, in Fellini-Amarcord. Fellini studies journal, no. 3-4, December 2001
“Il rinoceronte dà un ottimo latte”, in Il mio Fellini, edited by G. Ricci and A. Fontemaggi, Federico Fellini Foundation, Rimini, 2006 (translated at Trafic, Paris, 2011)
“Fellini e la madre di tutte le tentazioni”, in Lo schermo manifesto: la pubblicità di F. Fellini, edited by P. Fabbri and M. Guaraldi, Guaraldi, Rimini, 2002
Kezich, T.
Federico. Fellini, la vita e i film, Feltrinelli, Milan, 2002
Kundera, M.
I testamenti traditi, Adelphi, Milan, 2000 (english translation Testaments Betrayed, Faber & Faber, 1995)
Moscati, I.
Fellini & Fellini, Rai Eri, Rome, 2010
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