The White Sheik

Bomb Rating: 

This is Federico Fellini's first film and, as such, suffers from the freshman blues like the first films of many other so-called great directors, like Stanley Kubrick, Martin Scorsese and Steven Spielberg. One watches the thing and sees vestigial ideas that will be fleshed out better in later work. It's kind of like watching a baby eat: Stuff just goes everywhere.

The story is very simple: Two newlyweds, Ivan (Leopoldo Trieste) and Wanda (Brunella Bovo), go to Rome. Ivan is pretty anal and Wanda dreads the string of appointments Ivan has scheduled with his family. Given the first opportunity, she runs off in search of Fernando Rivoli (Alberto Sordi), otherwise known as "The White Sheik." He's something like a cartoon, a character of "fumetti," which were Italian comic strips done with actual photographs. As they were of a romantic nature, "The White Sheik" was a female fantasy.

So, once Wanda runs off with the "fumetti" crew, we get to watch what amounts to a shortened version of "8 1/2" in terms of the film-within-a-film, fiction-within-fiction, storytelling method. Back in Rome, Ivan goes through this Chaplinesque routine as he lies to his family about his wife's whereabouts, though he's to Charlie Chaplin what John Wayne Bobbit is to John Holmes.

Wanda discovers "The White Sheik" to be little more than a regular man, driving her back into the arms of her average, silly husband, and deciding that his love is enough for her to fool herself into believing that she's going to have a wonderful life with him, even though the rest of us know she's just fooling herself and has fallen into the fantasy of domestic bliss. It's a rather sad, depressing film actually.

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