Heaven Awaits

Sometimes the cinema is just heavenly, and this is one of those times. Returning in a beautifully restored print, with new subtitles, is Federico Fellini's first color masterpiece (from 1965), bursting with unruly insights on ardor and release. The director's stout and gleaming wife, Giulietta Masina, plays the leading lady of leisure, distraught when her well-to-do husband, Giorgio (Mario Pisu, from 8 1/2), starts diddling a silly supermodel. In clunkier hands and a dumbed-down age, this scenario would bear the rotten fruit of What Lies Beneath, but Fellini instead treats us to a much deeper and more fulfilling exploration of the sensuous and the supernatural, passing through eerie dreams, glowing tableaux of erotic phantoms and visions of long-repressed martyrdom. It also doesn't hurt to feast upon cinematographer Gianni Di Venanzo's explosions of pastels and primaries, or the almost absurdly perky score of Nino Rota. Masina is the heart and soul of the piece, always conveying a sense of cheerful veneer on the verge of cracking, but her circus envy is justified, as she's flanked on all sides by typically colorful Fellini characters.

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