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Old 3rd August 2011   #1
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Default Fellini: Spectacular Obsessions

As noted on this forum at the time, Paris saw a major exhibition devoted to legendary director Federico Fellini in 2009.

Then, last year, a forum post observed that 2010 marked the 50th anniversary of Fellini's greatest film, La dolce Vita, which contains perhaps the most famous depiction of plus-size beauty in the history of cinema - the scene of Anita Ekberg in a strapless black gown, dancing in the Trevi Fountain in Rome.

Well, anyone who is in the Toronto area will be thrilled to know that the 2009 Paris exhibition on Fellini has now been installed at the Toronto International Film Festival's "Tiff Lightbox" building, where it will be viewable till September 18th.

TIFF has produced a short teaser for the exhibit:

Even though that teaser implies that the exhibition covers the entirety of Fellini's career and his relationships with all of the celebrities of the day, the show really focusses on La dolce Vita. In fact, to put it plainly, this is really an Anita Ekberg exhibition (as it should be).

One entire wall, for example, shows many of Ekberg's magazine covers from the era, which indicates how enthusiastically the media of the day celebrated her well-fed voluptuousness.

She was the sex symbol of her time - and just imagine how much healthier a culture it was when a bountiful woman like Anita was the ideal of beauty, rather than a half-starved androgynous gym rat, like today's scrawny celebrities.

An article about the show mentions some of its highlights, which demonstrate that Anita Ekberg was truly Fellini's muse. No, more than that, she was practically the co-creator of La dolce Vita, for the movie's greatest scenes were adapted directly from her life:

The voluptuous ivory curves and pouty lips of Swedish actress Anita Ekberg adorn La Dolce Vita, his most celebrated work.

That famous bathing scene with Ekberg in Rome’s Trevi Fountain began as a fashion spread with her in Italy’s Il Tempo magazine in September 1958. Fellini saw it, and asked her to repeat the sequence for La Dolce Vita.

Another boisterous Roman moment involving Ekberg was even more scandalous in real life than in La Dolce Vita. Newspaper and magazine reports of November 1958 told a shocked Italian populace about a party at the chic Rugantino nightclub, hosted by a Roman aristocrat, that had apparently turned into “a torrid cha-cha party,” as one scandal sheet breathlessly reported.

Seems Ekberg was carried away by the music: “The drums got to her and she began to dance.” She took off her shoes and allowed one strap of her tight black dress to slide to her shoulder.

Isn't that fascinating? The exhibition shows the original photographs of Anita in the Trevi fountain from Il Tempo (in which case she wore a white outfit rather than a black dress), as well as paparazzi photos of Anita's original, real-life nightclub-dance episode.

(Videos of both of those scenes from La dolce Vita are embedded in the forum threads that I linked above.)

There's something incredibly sensual about the idea that the buxom Ekberg simply had to dance when she heard that rhythmic music. It speaks of her as being a wholly physical being, governed by her appetites - for food, for dance. This forum has often noted how plus-size goddesses have a natural inclination for dance (going right back to the Classical beauty goddess, Venus, who was traditionally represented as being given to dancing), and this bit of Anita Ekberg's personal history shows that she too lived to dance.

The combination of full-figured blonde physical beauty with a rapacious appetite for food and a voluptuous love of dance is intoxicating; it speaks of a goddess who eagerly surrenders to her passions and cravings. The Fellini: Spectacular Obsessions exhibition highlights this qualities of Anita Ekberg. It's a show not to be missed.
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Old 4th August 2011   #2
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Default Re: Fellini: Spectacular Obsessions

Here's an addition to this news that is truly delicious. On August 28th, in an event enthusiastically called "La Dolce Vita – Food and Film," TIFF will be screening La Dolce Vita and following up the showing with a sumptuous banquet that Anita herself would approve of.

Unfortunately, one has to be a TIFF member to participate, but the concept is utterly perfect:

TIFF and Oliver & Bonacini are pleased to offer a delectable food and film pairing on Sunday August 28, 2011.

Members and Supporters will enjoy the screening of Fellini’s masterpiece of decadence La Dolce Vita. Following the screening, at 6:30pm guests will move to Luma and the BlackBerry lounge, where Luma Executive Chef Jason Bangerter will prepare and introduce a three-course Italian menu inspired by the themes and memorable scenes from La Dolce Vita, while the Luma sommelier Anthony Demas will complement the meal with wonderful Italian wine parings.

I love the idea that a film celebrating an actress who comes closer to plus-size beauty than just about any vixen yet seen in world cinema inspires a rich banquet. What a contrast to today's media culture, where corpse-like, underweight actresses trigger anorexia.

The contrast between the two effects wrought by the different visions of beauty - the life-affirming meal inspired by a curvaceous and beautiful actress of the past versus the self-imposed starvation triggered by skeletal actresses of today - says everything that one needs to know about the two ideals; how the traditional feminine ideal celebrates life, and the modern standard yields nothing but death.

If plus-size beauty were once again culturally dominant, then women everywhere, from girlhood to maturity, would have a natural, robust relationship with food, rather than a pathological fear of it, and would be able to truly enjoy life rather than depriving themselves.
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