Fellini’s Linguine: You see what a fun language Italian is? This is a very simple recipe and perfect to make around now, because all of Italy is celebrating Ferragosto. Ferragosto is the annual extravaganza italiana when the whole country seems to shut down and head to the beach. The tourist used to have two options: die of hunger and thirst in the deserted cities, or risk death by trampling as Italian vacationers raced to secure their spots on the lidos up and down Italy’s extensive coastlines. It’s calmed down a little.
Technically it’s only one day, the 15th, but that will not do for Italians, and certainly not in August. Now it’s not uncommon for Italian companies to shut down for a couple of weeks (and force their employees to use up two weeks of their generous vacation time thereby) but it’s also not uncommon for companies, especially hotels and restaurants that don’t cater to the tourist trade, to shut down for longer. You don’t have to be that old in Italy to remember when the whole country went on vacation mode for the entire month of August. It’s an ancient holiday, instituted as August 1st under the Emperor Augustus just before the switch from BC to AD, so over 2,000 years ago. Then when the Catholics came along, they moved it to August 15th to blend in the Feast of the Assumption, one of the many pagan Roman rituals that morphed into devout Catholic practice.
So, Signore Fellini. As you read his biography, you have to remember certain key dates. Mussolini became Italy’s Prime Minister in 1922 and then took over in 1925 as its dictator (Il Duce) and created the first Fascist state. Mussolini invaded Ethiopia in 1935 and Hitler was all for it. Around the same time the two backed Franco’s insurgent forces in Spain and Franco ultimately won, bringing on a brutal Fascist dictatorship of his own which lasted until his death in 1975. In 1939 World War II began, but Mussolini held out until 1940, when he joined his ally Hitler and invaded France. In 1943 Mussolini, clearly losing the war, was arrested by his own government. The Germans swooped in, rescued Mussolini, and a puppet Italian state was created in the north. In 1945, just before VE Day, Mussolini and his mistress were captured and executed by firing squad. Then their bodies were famously strung up in a public square in Milan.
So, Fellini was born in 1920 and where was he during all of this? He opened a portrait shop in his hometown of Rimini in 1937 and started writing comedy and was a caricaturist. He went to Rome in 1939 (let that sink in: he went to Rome in 1939) to go to law school to please his parents but dropped out. He soon found work at a humor magazine (imagine a humor magazine in Berlin in, say, 1941), made lots of connections, and in 1942 was sent to Libya, occupied by Italy, the site of the Battle of El Alamein, to…write a screenplay. The walls are closing in on Mussolini, he’s desperately recruiting everyone he can, but an allied bomb destroyed a building housing Fellini’s medical records so now he kind of didn’t exist. He hid with his girlfriend for a few months and then Italy, or at least his part of it, were free.
Wow. As far as I know no German within Germany lived through the Fascist period in quite that way.
So obviously he became very famous but it took a while and he had gifted collaborators. In 1956 he made Nights of Cabiria, which was produced by Dino De Laurentiis (future carmaker and granddad of Giada) and whose script was translated into Roman dialect by Pier Palo Pasolini, who wore many hats and made some disturbing films and was the victim of an unsolved murder which occurred during a street argument with a male prostitute…boy, I hope he has a celebrity recipe.
But then came La Dolce Vita, one of the most influential and talked-about movies ever made, and it may well have ushered in the golden era of Roman filmmaking, but lots of stuff was going on at the time. La Dolce Vita scandalized the great and the good of Italian society but it broke all box office records. Every call for its ban only served to make it more of a must-see event.
Fellini then fell in with Jungians and experimented with LSD. I would have done the same if I were him. His dreams and hallucinations, the Jungian concepts of archetypes, all informed his films going forward, like 8 1/2, City of Women, and Fellini Satyricon. When Fellini went to LA in 1962 (8 1/2 was nominated for four Oscars and won two) he toured Disneyland with Walt Disney himself, because of Fellini’s keen interest in circuses, costumes, and masks, both metaphoric and literal. He made a docu-movie called Clowns. In 1970 he pronounced, “Who can still laugh at clowns?… All the world plays a clown now.” Perhaps he was inspired by a remark attributed to Milton Friedman in a 1965 edition of Time magazine, “We are all Keynesians now.” If Friedman ever said it, it would have been with a tone of disgust.
Here’s a snipped from Wiki about his 1971 Roma:
The film’s opening scene anticipates Amarcord while its most surreal sequence involves an ecclesiastical fashion show in which nuns and priests roller skate past shipwrecks of cobwebbed skeletons.
And today some tired retread of Top Gun breaks box office records worldwide.
Let’s consider this a wrap, as they say on film sets. Sorry to go all Cahiers du Cinéma on you. Fellini died at 73 of a heart attack. I see nothing wrong with his linguine recipe but perhaps it is not exactly heart healthy.
5 tbs olive oil
1/2 stick butter
1 tbs flour
1 cup chicken broth
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 tsp dried parsley
2 tsp lemon juice
salt/freshly ground pepper
1 1/4 ounce can artichoke hearts, drained and quartered
3 tbs parmesan cheese
2 tsp capers
1 lb cooked and drained linguine
Melt 4 tbs each of the oil and butter. Add the flour and stir until smooth, a light flame going, about 2 minutes. Gradually add the broth, stirring until thickened, about 1 minute. Add the garlic, parsley, lemon juice, salt and pepper to taste; cook 5 min., stirring constantly. Add the artichokes, 2 tbs of the parmesan and capers. Cover and simmer on very low about 10 minutes.
Heat the remaining 1 tbs each of butter and oil in a pan. Add the linguine and toss. Then add the remaining parmesan and lightly toss.
Arrange the pasta on a platter and pour the sauce over.