Released in 1960, La Dolce Vita is the film that gave currency to the term "Fellini-esque" -- and a name to a lot of lousy Italian restaurants in the rural Midwest. The most famous and most accessible of Federico Fellini's works, it's a heady mixture of Catholic iconography and sexual fantasy, decadent aristocrats at play and ruminations by philosophers who fear nothing more than suicide. The peerless Italian leading man Marcello Mastroianni stars as a bewildered journalist a-swirl in the high life of Rome, replete with nightclub orgies, self-indulgent movie stars and insatiable paparazzi. Vita is three hours long, and some scenes remain indelible: a huge statue of Christ lofted over the Eternal City by a helicopter; luscious Anita Ekberg bathing in the Trevi Fountain; Mastroianni finding a huge dead fish on a beach, where he also encounters an innocent girl. Fellini made denser, more enigmatic films than this -- try 8 1/2 or Juliet of the Spirits if you're in the mood for some deep thinking -- but none provides quite as much sheer pleasure or seems so expressive of the late, great director's dark ebullience.
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La Dolce Vita, in a newly struck 35-millimeter print, opens Friday, December 24, for a one-week limited run at the Starz FilmCenter at the Tivoli, 900 Auraria Parkway. For showtimes and information, call 303-820-3456 or go to www.denverfilm.org.