What’s sweet is so intolerably bitter that no amount of partying will wash it clean. That, at least, is the thesis. Fellini’s Rome is superficial and its partying inhabitants indolent, disaffected, self-destructive. Marcello Mastroianni’s Marcello Rubini, pseudo-journalist and wastrel, is a Roman archetype — much bluster, considerable promise, little substance. Walking time bomb Steiner (Alain Cuny), a baleful intellectual unable to kow-tow to superficiality, is another permanent Rome resident.
The women, more or less stunning, more or less loose, are sexual ghosts in a soulless machine. Ekberg included. Fellini’s masterpiece (less consciously dense than “8 1/2”) ages no more than alienation itself, which makes the movie an exceptionally fine red.