I Clowns (The Clowns). 1970. Italy. Directed by Federico Fellini. Screenplay by Fellini, Bernardino Zapponi. 4K digital restoration. In Italian; English subtitles. 91 min.
In Fellini’s cinema, what is fiction or nonfiction is irrelevant, as imagination reigns supreme. So when the director makes a movie about clowns, it looks simultaneously like a documentary that illuminates the subject at hand and a narrative film. From a scene with a little boy, presumably the young Fellini, encountering the circus for the very first time, to actual interviews with well-known clowns, to a surreal funeral parade for a dead clown, the shape and form of the film keeps shifting, much as reality and dreams glide on and off screen in Fellini’s other works. The result is a fascinating ode to clowns, who have remained an inspiration to the director throughout his career.