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And The Ship Sails On
cast: Freddie Jones, Janet Suzman, Barbara Jefford, Victor Poletti, and Peter Cellier

director: Federico Fellini

123 minutes (12) 1983
Infinity Arthouse DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 8/10
reviewed by J.C. Hartley
Between the gross-out spectacle of Satyricon (1969) and the indulgent Fellini's Casanova (1976), where the director seems to be attempting some kind of assault on an American market, lie the masterpieces Roma (1972) and Amarcord (1973); Fellini then made the much reviled City Of Women (1980) before embarking on a lower key of sensitive storytelling of which And The Ship Sails On (aka: E la nave va) forms part.

A disparate bunch of divas, tenors, opera lovers, aristocrats, journalists and former lovers of the great Tetua (Janet Suzman, appearing in a 'home movie' reel), partake of a cruise to commit the late diva's ashes to the sea winds of the Italian Mediterranean. With English actors prominent among the cast, the great Freddie Jones shows that given their chance dogged professionals, associated with comedy and cameos, can rise to the occasion. Jones has said that Fellini suggested the part of the journalist Orlando should be played as a cross between Charlie Chaplin and Groucho Marx, and nowhere is this reading more apparent than, when swinging on the handrail on deck, Jones coquettishly asks the young lady he has taken a foolish fancy to "How old do you think I am?" Later, when Tetua's ashes are allowed to blow from a chalice on deck, while a phonograph plays one of her greatest arias, the camera intrudes upon Jones and he waves it away, overcome.

There are set pieces that show why classic European filmmaking is such a joy to those of us who love it, the singing competition in the engine room, and the impromptu 'concert' in the galley, where the performers 'play' using wine glasses and cutlery. When Serbian refugees are taken on board, dissidents among them make an assassination attempt on the political figures among the passengers, and the story swings towards an allegory for the decline of the old order of Europe with the outbreak of the First World War. The story ends with catastrophe and Freddie Jones sharing a lifeboat with an incontinent rhinoceros.

Rather an old-fashioned film, and a long way from the sensual battering-ram that the director usually employs, but perhaps one for completists, Fellini lovers and those wanting a gentle introduction to his work.

DVD extras: Federico Fellini - A Self Portrait (in black and white). Plus featurette episodes (A Star Is Born and The Work Of A Genius) from La Felliniana series.

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