City of Women

By Moshe Gershon

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On this International Women’s Day, I would like to salute Federico Fellini’s 1980 film La città delle donne  (The City of Women), a film that is often referred to as “a flawed masterpiece”. Flawed or not, it remains one of the maestro’s most entertaining and dreamy outings.

When it premiered at the Cannes Film Festival, it was rounded up, put up against a wall, shot down by critics and even maliciously pronounced “worthless” by the (otherwise) great Andrei Tarkovsky.

One curious behind-the-scenes event remains disturbing as few; apparently Ettore Manni, the actor who played Dr. Xavier Kazone in the film, killed himself during filming by shooting off his penis with a pistol, eventually dying from bleeding. Fellini blamed himself for pushing Manni too hard into his macho role and thus, out of respect for Manni, refused to re-shoot with another actor and had to change the ending.

The true cause of this tragic event is unknown. It is enough to say that in the film Manni comes across as a tragically beautiful cross between a man, a lion and a woman.  As to Fellini, his reaction is a reminder of his own feminine aspects, no more pronounced than in the surprisingly feminine qualities of his voice, its delicacy well-documented in countless filmed interviews - considering his physical appearance you would expect a deep baritone.

As surely as Fellini embodies the very fusion of anima and animus, a fusion arguably the crux of his art, does this example not call for an International the Woman Inside the Man's Day?