For Federico Fellini, the beach is a place of both desire and disappointment. In 8 1/2, it’s where the filmmaker, as a young boy, pays a portly prostitute to perform a vulgar rumba – and where he’s shamed by a priest for doing so. Three years earlier, however, at the end of La Dolce Vita, it’s where Marcello (Marcello Mastroianni) and his friends discover a beached, bloated leviathan, a strange, slimy, monster that’s washed up on the shore. (Earlier in the movie, in its most famous scene, Marcello watches as Anita Ekberg wades into a fountain, like a Venus in reverse, returning to the water; now, this is what the water spits back up.)
Symbols in movies don’t get much more in-your-face than that. The dead creature is a sign that the party’s over, that the days of revelry and triviality the film has chronicled are done, and that it’s time to move on and grow up and take responsibility. Of course, none of that is about to happen; Marcello’s joyless pursuit of sex and celebrity and sensation is likely to continue as before. But he can’t say he wasn’t warned.
Next Dr. No