The White Sheik is a rather plain film about two subjects which Italian film seems to have an obsession with - Infidelity and Catholicism. It is saved by the fact that it is an early film by Fellini, and has moments of near divine inspiration.

One moment, to be specific. The man has given up looking for his wife (who was taken away on a whirlwind adventure), and he is sitting on the edge of a fountain in a town square in Rome, bemoaning the sad fate of his week old marriage. Up walks two prostitutes. They don't look like normal prostitutes, they look like normal women, but they are quite defiantly prostitutes. One (who is talking really fast) sees him and wants to find out whats wrong with him, she runs over to him, and her and her friend manage to get the entire story about his lost love. The fast talking one has a somewhat playful sympathy for him, while the other a more honest sympathy for him. Then an old man shows up who the girls know, the fast talking one runs to him, talks about how he is, and convinces him to do his fire breathing trick.

The old man is breathing fire like a carnival man performing for a little girl, while the other prostitute says she is taking the man to her place.

The image is beautiful. The contrast of the two virginal characters who hobnob with the elite (the girl of which is missing), and the two innocent prostitutes who play with street hobos drives home, not a point, but a feeling for the complexity of what it means to be fulfilled (innocent is an ugly word, but its probably the word Fellini would have used).

More than anything its a beautiful shot.

No comments: