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FRIDAY & SATURDAY
By the time he made Satyricon in 1969, Federico Fellini probably had forgotten he was ever a Neorealist. All that remains in the film of the director’s early work are its fervent eroticism and his lifelong interest in circuslike pageantry. Often screened mostly for its campy theatrics and lurid (bi)sexuality—as a midnight movie, in other words—the film is brazenly unrealistic and bewilderingly episodic. But these qualities don’t merely represent the indulgences of a cinematic megalomaniac (which Fellini certainly was). Instead, the movie’s style results from the director’s quest to be true to his ancient sources, including Greek tragedy, Roman frescoes, and Petronius’ Satyricon itself, which survives only in fragmentary form. Protagonist Encolpius (Martin Potter) hops from incident to incident, at first desperately pursuing unfaithful adolescent lover Gitone (Max Born) and later trying to survive such perils as an earthquake, mercurial tyrants, political upheaval, the Minotaur, and—worst of all—a “blunted sword.” Don’t look for Jupiter, Diana, or Mercury in Satyricon’s cosmology; Priapus is the god who matters. Not everything in the film is derived from Nero’s age: A scene in which Encolpius and the poet Eumolpus (Salvo Randone) stroll through a gallery, deploring the decline of contemporary art, could be an outtake from La Dolce Vita plunged two millennia into the past. Among Fellini’s gambits for making the ancient Mediterranean seem unfamiliar is to use such non-Western music as Javanese gamelan and Bali’s kecak chant, which invokes not the gods of Rome but India’s Rama. The film screens at midnight Friday, July 23, and Saturday, July 24, at Landmark’s E Street Theatre, 555 11th St. NW. $6.25. (202) 452-7672. (Mark Jenkins)