With La Dolce Vita, director Federico Fellini began a string of grand and surreal pictures that would seal his international reputation as one of the most innovative directors of the post-war era. By way of the dreamlike settings and complex narratives he created for masterpieces like 8 1/2, Juliet of the Spirits, Satyricon, and Armacord, Fellini expanded on the relatively traditional base of his '50s movies (Il Bidone, La Strada) and made stars out of Marcello Mastroianni and Giulietta Masina. Composer Nino Rota also came to prominence via Fellini's pictures by perfectly complimenting the director's fantastical work with impressionistic and eclectic scores. Like fellow countryman Ennio Morricone, Rota created soundtracks that were original enough to stand on their own apart from a given film. And while maybe not as innovative and stunning as his later backdrops for 8 1/2 and Juliet of the Spirits, La Dolce Vita still impresses with its popular main title theme, the fleet cocktail jazz of "Cadillac," and the murky and mysterious "Via Veneto e I Nobili." Using organ, piano, electric guitar, accordion, clarinets, trumpets, vibes, and, at times, a full orchestra, Rota creates a mix of askew circus music themes, lounge combo cuts, and Italian café interludes, all of which come off sounding quaint yet innovative. Along with most of Rota's work for Fellini, La Dolce Vita is essential listening for soundtrack fans. ~ Stephen Cook
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