Film historian Russell Merritt has been introducing films, lecturing, and serving as an occasional guest curator at BAMPFA for more than thirty years.
Federico Fellini, Maya Morin, Riccardo Billi, Gigi Reder,
“The Clowns extends the last sequence of 8 1/2, where all the significant people in the filmmaker’s life are led by clowns and the young ringmaster around a circus ring. It presents itself as a documentary, purporting to give a true account of the culture of clowns in Italy and France in the 1920s and ’30s. But it is also an autobiographical exercise. Felliniesque documentary is a distinct genre, one not inclined to slavishly follow facts. For instance, the camera crew is fake—they’re really actors, playing the parts of technicians (as Fellini is an actor playing the part of the real Fellini). . . . In the streets and countryside, Fellini finds the clowns of our daily lives” (Seymour Chatman). Fellini said the clown “stands for the instinct, for whatever is rebellious in each one of us and whatever stands up to the established order of things. He is a caricature of man’s childish and animal aspects, the mocker and the mocked.”