Federico Fellini's films beg to be seen on a movie screen. Their panoramic, overstuffed frames and larger-than-life characters overflow the boundaries of home theater; their exuberant, generous humor is best enjoyed in a packed auditorium rippling with laughter. So three cheers for the re-release of "Amarcord" (★★★★, unrated, in subtitled Italian) the maestro's farcical, vulgar, wistful recollection of adolescence in wartime.
Fellini's alter ego, Titta (Bruno Zanin) leads a pack of boys through the streets of a strange little town. Their shenanigans wouldn't be out of place in an "American Pie" movie, but fascism is all the rage, with goose-stepping parades and a giant head of Mussolini that's an object of frenzied adoration. The boys adore Il Duce with the grandiose passion of youth, as does the newborn nation. "Amarcord" is a funhouse tour of bittersweet history.
The film is narrated by a self-appointed expert who speaks directly to us and is pelted with tin cans by residents who just want him to shut up. There are moments of magical beauty: an ocean liner that is the pride of Mussolini's regime sails past the seaside village, a magnificent cardboard prop on artificial waves of plastic sheeting; a peacock fans its tail in a snowstorm; a village dance around a bonfire becomes dark social commentary as we glimpse a scarecrow form amid the flames. "Amarcord" was the 1974 Best Foreign Film; it remains as striking as a peacock in the snow. (Lagoon Cinema, 1320 Lagoon Av., Mpls.)