The White Sheik (VHS) ~ Alberto Sordi (actor) Cover Art

The White Sheik (VHS)

Alberto Sordi (actor), Giulietta Masina (actor) and Federico Fellini (director)

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Federico Fellini's solo-directing debut seems like a pure excursion into the director's extravagant imagination, but its comedy, alternately ethereal and tumultuous, is grounded in reality. A honeymooning clerk (Leopoldo Trieste) and his big-eyed bride (Brunella Bovo) make a package-tour pilgrimage to Rome to have an audience with the Pope. There are bureaucratic delays, and the couple become separated. The still-virginal husband falls in with prostitutes (including Giulietta Masina's Cabiria, later canonized in Fellini's most enduring masterpiece). The bride finds herself in the world of her favorite fantasy-figure, "the White Sheik"--the hero of the photographic comic books, or fumetti, eagerly followed by the Italian populace. It was Michelangelo Antonioni who proposed the fumetti as a ripe film subject, and the film's central episode--dominated by Alberto Sordi's preposterous fantasy-figure and the Mack Sennett-like production methods of the fumetti company--is the first tour de force of Fellini's spectacular career. --Richard T. Jameson

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