Lightbox Goes Gaga For Fellini
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Lightbox Goes Gaga For Fellini

Still from Federico Fellini’s La Dolce Vita courtesy TIFF.

Earlier this week, TIFF Bell Lightbox announced their third major exhibition, set to take over the building’s gallery between June 30 and September 8. Following their kickoff exhibition, Essential Cinema, and its impressive followup paying tribute to the work of Tim Burton, the Lightbox now prepares to host a show dedicated to the work of baroque Italian master Federico Fellini, a certified master of the cinema most any way you cut it. But unlike Tim Burton, which strove for comprehensiveness in tracing the American filmmaker’s career from daydreaming doodler to visionary of all things spooky, Fellini: Spectacular Obsessions focuses on specific themes in the artist’s life and work.

“The core of the show deals with Fellini’s inner demons, if you will, and their relationship to pop culture around him,” explains Noah Cowan, artistic director at TIFF Bell Lightbox. Collecting posters, film artifacts, and what Cowan describes as “an enormous collection of archival photographs,” Spectacular Obsessions, which makes its North American premiere at the Lightbox, connects Fellini’s work to contemporary celebrity culture. “It doesn’t try to tell you everything about every Fellini movie…. We wanted to do a show that focused on Fellini’s role in creating contemporary celebrity culture. We want people to see his relationship to sex scandals of the day and paparazzi especially and connect them to stuff like Lady Gaga and MTV’s Spring Break, and think through the impact that this mid-century filmmaker has had on culture as we live it today.”

This seems a curiously hip connection for the cultural curators at the Lightbox, especially because Spring Break hasn’t been MTV’s exploitative crown jewel for years (Jersey Shore seems a more suitable candidate, though we can certainly sympathize with not wanting to connect Fellini’s proud Italian bloodline to the Situation’s, however tenuously). But there’s no doubt that Fellini’s films—especially 1960’s La Dolce Vita, which brought the word paparazzo into the international lexicon—do concern themselves with the lives of celebrities and those weirdos who invest themselves in the lives of celebrities.
And speaking of celebrities, Atom Egoyan and Isabella Rossellini are huge celebrities! Which may explain why TIFF approached them, and eight other Fellini-heads, to put together a film programme designed to accompany Spectacular Obsessions. Instead of just putting together a full-blown Fellini retrospective, though, Cowan and Co. asked these “friends of TIFF” to put together their “dream double bill.” While the programme hasn’t been announced, Cowan promises that the choices will prove “unexpected and really fun.” We predict 8 ½ programmed alongside Woody Allen’s Stardust Memories. Or Fassbinder’s Beware of a Holy Whore. Or Spike Jonze’s Adaptation. Or any one of the other nine thousand movies that owe an aesthetic or narrative debt to Fellini’s ode to the inspirationally imperilled artiste. Just not Rob Marshall’s Nine, please.

We’ll keep you abreast of details as they become available. But for now, there you have it: a full-scale art exhibition tracing the development of celebrity culture from Fellini’s Paparazzo to Lady Gaga’s “Paparazzi,” coming soon to a Lightbox nearest you.
Fellini: Spectacular Obsessions opens Thursday, June 30 at TIFF Bell Lightbox (350 King Street West), where it runs until September 18. Save the date.