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Rome on Film

Pino's barbershop, on Via Piemonte, was very small, as was Pino. Several decades ago Fellini had dropped in on his way to Cesarina, a restaurant a few doors down that specializes in food from his native region of Emilia-Romagna. Fellini paid for his shave. Pino didn't have change. "So he came back for another shave," Pino said. "Time after time, until he became like a brother."

Fellini called Pino "Pinuccio." Pino called him "Maestro."

"Then, when we became closer, I called him 'Bambino.' "

His wife, who wore red lipstick, assisted Pino. She had on a nice dress, under a white smock, which, along with Pino's neat tie, gave the whole place an officious, precise atmosphere.

On the wall opposite the mirror were a series of framed drawings by Fellini as well as numerous photographs of the director. A small glass case contained several presents from him to Pino, who had done some acting of his own once. He said that he usually played the role of a barber or a prisoner.

There was nothing to do but get a shave and a haircut. Peering into the mirror, I saw the drawings and photographs of Fellini behind me.

Then I was rudely dunked into the sink face-forward. I thought this might have been a special treat for the American journalist. But I was intrigued to see several well-dressed businessmen getting the same treatment. One after the other, the men were dunked forward, their heads given a vigorous shampoo by Pino, and then yanked upright, gasping.

A particularly dapper man remarked, "He's really a psychiatrist."

Pino explained his philosophy: "Take life as it comes, with a smile, dance, sing...if possible, never be angry in front of women."

Eventually he closed and we all went down the street to Cesarina, where the staff consisted entirely of old-timers who all remembered the director. They listed his favorite dishes. For dessert, he liked something called ciambella.

"We don't have it anymore," said the maître d', Sandro Guerrini. "It's very heavy, and after Fellini died, no one asked for it anymore."

The Widow, Revisited

Roberto Mannoni, the Widow, steps out to greet us in a bright red sweater and blue pants, with a white beard and full head of white hair. He is reminiscent, somehow, of Santa Claus, if Santa had about him the aspect of a slightly underappreciated and sensitive man whose boyhood was still with him.

We enter the room that is the complete reconstruction of Fellini's office. There is a huge desk, above which hangs a giant montage of faces, all black-and-white, a crossword puzzle of head shots, some gorgeous and young, others disfigured, elegant, happy, somber; the whole pantheon of human expression filtered through a selective eye that always looks for the extreme, the vulnerable, the needy, the exhibitionist, and the unusual. A huge pea-green couch sits behind a low glass-topped table covered with neatly arranged magazine covers, all featuring Fellini. Giant leopard-skin pillows rest at either end. On the walls are storyboard drawings and photographs of starlets, with little drawn-in thought bubbles scribbled above their heads.

When I ask what they say, Mannoni replies: "I'd rather not say. They all have to do with farts."

"We met in 1967," he tells me, "when I was working on another production and we got a call from the Fellini set saying they had run out of film and could we lend them some. I was sent over with the virgin film, and because my father was then in charge of issuing permits for movies to be shot in places like the Colosseum, FF recognized my name." From this chance encounter a relationship blossomed in which Mannoni was a personal secretary and eventually a line producer—his first FF film was Spirits of the Dead.

Of Fellini's relationship with Rome, he says, "It was love/hate. He didn't hesitate to show ugly things: people eating, making noises, prostitutes, whorehouses, the weight of the Vatican, and the catwalk of the cardinals. He showed Rome the way it was; he never tried to make it into a postcard."

I ask how Fellini got such interesting faces.

"When Fellini made a movie everyone showed up. Security wasn't so tight then, and people were always coming in to leave their head shots."

And during some of the sexually unabashed scenes that populate Fellini's movies, did his actors ever get bashful?

"For him they would do anything," Mannoni says with evident warmth. "Often when I met the actors he cast, I wondered what he saw in them, but when I saw them on the screen I understood."

Mannoni finally reveals the plot for his own movie. It involves two lovers who come to Rome from New York. The man is an architect, and the woman is in love with Fellini movies and wants to get as much information about him as possible. She is, as I understood it, a kind of superfan, somewhere between scholar and groupie (always a fine line), so obsessed that her lover is at first jealous before falling under the Fellini spell himself.

Listening to this story about someone coming to Rome from New York on a pilgrimage to be in Fellini's aura, I have the odd feeling that life and art are, as ever, getting weirdly intermingled. Or should I say life, art, and Rome?

The movie is to be called Three Steps with Fellini.

"This refers to an Italian expression: 'Take three steps with me,' which means let's do this part of our lives together," he says.

It's a lovely phrase, I think, and I tell him his idea sounds good. I look up on the wall and see a colorful drawing of some Matisse-like flowers with the aphorism, "From FF: Accept me as I am, only then can we discover each other."


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