La Dolce Vita (Federico Fellini, 1960)
This is the film that established Fellini as Fellini, not just a known international filmmaker but a brand-name director with a signature style (cinema as circus) and subject (the decadence of modern society).
Marcello Mastroianni stars as a gossip reporter following the nightlife in Rome, accompanied by his photographer, Paparazzo. Yes, this is where the word "paparazzi" comes from.
Eerily prescient on the subject of tabloid culture, La Dolce Vita unfolds as a series of tableaux and set pieces, including Anita Ekberg's famous stroll through the Trevi Fountain, leading to an anticlimactic party where the last folks awake are turned loose on a beach.
At 165 minutes, it's too long. Fellini creates great scenes, then lets them run and run. And after a while it's hard to get worked up about the spiritual crises of people who wear sunglasses at night.
Still, La Dolce Vita is an essential document of the international cinema of the 60s. While watching, it's worth remembering Fran Lebowitz's comment that you only need to spend one hour in Rome to realize that Fellini makes documentaries. (August 18 to 21, Cinematheque Ontario)