A mix of black comedy and scathing tragedy, a forerunner to Fellini’s La dolce vita
Even this film, with its slight hint of noir, proves Fellini to be one of the most lucid and innovative film-makers of the 20th century
Filmed between La strada and Le notti di Cabiria, at first sight Il bidone may seem like an anomaly in the outstanding filmography of Federico Fellini, mostly due to it borrowing certain aspects from film noir (for example, the choice of the great American character actor Broderick Crawford). In reality, the film is another potent demonstration of how the director was one of the most innovative, personal and attentive narrators of the 20th century. With his inexhaustible clarity, Fellini gives us an incisive slice of his times, depicting the abandoned countryside, the desperation of urban slum-dwellers, the vulgar degradation of the wealthy. In many ways, Il bidone can be considered the film that best foreshadows La dolce vita. As critic Piero Bianchi wrote, in this film Fellini “manages to take in heaven and earth in a single gaze”. A mix of black comedy and scathing tragedy, the genius of the director examines humanity, while refuting easy contrasts between innocent and guilty. Two versions of the film exist: the one premiered at the Venice Film Festival with a running time of 112’, and the shorter 92’ version released for wider distribution.
Augusto is a seasoned con artist who makes a living out of swindling old ladies, naive people and farmers. Hoping to help his daughter out, he targets his old accomplices as the victims of his last con, but it ends badly for him.