Outside Television: Fellini on Exposure and Attention in the Age of Abundance

Nardelli, Matilde ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0003-4582-1024 (2024) Outside Television: Fellini on Exposure and Attention in the Age of Abundance. Screen, 65 (1). ISSN 0036-9543

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Federico Fellini had a long, rich and vexed relationship with television. He famously once dismissed it as ‘something that furnished a corner of the house’. Yet, as television’s diffusion grew exponentially in the second half of the twentieth century, he could not himself remain untouched by its ubiquity. Though adopting an increasingly critical stance towards the medium, and its commercialization, in the course of his career, Fellini nevertheless made several films for television and even, in the last decade of his life, a number of commercials for it. This article seeks to deepen the understanding of Fellini’s ambivalent position as a critic of television by looking at his late films. Less well known than his earlier works, these films crucially thematize the coincident developments of a globally plentiful televisual era – its age of ‘abundance’ taking off in the 1980s – and, more locally, of the commercialization of Italian broadcasting. The Voice of the Moon (1990) and Ginger and Fred (1986) in particular are intent on addressing a complex pervasiveness of television, as a form literally and figuratively ‘in the air’. Rooted both in the medium’s physical materiality and infrastructure and in its less palpable economic and socio-cultural machinery, this perceived – if not actual – pervasiveness of television crystallizes in these films in a quality that this article will describe as ‘outsideness’. Television is not simply presented as a form that has transcended what might have been its traditional domestic boundaries and spilled out into public spaces but also, more subtly, as a form whose materiality and organization contribute to its presence and diffusion ‘outside’. While Fellini’s cinema is generally seen as playfully – and obsessively – self-reflexive, here it will be foregrounded as a significant site of wider media reflection and critique. By connecting his work with critical perspectives about television, as well as newer networked media, the present discussion also seeks to consider how Fellini’s late films began to articulate concerns about immersion, exposure and the economies of attention that were soon to come more forcefully into the foreground of critical debates in media theory with the transition to digital, online forms. In so doing, as well as contributing to Fellini scholarship, this article also seeks to insert his work within debates on television and theories of media as, itself, a critical intervention.

Item Type: Article
Identifier: 10.1093/screen/hjae005
Subjects: Film and television
Depositing User: Matilde Nardelli
Date Deposited: 17 Apr 2024 09:23
Last Modified: 17 Apr 2024 09:23
URI: https://repository.uwl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10502


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