Great Film: City of Women

City of Women

City of Women (Italian: La città delle donne) is a 1980  drama film written and directed by Federico Fellini.Amid Fellini’s characteristic combination of dreamlike, outrageous, and artistic imagery, Marcello Mastroianni plays Snàporaz, a man who voyages through male and female spaces toward a confrontation with his own attitudes toward women and his wife.

Snàporaz (Marcello Mastroianni) wakes up during a train ride and has a brief fling with a woman in the bathroom, but it’s cut short when the train suddenly stops and the woman gets off. Snàporaz follows her into the woods, through the wilderness and into a Grand Hotel overrun with women in attendance for a surrealistic feminist convention. He winds up in a conference about polyandry, where his presence is rejected. A frightened Snàporaz retreats to the hotel lobby, but the exit is blocked; instead he seeks refuge with a girl who offers her assistance, Donatella (Donatella Damiani), inside an elevator.

Donatella leads Snàporaz into a gymnasium and forces him to don roller skates. He is yet again cornered and berated by a group of angry women who circle around him in roller skates and practice testicle-kicking with a dummy. Dazed, Snàporaz makes his exit down a flight of stairs, falling down and badly hurting himself, and into the domain of a burly woman (Jole Silvani) tending to the hotel’s furnace. The woman showers and offers him a ride to the train station on her motorcycle, but stops by a farm and lures Snàporaz into a nursery, where she tries to rape him. The rape is cut short by the woman’s mother, who steps in to chastise her daughter, and Snàporaz decides to follow instead a lonely woman through the country side. He joins her and her girlfriends on a car ride on the promise of being delivered to the station, but the ride goes on well into the night and all they do is hang out high on drugs and listen to techno. A frustrated Snàporaz ditches them and is harassed by two more cars until he finds shelter in the off-limits private property of Dr. Xavier Katzone (Ettore Manni), who hails gunfire on his persecutors.

Dr. Katzone promises to deliver Snàporaz to the train station the following morning and invites him to stay on for a party. Snàporaz walks around Katzone’s extravagant household, which is filled with sexual imagery and suggestive, phalic sculptures. He is also fascinated by his collection of sexual conquests hanging as photographs from the manor walls that light up and whisper arousing dialogue at the flick of a switch.Taking pride in his many inventions, Katzone celebrates his 10,000th conquest with an eccentric party that involves the blowing out of 10,000 candles and a performance by his wife, in which she sucks coins and pearls into her vagina by means of telekinesis. During the party, Snàporaz comes across his ex-wife, Elena (Anna Prucnal), who has a drunken argument with him, and meets Donatella again.

The police (composed solely of women dressed in Nazi attire) arrive, interrupting Katzone mid-song, and announce the imminent demolition of his house. They also inform him that they’ve shot one of his dogs, Italo, his most beloved. A grieved Katzone buries him. Meanwhile, Snàporaz dances to Fred Astaire with Donatella and a friend of hers (who are both dressed in scanty clothing), but fails to sleep with either of them, instead getting stuck with his ex in bed. Hearing strange noises, he crawls under the bed, entering another dream-like world in which he slides down a toboggan, revisiting his childhood crushes (a sitter, a nurse, a prostitute) along the way. Caged at the end of the slide, he is transported before a strange court and judged for his masculinity. Although dismissed to go free, he decides to confront his tentative punishment, and escalates a towering boxing ring before a feminine crowd. At the top of the ring he climbs into a hot air balloon in the form of Donatella. Donatella herself fires at him from below with a machine-gun, bursting the balloon and sending Snàporaz plummeting to apparent death.

Snàporaz then wakes up on the very same train from the beginning of the film, showing the story to have been a mere nightmare. Just as he comes to this conclusion, he realizes his glasses are broken (as in his dream) and that the wagon is filled by the women that crowded his dream. The train races into a tunnel and credits roll.