Federlco Fellini's epic 1980 fantasia introduced the start of the Maestro's delirious late period. A surrealist tour-de-force filmed on soundstages and locations alike, and overflowing with the same sensory (and sensual) invention heretofore found only in the classic movie-musicals (and Fellini's own oeuvre), La citta delle donne (City of Women) taps into the era's restless youth-culture, coalescing into nothing less than Fellini's post-punk opus. Marcello Mastroianni appears as Fellini's alter ego in a semi-reprise of his character from 8 1/2, Snaporaz. As though passing into a dream, the charismatic avatar finds himself initiated into a phantasmagoric world where women - or an idea of women - have taken power, and which is structured like an array of psychosexual set-pieces - culminating in a bravura hot-air balloon that decisively sticks the "anti" up into "climax". A great adventure "through the looking-glass", as it were, of Fellini's own phallic lens and life-long libidinal ruminations, La citta delle donne sharply divided critics at the 1980 Festival de Cannes, some of whom had merely anticipated a nostalgic retread of the earlier Mastroianni works. What they were greeted with, and what remains today, is, in the words of Serge Daney, "a victory of cinema".
A bewildered Marcello Mastroianni totters through a hopeless, plotless series of semi erotic encounters with a monstrous regiment of females at the height of the women's lib movement. The women are presented as gorgons and Mastroianni as an emasculated lech. This is a middle-aged director's fantasy gone horribly wrong: Fellini suffering his worst ever writer's block.