Sunday, January 11, 2015
2015 is really shaping up to be a bad year for legends, isn't it? Miss Rainer would seem, as the old year passed, to have set the tone, and today we say goodbye to Miss Anita Ekberg, seen here defining "fierce" in a casual little snap by that sweet beacon of innocence and sunshine, Mr. Helmut Newton.
Ekberg's was a career neither particularly big nor even vaguely diverse, but within a narrow fach - Amazon Fellini Muse - she reigned supreme. Even among the ranks of continental stars for whom "tempestuous" was a basic job requirement, Ekberg had an aura of danger, of an unpredictability infinitely more genuine than, say, Lollobrigida's kittenish tantrums or Cardinale's sultry stares.
Although her screen presence was forever defined during a cold night's filming in the Trevi Fountain, to the extent that she and La Dolce Vita became permanently and inextricably entwined, she kept working - The IMDb notes some 60 credits, all told. Tonight, though, it's impossible not to go back to that one film, that one scene, she and Mastroianni and Rome and That Moment. Like so many cinema treasures, it's something that seems, in memory, monumental, but is in fact swift - fleet and almost improvised in feeling.
To me, it puts Ekberg in the (excellent) select company of actresses who, whatever they did or did not do ever thereafter, gained a kind of immortality in just a few frames: Louise Brooks, caught backstage at The Follies with her lover in Pandora's Box; The Blue Angel's Marlene Dietrich, swaggering onstage to sing, for the first time, "Falling in Love Again"; Isabella Rossellini, awkward and perverse and hypnotizing as she sings the song that gives Blue Velvet its title.
And she's gone. Look at her up there. What is it that those eyes don't know? Not much, and even if it all ended up in obscurity and reduced circumstances after too many false starts and forgotten pictures (The Killer Nun? The French Sex Murders?), one thing they (and we) know is that, thanks to Sig. Fellini and that fountain, she will be known as long as there are people who care about film.