Fellini admits to being fascinated by grotesque freaks throughout his life. How do you feel about that, Anita?Fellini also plays with the question of whether cinema can capture or preserve reality. In two different scenes, he makes an appointment to see rare film footage of famous clowns. The first time, at the home of a collector, the old film breaks and ignites in the projector. The second time, at a Paris archive, Fellini has a hard time determining whether the clip shows the clown he's looking for, and in any event the footage is much too short to make any impression. The director's disappointments seem linked to his implicit thesis about the incompatibility of cinema and classical clowning. The film opens with a surprising confession: the young Fellini (so the older man claims) was, if not frightened, then strongly disturbed by clowns when he first attended a circus. They reminded him too strongly, he recounts, of the disturbed or merely grotesque people he saw everyday in the real world. Those people, to a great extent, became the subject of Fellini's cinema, which evolved into an often literally circus-like spectacle of eccentricity. When the RAI TV project (originally broadcast in black-and-white on Christmas Day 1970 and subsequently released to theaters in color) gave Fellini the opportunity to film a literal circus, the result is problematic.
I don't know if this is an authentic theatrical trailer, but rarovideousa has posted it to YouTube to promote last month's U.S. DVD premiere of the movie.