In 1962, Ekberg represented everything I desired in a woman. In later years, I began to think about Mastroianni, his hand forever outstretched to her, his lips forever prepared for a kiss he was never to experience. He is frozen for all time like that, reaching, but never achieving. In “Ode on a Grecian Urn,” Keats writes about a painting on an urn, of a man forever in pursuit of a maid:
Bold Lover, never, never canst thou kiss, Though winning near the goal–yet, do not grieve; She cannot fade, though thou hast not thy bliss, For ever wilt thou love, and she be fair!
Daniel Curley, my college mentor, wrote a novel titled A Stone Man, Yes, about a man forever in pursuit of a woman, yet never succeeding. That might be enough for a man painted on a stone, he concluded, but not for him.
Although it is great, I have seen greater films than “La Dolce Vita.” But it is the film of my life. By its eternity I measure my time.
* * *
Now forgive me, for I must break the spell and tell you a story Mastroianni told me. I had asked about the filming of that scene.
“The water, it was-a very cold,” He said. “Fellini, he shoots again and again. Finally, the time for the close shot of my fingers reaching to touch-a her cheek. I am always smoking, smoking, smoking. My fingers, the nicotine!”
He held them up to illustrate.
“Anita’s skin is alabaster white. Fellini, he looks-a my fingers against her skin, and shouts, Marcello! When-a you gonna learn the right way to wipe-a your ass?”
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