It took me long to see that one but the wait was worth it. Fellini’s premiere is somewhat of a letter of intent of what he had on mind for the next 20 years. Lo Sceicco Bianco has everything you expect from the Fellini world: day-dreaming, fantasy, eccentricity, weirdness… It’s a mix of different things melted together to lead the viewer to consider his own passions and rethink about how he confronts them.
Featuring 2 classics such as Leopoldo Trieste and Alberto Sordi, the movie also introduces Giulietta Masina in a brief role that I believe ended in “Le Notte di Cabiria” years later. But, if in “I Vitelloni” it was Sordi who supported most of the weight of the acting (sorry for Fabrizi and the others) here it’s Trieste who stills the show.
Trieste and his wife Wanda are on a honeymoon in Rome when, suddenly, Wanda disappears leaving no traces but a note written by a mysterious “White Sheik” (Sceicco Bianco) asking her to meet when she arrives to Rome. Trieste is totally devastated by the fact that his wife ran to the arms of another man but worse than that he is worried about how the name of his family might be affected by that.
Of course, our White Sheik is no other than Alberto Sordi in a memorable performance that will stuck in my mind for years. A terrible actor relegated to participate in photo-shootings used to illustrate stories written in magazines for ladies.
Let me show you what is probably the best sequence in all movie history:
And here is the greatness of the whole movie: the fact that where we see a charlatan, Wanda sees no other than the White Sheik. She is trapped in a world of dreams and refuses to face the true reality she lives on.
From here on the story keeps alternating between Trieste’s and Wanda’s path to find a point of contact between the world of dreams and the cruel reality.