Trip to Tulum

 

Perhaps the most famous book chronicling this part of the adventure is 

Trip to Tulum, which Fellini did with acclaimed artist Milo Manara. 

The blonde is me.

     A note on the work from Vincenzo Mollica: 

 

   At first it was like one of those many dreams you keep in a drawer and pull out when your imagination is stirred to revive the dialogue with the impossible. Fellini's affinity for comics is common knowledge, but never until now "except in his youth" has the maestro from Rimini lent one of his subjects to an artist for a graphic novel. It all began in 1986 when Corrier della Sera serialized Trip to Tulum with the caption, 'For the first time, the great director reveals the plot of his next film.' Of course, it wasn't Fellini's next film; in fact, he concluded the sixth and last episode with the comment, 'I don't know whether I will transfer this narrative to the form of images, or when. But the fact that I accepted the invitation to publish the story before making the film makes me suspect that I was following an unconscious instinct to put it in abeyance. 

 

     The same instinct tells me that you patient readers who have followed this story to the end should be let in on a little secret: the journey and mysterious adventure that led to this tale, freely retold as cinematic narrative, really happened.' Fellini expressed the desire to have the newspaper story include some illustrations by Manara, who had, a short time earlier, dedicated to Fellini a charming homage, 'Untitled.'

     Manara has expressed his affection for Fellini's work more than once with visual quotations in his stories, and it's no coincidence that he created the images for advertising Invertista  and  The Voice of the Moon. What followed was a dream come true: Manara asked Fellini if he could make a graphic novel out of Trip to Tulum and Fellini agreed. It is often overlooked that Fellini's artistic career had links to caracature and comics: Fellini does excellent drawings, an aspect of his art that the director in him prefers to minimize.  He'll scold me again for bringing it up. 

     When Fellini set out from Rimini in the late thirties on the adventure that would eventually land him permanently in Rome, the first step along the way was Florence, where he worked for the publisher Nerbini on (among others) two publications: the satirical weekly  420  and  l'Avventuroso. During the era when fascism decreed rigid isolation, it was forbidden to import American comics, but certain characters from them were continued in adventures created by Italian artists.  Legend has it that Fellini wrote several scripts for Flash Gordon, illustrated by the exceptional Giove Toppi. 

 

     Fellini can only recall one title, Rebo, King of the Mercurians. Trip to Tulum ends at the start of a new journey which augurs well for all. Little is left of Fellini's original screenplay.  What began with an amused and amicable glance over Manara's shoulder evolved through the episodes into a veritable comics 'set' like a film studio.  Fellini didn't stick to dialogue and plot; he intervened"especially in the final stages" in decisions about cropping, lighting and the characters' expressions. 

     Manara rose to the occasion with brilliance, adeptness and humility.  The result is in your hands.  Allow me a word of advice: read it the first time all the way through in the comics tradition, then go back and view each panel as a fragment of a huge fresco. There is the art of drawing, the art of invention, but also the art of looking, one we should cultivate to commune with the muse of the imagination. 

     You won't see 'End' on the last page. Fellini's never used it in a film. He told me why, one day: 'Ive rejected the word '˜End' from the outset.  Maybe  because when I went to the movies as a kid, I always experienced it as a letdown and an annoyance: The party's over; you have to go now; back to your homework'. Beyond that, the '˜End' seems to me like an aggression against the characters one has taken such trouble to make believable, as alive as possible'”their lives continue behind the author's back.' To which I'd add that I hope the absence of 'End' in Trip to Tulum also implies that Fellini will decide to extend his venture into the realm of comics. 

     Through some unknown means I became the first to read Trip to Tulum, a fantastic journey for all readers of good will who'd like to make a spirited, imaginative stand against the reigning decadence of our times. ***

For years, I tried pitching an animated film based on Trip to Tulum. I was always met with interest but unfortunately, I was a little ahead of the game in terms of adult-oriented animation as a marketable film. Here is a video I put together as part of that pitch.

Christina Engelhardt * christinaengelhardt@yahoo.com

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