White Sheik

Golden Lion
Venice Film Festival
My favorite Fellini movie.


The White Sheik

Rialto Pictures presents a new restoration of THE WHITE SHEIK (1952), the first solo feature film by Federico Fellini, starring Alberto Sordi. The new restoration features a new translation and subtitles.

Twenty twenty marks the centennial year of both Fellini and Sordi.

Provincial Leopoldo Trieste’s Roman honeymoon plans go sour when bride Brunella Bovo goes missing, even as his family (including an uncle, who’s “very high up in the Vatican”) is waiting in the hotel lobby for that first meeting, en route to a papal audience (along with 200 other couples). But super-fan Bovo’s first priority is to meet the “The White Sheik” (Sordi), fantasy hero of her beloved fumetti (comics, but illustrated with photographs). When Bovo finally arranges a tryst with her dream man, though, she finds he’s not what he’s cracked up to be.

Sordi’s “marvelous performance” (Pauline Kael) launched his international reputation, after 15 years in movies, most famously as the Italian voice of Oliver Hardy. (Upon first hearing Hardy’s real voice, Fellini remarked, “Where’s Sordi? I want Sordi.”) For the hapless husband, Fellini cast Leopoldo Trieste, a playwright with only one prior movie credit (
White Sheik would launch a long film career, with credits including I Vitelloni, Divorce Italian Style, Cinema Paradiso, and The Godfather Part II).

The White Sheik is set against the world of the fotoromanzo (“photo novel”), photographed comics, most often love stories, which became popular just after World War II, especially among teenage girls and young women.

Michelangelo Antonioni chronicled the fotoromanzo craze in his 1949 short
L’amorosa menzogna (Lies of Love). Three years later he’d collaborate with Fellini and frequent collaborator Tullio Pinelli on the story of The White Sheik.

Fellini’s solo directorial debut (following 1950’s
Variety Lights, which he co-directed with Alberto Lattuada) also marked his first collaboration with composer Nino Rota, who’d create unforgettable scores for most of the director’s future masterworks, and the first appearance of a friendly streetwalker named “Cabiria” (played by Fellini’s wife Giulietta Masina), who four years later would be the central character of the Fellini masterpiece Nights of Cabiria. A new 4K restoration of Nights of Cabiria will be released by Rialto in spring 2020.

The White Sheik has been restored in 4K from the original camera negative by Fondazione Cineteca di Bologna, in collaboration with RTI-Mediaset and Infinity, as part of Fellini 100. The restoration has been carried out at L’Immagine Ritrovata laboratory in Bologna.

Not Rated
Comedy, Drama, Auteur Cinema, Repertory
Federico Fellini
Michelangelo Antonioni, Federico Fellini, Tullio Pinelli, Ennio Flaiano
Alberto Sordi, Brunella Bovo, Giulietta Masina
Nominee, Golden Lion, Venice Film Festival

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