The biggest hit from the most popular Italian filmmaker of all time, La dolce vita rocketed Federico Fellini to international mainstream success — ironically, by offering a damning critique of the culture of stardom. A look at the darkness beneath the seductive lifestyles of Rome’s rich and glamorous, the film follows a notorious celebrity journalist (a sublimely cool Marcello Mastroianni) during a hectic week spent on the peripheries of the spotlight. This mordant picture was an incisive commentary on the deepening decadence of contemporary Europe, and it provided a prescient glimpse of just how gossip — and fame — obsessed our society would become.
Here are eight other films that play off the absurdist tendencies rampant in popular culture.
Who Are You, Polly Magoo?
William Klein found fame as a fashion photographer for Vogue, but he was never above examining the industry that made him with a critical eye. Art house parody Who Are You, Polly Magoo? is at once a satire about high fashion and the pop culture climate of the 1960s. He drives the point home casting muse and real-life Vogue cover girl Dorothy McGowan as a Brooklyn-born model in Paris who becomes the target of paparazzi obsession and subject of a French TV documentary series. Klein predicted America’s cult of celebrity well before Paris Hilton and Kim Kardashian appeared on the scene and captured it with a frenetic style worthy of today. “He even beats Andy Warhol to the ‘fifteen minutes of fame’ punch by a couple of years, shining a light on the fickleness of public taste,” writes Jamie S. Rich. “By the end of the movie, Polly Magoo is out of style, and people are moving on to find new faces to love.” As Heidi Klum’s unnerving saying on Project Runway goes: “One day you’re in, and the next day you’re out.”