The maestro's 1969 thumb-through of Petronius seems designed as an apology for La dolce vita: by revealing ancient Rome to be as joyless and overheated as modern Rome, he retracts his condemnation of modern life. The problem is not society, but man—who seems to be an intractably ugly, vicious, unhappy sort. But Fellini, in his wisdom, is able to “forgive” mankind—or at least foreground his intentions to do so. To err, it seems, is human, but to forgive is Felliniesque—only he has the godlike compassion to “accept” the monstrosities he so carefully mounts on the screen. A shallow, hypocritical film, without a glimmer of genuine creativity. 129 min.