Veteran film critic and film biographer (Burton, The Barrymores) Alpert's sympathetic, informed, and superficial rendering of the extravagant life of one of filmdom's most extravagant directors. As told by Alpert, Fellini's life has been a series of straggles: first that of the sensitive, rebellious child trapped in the claustrophobic environment of a small and very Catholic Italian town; then of the energetic young artist handcuffed by fascist role. Next the swift climb up the ladder to international stardom, a climb plagued by shaky finances and pesky censors; finally, the recent straggle to reverse a flagging career and a spate of poor reviews. Perhaps this embattled life explains the flamboyant, egocentric personality Fellini developed to push his way to the top. Readers will find no other answer to Fellini's loud and often tasteless character for there is little here in the way of psychological explication. Instead, Alpert presents Fellini's tale as high adventure, stuffing it with amusing, sometimes implausible anecdotes, and turning for character motivation to the director's frankly autobiographical films. In his analyses of the movies, particularly of 8(apple) and La Dolce Vita, Alpert excels, as he does also in providing bright cameos of the many celebrities whose lives have intersected with Fellini's, including Vittorio de Sica, Roberto Rosselini, Guilleta Messina, Marcello Mastroianni, and Donald Sutherland. The author wraps up his book with a complete and valuable filmography. A useful introduction to the life and work of a major director; but, like Fellini's films, filled with more flash than substance.