Among the themes of the movie is our modern celebrity-obsessed, reality-TV drenched, pictures-or-it-didn't-happen culture -- which, given that it was made in 1960, really shows the crazy prescience and brilliance of Fellini himself. This is the movie that literally created the concept of "paparazzi."
|Paparazzi in La Dolce Vita|
|Marcello and Maddalena go for a drive|
|Marcello and Sylvia|
So what's a girl to do? You might think, Well, why can't there be the female version, and why couldn't you go see that? You know -- like how they're doing Ghostbusters with an all female cast? You could have La Dolce Vita starring Catherine Deneuve as Marcella: a beautiful but conflicted journalist who traipses around Rome having sex with rich and famous people, going to their parties, apologizing to her cute but boring guy back home, going with her mother to a strip club --
Oh wait. No, you couldn't actually have that movie. I don't just mean that that movie would never get made -- which is of course also true. I think it goes deeper than that -- because I think you actually could not make a movie about a woman who acts like that and have the movie be about the same sort of things at all. No matter how you tried to do it, it would not come off that way.
For one thing, in our time and place you simply cannot present a promiscuous woman and have her story be about the human condition. Because of our various modern cultural obsessions and because of the meaning we assign to women's sexuality, promiscuity in women just can't be interpreted that way. When it comes to narrative female promiscuity, there are several common interpretive tropes.
-- There's the obvious reactionary trope: "What a slut, she deserves to have something awful happen to her."
-- There's the surprisingly common damage trope: "She runs around like that because she was hurt as a child/is desperate for love/wants to get back at someone/is looking for attention.
-- There's the objectification trope: "The author/filmmaker/director is just pandering to the desires of male audiences to see sexy and sexualized women."
Obviously these are different: it's often true, for example, that the author/filmmaker/director is just pandering to guys in the audience. As useful as this can be to point out, however, it basically guarantees that a story about a "Marcella" could never be understood as a story about the conflicts between glamor and home life, about the attractions of the awful and the stupid, or about whether it's worth trying to do something with yourself or whether it's all pointless anyway. It would be interpreted as being about something else.
So that movie -- about the female Marcella -- is a movie that couldn't really exist.
This means if you're a woman and you want to watch a movie about those things, you have to go see one in which a guy experiences them, and then project yourself into the main Marcello Mastroianni character instead of into, say, the Anita Ekberg ingenue character or the Anouk Aimée bored heiress character.
If you are doing that, you'll thank the Forces That Control The Universe that not only does Marcello have beautiful, soulful eyes with luxurious lashes, he also wears amazing clothes, rides occasionally in the passenger seat, and likes to sit around cafés drinking and talking. It's not so far away, after all.