CITY OF WOMEN -- At the West End.
The only charge that Federico Fellini fails to make against women in "City of Women" is that they have no sense of humor. He is probably saving that to fling at those who are not amused by this vilification of the female or convulsed with laughter by photographs of female sexual organs enlarged to look grotesque.
In this newest arrangment of Fellini's pet cliches, he shows that women are universally frigid and insatiable, hostile and rapacious, strident and whiney, politically unsound and given to wearing curlers to bed. Teenagers have a vicious lust for middle-aged men. Older women have the bad taste to grow fat or wrinkled. But the worst are feminists, a term used synonymously with lesbians, who are raucous "monsters" given to screaming such slogans as "There is no menopause!" and "All women are young and beautiful!"
The anus of a woman is shown filing the entire screen, lifted in the air. There is much male giggling about how vibrators are women's idea of paradise. A picture gallery of glamor pictures is wired so that each is accompanied by a recording of women's sexual sounds. The whole film is, in fact, something of a designer sex boutique for men, with Fellini's standard surrealistic setting supplying all the charm of a shopping mall.
Now, it presents a problem for the film, not to mention for the poor male, when women have become simple too grotesque to be worthy of male attentions. Fortunately, Fellini has proposed an alternative.
Just when things look hopeless for Marcello Mastroianni, who plays the hapless hero, Fellini triumphantly unveils an oversize bed full of men who are nevertheless achieving satisfaction. How do they do it? Well, each does it to himself. But the inspiration is -- a movie screen. A movie poster will serve as well, the hero confides. So if women are a flop, Fellini has proposed a replacement -- the filmmaker.
So for those who have not had the good humor to laugh at the women Fellini holds up to ridicule for more than two hours, here is brief substitute.