GRANDILOQUENT, overwhelming personalities -- those who are most often given the documentary treatment -- can be riveting to listen to... up to a point. After a short while, such expansiveness can be suffocating, and you long for a pleasant conversation with someone of gentle, humane charm. One who maybe rambles on a bit and laughs at his own stories more than they deserve, but who passes on his recollections and life's lessons with a light disregard for their worth. So if I must sit in a darkened theater for three hours and 15 minutes hearing an actor look back on his career, I couldn't choose better company to keep than Marcello Mastroianni.

This collection of interviews -- conducted and assembled by Mastroianni's companion for the last two decades of his life, Anna Maria Tatò -- never tries for more than the anecdotal. Which is good, because that never allows even a whiff of pomposity. Mastroianni shares some polite remembrances of favorite films and directors (Fellini and De Sica, inevitably, but also such offbeat talents as Elio Petri and Marco Ferreri), thoughts on his persona as a romantic lead, a few wistful reflections on mortality, and opinions on the characters of different cities. There are also a large number of film clips that at times seem chosen almost at random, but Mastroianni narrates all of them with the same engaging, melancholy humor he brought to his roles.

Clocking in at over three charming hours (with intermission), there are some regrettable omissions. The focus on Mastroianni's Italian career makes it understandable why Theo Angelopoulos or John Boorman aren't mentioned, but what about Antonioni or Marco Bellocchio? With so many movies shown, why wasn't room made for Luchino Visconti's The Stranger. Or the differences between Rome and Hollywood? Enough! For Mastroianni to have answered all my questions, the movie would have had to stretch to an ungodly, Berlin Alexanderplatz length. And I still probably would have enjoyed it.

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