It is no small coincidence (aw shit, am I always saying that? Art is connected to timing!) that I watched That Obscure Object of Desire, Bunuel's last film, a few days after watching Fellini's late period City of Women. Both films host their confrontations of gender politics in strange settings, the first under the threat of constant terror bombings and the second in a burlesque-type of carnival. (Could we say one man's embrace of Socialism and another's fear of facism?) The carnival setting depicts, both graciously and gratuitously, the changing role of women. The carnival setting is perfect for the lead role, a womanizer, who finds himself trapped in the middle of a feminist convention. Where Bunuel is dark and heady, Fellini is playful. The lead, played by Marcello Mastroianni, talks to himself throughout the film; at the convention the women are having provocative discussions as well as putting on plays and trying to create positive words to describe the vagina--just to name a few examples. One thing Fellini's films almost always show is how easily available sex for men, and how remorselessly so. We cannot deny that Fellini's carnival and circus settings hint at nostalgia, with indirect undertones of rascal jocularity, but the carnival setting offers the exuberant chorus of many women speaking out together and it couldn't be anything but beautiful, funny, interesting, weird, and loud.
If I never get to the bottom of what exactly both films were trying to say, I'm more or less cool with that. Both films created unforgettable cinematic moments and accomplished what I can't do for you here... they made me feel what it was like to witness women vibrantly changing the entire social landscape.