By Owen Gleiberman
Updated April 18, 2003 at 04:00 AM EDT

Even the pontificating dork in the ”Annie Hall” movie line might have gotten a kick out of Fellini: I’m a Born Liar. It’s a messy, entertaining documentary rooted in — though not limited to — the iconically indulgent years of Fellini’s later career, when he had all but abandoned the discipline of drama for the blurry highs of plastic-oceaned spectacle. To hear the maestro speak, in a candid and eloquent interview taped months before his death in 1993, is to look back with nostalgia upon his spirit of heroic excess.

Among the actors and collaborators who appear, Donald Sutherland recalls making ”Casanova” as ”hell on earth,” and Terence Stamp describes the creation of the 1968 short ”Toby Dammit” as a kind of delirium on wheels. The clips we see of Fellini directing ”Satyricon” and ”Amarcord” reveal him to be a de facto silent-film visionary making up pageants on the spot, the dialogue a pesky encumbrance to be dubbed in later. In a world of larger-than-life cinema tyrants, he was the un-control freak.