Frederico Fellini's masterwork 8 ½ is difficult to approach largely because of its reputation. Many critics also state that the film is so complex that it requires multiple viewings to understand, and this is likely to intimidate many viewers. But the truth is that, in spite of its surrealistic flourishes, 8 ½ is more straight-forward than its reputation might lead you to believe.
The storyline itself is very simple. A famous director is preparing a new film, but finds himself suffering from creative block: he is obsessed by, loves, and feels unending frustration with both art and women, and his attention and ambition flies in so many different directions that he is suddenly incapable of focusing on one possibility lest he negate all others. With deadlines approaching the cast and crew descend upon him demanding information about the film--information that the director does not have because he finds himself incapable of making an artistic choice.
What makes the film interesting is the way in which Fellini ultimately transforms the film as a whole into a commentary on the nature of creativity, art, mid-life crisis, and the battle of the sexes. Throughout the film, the director dreams dreams, has fantasies, and recalls his childhood-and this internal life is presented on the screen with the same sense of reality as reality itself. The staging of the various shots is unique; one is seldom aware that the characters have slipped into a dream, fantasy, or memory until one is well into the scene, and as the film progresses the lines between external life and internal thought become increasingly blurred, with Fellini giving as much (if not more) importance to fantasy as to fact.
The performances and the cinematography are key to the film's success. Even when the film becomes surrealistic, fantastic, the actors perform very realistically and the cinematography presents the scene in keeping with what we understand to be the reality of the characters lives and relationships. At the same time, however, the film has a remarkably poetic quality, a visual fluidity and beauty that transforms even the most ordinary events into something slightly tinged by a dream-like quality. Marcello Mastroianni offers a his greatest performance here, a delicate mixture of desperation and ennui, and he is exceptionally well supported by a cast that includes Claudia Cardinale, Anouk Aimee, and a host of other notables.
I would encourage people not to be intimidated by the film's reputation, for its content can be quickly grasped, and when critics state the film requires repeated viewing what they actually seem to mean is that the film holds up extremely well to repeated viewing; each time it is seen, one finds more and more to enjoy and to contemplate. Even so, I would be amiss if I did not point out that people who prefer a cinema of tidy plot lines and who dislike ambiguity or the necessity of interpreting content will probably dislike 8 ½ a great deal; if you are uncertain in your taste on these points you would do well to rent or borrow the film before making a purchase. For all others: strongly, strongly recommended.
GFT, Amazon Reviewer
on December 5, 2001
**EDIT 10/4/11: ADDED REVIEW OF 2009 CRITERION BLU-RAY**
The most obvious achievement in 8 1/2, Fellini's mind-boggling piece of self-examination, is its audacious mixture of dreams and reality in order to show the protagonist Guido's whimsical mind state. Dream sequences come and go without warning, depicting Guido's pain, yearning, frustration, guilt that can pop up at any instant. The first time we see Guido's face, it is his mirror image, hinting to us the unreality we are about to face. Some of the dream sequences have a Bunuel-like surrealism. Some of them, however, blend almost seamlessly into scenes of reality, intentionally confounding us. Some are nightmarish, yet some are warm and hopeful. Some are brief flights of fancy, and some are lengthy, elaborate, wild visions that reflect Guido's heightened sense of confusion and anxiety. Although the film is often called the best film ever made about a filmmaker, its theme is universal in that it is a vivid picturization of a person's (and by extension, any person's) mind, which is often haunted by the past, tormented by the present, and apprehensive about the future and the unknown...
The Criterion Blu-ray edition duplicates all the content in the bonus features and booklet of the DVD edition, but offers a high-def picture and lossless uncompressed mono track. The 1080p video transfer seems to come from the same high-def source that created the DVD edition (which looks very good itself), so you get the inherent advantage of high-def over standard-def, which is 2-3 times higher resolution horizontally and vertically. The uncompressed audio track is encoded at a bit rate of 1152 kbps, which is 6 times higher than that of the DVD's Dolby Digital mono track. In short, this is the best the film has ever looked and sounded on home video. Of course, the better your audio and video equipments (especially screen size), the better your experience. I viewed mine on a 50" screen. As is usually the case in viewing black-and-white films on Blu-ray, you see more optimal black and white levels than the DVD counterpart. But be sure to calibrate your screen properly, such as with the "color bars" screen that comes with all Criterion discs. Proper calibration is quite important for serious viewing of Blu-rays because of the format's ability to show a lot more subtleties and nuances in the picture than DVDs ever can.
The 52-minute short film "Fellini: A Director's Notebook" in the Blu-ray's bonus feature section actually has better picture quality than that on the DVD edition. It still looks severely battered and scratchy, but the colors are much brighter, whereas on the DVD they look very faded. Criterion has obviously found a different video copy of the film for the Blu-ray, as indicated by the opening logo that does not exist on the DVD.
For my opinions on the quality of the bonus features, please see my original DVD review below.
**BELOW IS MY REVIEW OF THE 2001 CRITERION DVD EDITION, originally posted Dec-05-2001**
The new Criterion DVD of 8 1/2 has a sparkling video transfer. A frame-by-frame cleanup of the picture has been done, so this DVD is significantly better-looking than Criterion's laserdisc version in 1989. There are momentary freeze frames during the opening scene, but since they also appeared on the LD, I assume they are normal. The 1.0 mono audio track is indistinguishable in quality from that on the LD -- it is mostly clean and sharp, although loud sound shows some distortion. The image is anamorphic. The disc is region-free. The audio is supported by newly-translated optional English subtitles.
There is one slight discrepancy between the LD and the DVD. The LD contained the American release version of the film in which some scenes, such as the one in which Guido first meets his wife, had altered music cues. The DVD, however, is the original Italian version, retaining all of its original music.
The DVD's audio commentary comprises of scene-specific comments (whose authorship is unclear), and additional comments from critic Gideon Bachmann and NYU professor Antonio Monda. The result is a pretty well-rounded audio essay covering the film's conception, production details, themes, and artistic significance, as well as personal recollections, anecdotes, and abandoned concepts and scenes. Other extras include two 1-hour films on the filmmakers. The first is "Fellini: A Director's Notebook", directed by and starring Fellini himself. It is a sort of Fellini-style DAY FOR NIGHT, a fictional, somewhat humorous account of how the director goes about making a film. The video/audio quality of this piece is poor, and there are no subtitles or closed captioning. The second film is a documentary made by German filmmakers in 1993 titled "Nino Rota: Between Cinema and Concert". It offers an intimate yet enigmatic portrayal of Nino Rota through his personal recordings, film footage of him working with Fellini, clips of some early films scored by Rota, and interviews of his associates and students. One segment is about how Rota recycled his score from the 1957 film FORTUNELLA to create the theme for THE GODFATHER, an act that would cost him the Oscar nomination. The DVD extras also include 3 new interviews. Sandra Milo speaks candidly about her experiences, both personal and professional, with Fellini. Linda Wertmuller lavishes praises on Fellini's genius while offering a fascinating appraisal of Fellini's psychology that figures prominently in 8 1/2. And Vittorio Storaro pays tributes to the achievements of 8 1/2's cinematographer, Gianni di Venanzo. Rounding out the extras are 100 or so still photos from the set of the film, some of which were taken from deleted scenes.
on October 4, 1999
Federico Fellini masterpiece hasn't faded a bit but is as sweeping and lush as it was in the early 60s. Commonly seen as an autobiographical effort, it is more a self-commentary on his own style of filmmaking. Fellini loves caricatures and he clearly paints his women Anouk Aimee as the plain unhappy wife, Sandra Milo as the voluptuous shallow girlfriend, Edra Gale as the monstrous Saraghina, and Claudia Cardinale as the ideal dream girl -- not unlike Dante Aligheri's Beatrice. As a finale, he gathers all he knows into one big circus ring, another caricature on life's meaning. Or take the childhood phrase "asa nisi masa" which refers to the feminine soul (anima). Many of his characters appear almost as clowns/caricatures. Guido, like Fellini, does not work from a script, but looks to the changing relationship between his characters as his inspiration for the development of the script and plot. Hence, Guido (Marcello Mastroianni) receives constant criticism and pressure from past figures (priests and his father) and his film colleagues and producers. Only when he actually meets his star (Claudia Cardinale) does idealism turn to realism as the dream girl becomes a material person who tell Guido that he is a "cheat" since he has no script and part for her. Fellini is such a master of the the dream sequences from which he moves so smoothly and effortlessly to reality. Only after being told there is no role (for Claudia) does Guido begin to face reality. This last scene actually approaches the Fellini-Cardinale relationship during shooting. When one realizes this parallel between filmmaking and personal life, it is not surprising that Fellini chooses his wife, Guilietta Masini, (although not in this film) to often be his leading lady. With this film, Fellini moved from neorealism to introspective fantasy which becomes highly apparent in his later films "City of Women," "Satyricon," etc. Finally, I feel that his earlier films up to and including "8 1/2" are much better than his later self-indulgent fantasy films.
on October 25, 2002
First off, its one of the 10 greatest movies. If you have any interest in the history of cinema, its a must-view. However, the Image Entertainment single disc edition suffers from a decent transfer of a mediocre print, with much distracting dust and emulsion chipping present. The Criterion 2 disc version, while weighed down by a second disc of less interesting documentaries issue appears to have far fewer print defects. IMHO the commentaries and better transfer make the Criterion disc a better purchase.
Semi-autobiographical self-analysis mixed with fantasies in a movie? It worked for Fellini to the point that it yielded him his third Oscar for best foreign film, the other two being La Strada and La Dolce Vita. It's a unique testament to his vision.
The opening scene itself is memorable. In it, Guido Anselmi is inside a car surrounded by traffic. He tries to get out but can't, frantically rapping on the window, unable to breathe. The occupants of the other cars stare expressionlessly at him. It's a brilliant symbol of the oppression of society and conformity. The allegory continues with him soaring into the sky and being a human kite, after which authority orders him to be brought back down to earth instead of being in the clouds. How repressive!
Guido is a film director in his stride who's onto a rough start with his current project. Yet his collaborator Daumier finds several flaws. There is no fundamental guiding principle, no philosophical premise, and ambiguous intention. One thing that Guido wants for sure is an angelic woman dressed in white, symbolizing innocence, purity, and salvation. Ironically, in the end, it is she identifies his problem for him. The reason why there isn't a coherent project going on is that the movie is more scenes from Guido's childhood, and many of those are played throughout the film. He wants to make a film that is honest, helpful to everyone, and that will bury everything dead in everyone. But does he really have anything to say? In the meantime, he is hounded by his producer to stick to schedule, hire actors, and start shooting.
He also has a mistress Carla, who's extravagant, sexy, a bit loquacious, being at an impasse in his marriage to Luisa. But it's the fantasy-world and the past that he retreats to in times of stress that's the real wonder here. We learn of his encounter with the hefty and sensuous Saraghina, who lives on the beach and who teaches the local Catholic school kids forbidden dances. The scene of having his own harem, full of the women whom he has encountered, is nothing more than a big booster shot to his male ego. I need to daydream something like that more often.
In the scene between Guido and the Catholic cardinal, I found a line there that reminded me why I quit going to church. Guido complains of not being happy. The cardinal replies, "Why should you be happy? That is not your task in life. Who said we were put on Earth to be happy?" He then quotes from Origenes: "There is no salvation outside the Church."
A question from Guido to Claudia, the stunning actress tapped to play his pure angel is also one to us all: "Could you choose one single thing and be faithful to it? Could you make it the one thing that gives your life meaning, just because you believe in it?"
Marcello Mastroianni is well-placed as Guido, as is Sandra Milo as Carla and Anouk Aimee as Luisa. Barbara Steele plays someone usually out-of-character compared to the horror films she did during this time, as Gloria, the poetic young fiancee of Guido's friend Mario. She has a wonderful line: "The cruel bees have sucked the life from these poor flowers."
This movie was called 8-1/2 because Fellini had done seven films plus three collaborations in which he shot a short segment for an anthology, counting each collaboration as half, so he decided this film would be his 8-1/2th. One of those movies in a league by itself.
One of my top five films of all time. I won't speak much about the film itself, under the assumption most readers have already seen it. You can be guaranteed a fantastic film if you haven't seen this yet.
As far as the BD itself, the transfer is absolutely fantastic! The DVD version itself already had a pretty pristine transfer, but of course with the BD upgrade the resolution and detail is so much better, and of course comes loaded with extras and an accompanying booklet that is actually quite thorough and should be considered an item in itself, and not just a supplement to the disc.
I haven't watched them all, but the extras that are bundled with the film are plentiful and quite informative. Often times with extras you feel as though it is just filler and fodder (let's be honest, it usually is) but at least Criterion makes a conscious effort to make it interesting. I'd say the extras are worthwhile, and also an upgrade from the DVD version.
The biggest difference I noticed from my first viewing is that the subtitles are slightly changed from the DVD version, and also theatrically. There are probably lots of different translations, but it IS different from the DVD but not drastically. The same point is made, but just using a different delivery. Not sure how I feel about some of the changes, but I probably just got used to the previous translation.
I'm not sure where some of these discrepancies or complaints are coming from that have surfaced recently, but my copy was packaged in the special made Criterion jewel cases, NOT the cardboard ones, and of course not the actual blue ones. For a while, with some of the earlier releases, Criterion was releasing its BDs in cardboard slip case and digi-pack format which angered a lot of customers who spoke their voice and got them to upgrade to the now standard jewel cases. A good move in my opinion, but now I'm stuck with Third Man and 400 Blows in cardboard. Reportedly, you can send in the old cases to get upgraded to new ones, but it'll cost you 5 bucks each, so... I think I can live with it.
on December 1, 2015
With this movie, one has a choice between writing a long review that seeks to place it in the context of modernism as an artistic movement or writing a short review that just says, in effect, "It's great." And great it is. This 2-disc Criterion edition reproduces the images beautifully and has a lot of interesting features on the second disc. The Fellini movie I had seen before this was "La Strada," which was a touching, humane, and involving movie, which touched less on the creation of art than on the persistence under brutal conditions of the imagination and the spirit. Here, the situation is developed on a completely different economic and cultural level, but the sense of the protagonist's life being a mess is very strong. The protagonist is the film director Guido Anselmi (Marcello Mastroianni), and much of the movie seems to be set in a spa for rich Italians, where Guido has gone, one assumes, to take some stress off as he seeks to complete his latest project. When his needy mistress Carla (Sandra Milo) shows up, followed shortly thereafter by his wife, Luisa (Anouk Aimee), the scene is set for a kind of comedy, it would seem -- but Guido seems pathetic and almost passive in his relations, and in the meanwhile, his film crew and the financial backers of his movie are wanting to move on with the project, while Guido seems to dither. He has flashbacks to his childhood, and he has fantasies, and while they reveal something about him, they also contribute to the sense of impedance or "block," which theme is established in the wonderful opening of the movie. It seems funny too that the movie Guido contemplates seems to be about space exploration -- the last thing, one would think, that a Fellini would be interested in. But the whole question underlying the memories, the fantasy, the gentle satire on the spa world and the Italian upper-class is whether beauty can be built out of such seemingly trivial lives and circumstances. Did Joyce manage it with "Ulysses," or did Picasso with his Avignon whorehouse? The ending will astound you, for it seems that both Fellini and Guido pull something off that couldn't have been predicted. I say Fellini too because it's fair to wonder at times if his attention to the triviality of Guido's life doesn't amount to a trivialization of his own art.
Mastroianni gives a great performance -- he's an actor who (as in "La Dolce Vita" too) isn't afraid of appearing foolish. The beautiful women make an impact, but the development of the story in the context of the spa, where many women are older and where the younger ones seem to be candy for older, unattractive men, comes to undermine the impression of their beauty, and perhaps only Claudia (Claudia Cardinale) whom Guido has chosen to play the female lead in his movie even though he doesn't know for much of the movie what he's going to do with her emerges with an attractive self-possession and a sense of proportion and humor. Still, it would be a mistake to think that ANY of that constitutes a narrative that prepares one for a conclusion that calls for comparison with Shakespearean or Mozartian comedy -- except that it could only be a movie. There's nothing else quite like it.
on December 14, 2010
Guido is a director who can't make a film. Meanwhile, he's the subject of a great film. Others have given the story, so I won't recap it here. I will say that watching the film as a woman is a strange experience. We are obviously supposed to identify with Guido for most of the movie, and yet his view of women is warped, as it is always filtered through two foundational experiences, linked to two senses: the bath and talcum powdering given to him by his mother while a child, which is associated with touch, and the dance of Saraghina, linked to sight.
He divides up the women in his life according to these experiences, with his wife (who is explicitly linked to his mother in more than one scene) standing for the sense of touch, while his mistress and most of the other women, are there for - in his mind - his visual pleasure. While a child, he watched the prostitute Saraghina dancing on the beach and was caught and punished in his Catholic school. This imprinted on his sexual self, and now desire is linked to shame for him.
The compass rose of his feelings toward women is the following: fear, disgust, longing, and desire. Usually more than one will be present. For his wife: fear and longing. For his mistress: disgust and desire. For Claudia, his ideal woman: longing and desire. His compass is always spinning around as he encounters other women. Note that love is not one of the options, but then again, neither is hate. This is not a man who hates women, but also one who doesn't know how to love them.
Note too, that the verbal is missing from his two foundational experiences. Sight and touch are key, but hearing and words are, for him, a sort of false arena of exchange, where lies are traded for lies in order to allow him to make films. In his relationship with his wife, who he does long for (although I'm not sure he loves her), he is unable to speak to her in a real way, which drives her away from him due to his constant lies. I really liked Luisa, Guido's wife, who is a strong character even in this very male-dominated movie. The scene where Guido is showing his (awful) screen tests is a particularly interesting one, as it shows that Guido is being unfair and cruel to his wife. This scene is one of the few where I believe we're supposed to identify with someone other than Guido -i.e., with Luisa. If the movie-in-a-movie is unfair, it opens up the possibility that Fellini knows that he has problems and issues with women.
The dance of Saraghina has many echoes in the film. Guido is constantly trying to control and reshape this experience, which showed the power of women over him. Note that Saraghina is older and shown almost as a giantess on film, as she would have seemed to the young Guido. When he "directs" his mistress in fantasy play, he draws big eyebrows on her, like Saraghina had, and he says it's to make her look like a whore. In another long scene, he combines his two foundational experiences and has his wife, along with all the other women in his life, wash and powder him. An old showgirl dances before them all. This is a particularly cruel scene, and is another attempt to defuse the power of Saraghina's dance, as the old showgirl is old in a powerless way and her dance is grotesque. In the end, she is sent upstairs with the other women who are too old for Guido's desire. But because Saraghina's dance is imprinted on Guido's sexual template, no matter his treatment of other women, it cannot be contained and any victory over it will be a temporary one.
The ending is very powerful because at the very site of the failed transcendence of the spaceship scene from his failed movie, a scene of human collectivity is enacted. All the characters come out holding hands, as in a parade, thus combining the senses of of touch and sight. Even his wife is connected to the whole, and we see a moment of togetherness. And yet the secret of a happy ending is knowing where to stop, and the last shot of a lone performer suggests that when this moment is over, Guido will still be alone with his procrustean sexual scenarios. But then again, he's been in one of the greatest movies ever, so art can redeem life, if only partly and imperfectly.
on September 26, 2011
The conventional wisdom is that Federico Fellini went wrong when he abandoned realism for personal fantasy; that starting with "La Dolce Vita", his work ran wild through jungles of Freudian, Christian, sexual and autobiographical images. The precise observation in "La Strada" was the high point of his career, according to this view, and then he abandoned his neorealist roots. "La Dolce Vita" was bad enough, "8 1/2" was worse, and by the time he made "Juliet of the Spirits", he was completely off the rails. Then all is downhill, in a career that lasted until 1987, except for "Amarcord", with its memories of Fellini's childhood; that one is so charming that you have to cave in and enjoy it, regardless of theory.
This conventional view is completely wrong. What we think of as Felliniesque comes to full flower in "La Dolce Vita" and "8 1/2." His later films, except for "Amarcord," are not as good, and some are positively bad, but they are stamped with an unmistakable maker's mark. The earlier films, wonderful as they often are, have their Felliniesque charm weighted down by leftover obligations to neorealism.
The critic Alan Stone, writing in the Boston Review, deplores Fellini's "stylistic tendency to emphasize images over ideas." I celebrate it. A filmmaker who prefers ideas to images will never advance above the second rank because he is fighting the nature of his art. The printed word is ideal for ideas; film is made for images, and images are best when they are free to evoke many associations and are not linked to narrowly defined purposes. Here is Stone on the complexity of "8 1/2": "Almost no one knew for sure what they had seen after one viewing." True enough. But true of all great films, while you know for sure what you've seen after one viewing of a shallow one.
"8 1/2" is the best film ever made about filmmaking. It is told from the director's point of view, and its hero, Guido, is clearly intended to represent Fellini. It begins with a nightmare of asphyxiation, and a memorable image in which Guido floats off into the sky, only to be yanked back to earth by a rope pulled by his associates, who are hectoring him to organize his plans for his next movie. Much of the film takes place at a spa near Rome, and at the enormous set Guido has constructed nearby for his next film, a science fiction epic he has lost all interest in.
The film weaves in and out of reality and fantasy. Some critics complained that it was impossible to tell what was real and what was taking place only in Guido's head, but I have never had the slightest difficulty, and there is usually a clear turning point as Guido escapes from the uncomfortable present into the accommodating world of his dreams.
Sometimes the alternate worlds are pure invention, as in the famous harem scene where Guido rules a house occupied by all of the women in his life--his wife, his mistresses, and even those he has only wanted to sleep with. In other cases, we see real memories that are skewed by imagination. When little Guido joins his schoolmates at the beach to ogle the prostitute Saraghina, she is seen as the towering, overpowering, carnal figure a young adolescent would remember. When he is punished by his priests of his Catholic school, one entire wall is occupied by a giant portrait of Dominic Savio, a symbol of purity in that time and place; the portrait, too large to be real, reflects Guido's guilt that he lacks the young saint's resolve.
All of the images come together into one of the most tightly structured films Fellini made. The screenplay is meticulous in its construction--and yet, because the story is about a confused director who has no idea what he wants to do next, "8 1/2" itself is often described as the flailings of a filmmaker without a plan. "What happens," asks a Web-based critic, "when one of the world's most respected directors runs out of ideas, and not just in a run-of-the-mill kind of way, but whole hog, so far that he actually makes a film about himself not being able to make a film?" But "8 1/2" is not a film about a director out of ideas--it is a film filled to bursting with inspiration. Guido is unable to make a film, but Fellini manifestly is not.
Mastroianni plays Guido as a man exhausted by his evasions, lies and sensual appetites. He has a wife, chic and intellectual, who he loves but cannot communicate with, and a mistress, cheap and tawdry, who offends his taste but inflames his libido. He manages his affairs so badly that both women are in the spa town at the same time, along with his impatient producer, his critical writer, and uneasy actors who hope or believe they will be in the film. He finds not a moment's peace. "Happiness," Guido muses late in the film, "consists of being able to tell the truth without hurting anyone." That gift has not been mastered by Guido's writer, who tells the director his film is "a series of complete senseless episodes," and "doesn't have the advantage of the avant-garde films, although it has all of the drawbacks."
Guido seeks advice. Aged clerics shake their heads sadly and inspire flashbacks to childhood guilt. The writer, a Marxist, is openly contemptuous of his work. Doctors advise him to drink mineral water and get rest, a lot of rest. The producer begs for quick rewrites; having paid for the enormous set, he insists that it be used. And from time to time Guido visualizes his ideal woman, who is embodied by Claudia Cardinale: cool, comforting, beautiful, serene, uncritical, with all the answers and no questions. This vision, when she appears, turns out to be a disappointment, but in his mind he transforms her into a Muse, and takes solace in her imaginary support.
Fellini's camera is endlessly delighting. His actors often seem to be dancing rather than simply walking. I was interested to read that he played music during every scene. The music must have brought a lift and subtle rhythm to their movements. Of course many scenes have music built into them: In "8 1/2," orchestras, dance bands and strolling musicians are seen, and the actors move in a subtly choreographed way, as if they're synchronized. Fellini's scores, by Nino Rota, combine snatches of pop tunes with dance music, propelling the action.
Few directors make better use of space. One of his favorite techniques is to focus on a moving group in the background and track with them past foreground faces that slide in and out of frame. He also likes to establish a scene with a master shot, which then becomes a closeup when a character stands up into frame to greet us. Another technique is to follow his characters as they walk, photographing them in three-quarter profile, as they turn back toward the camera. And he likes to begin dance sequences with one partner smiling invitingly toward the camera before the other partner joins in the dance.
All of these moves are brought together in his characteristic parades. Inspired by a childhood love of the circus, Fellini used parades in all his films--not structured parades but informal ones, people moving together toward a common goal or to the same music, some in the foreground, some farther away. "8 1/2" ends with a parade that has deliberate circus overtones, with a parade of musicians, major characters, and the grotesques, eccentrics and "types" that Fellini loved to cast in his films.
I have seen "8 1/2" over and over again, and my appreciation only deepens. It does what is almost impossible: Fellini is a magician who discusses, reveals, explains and deconstructs his tricks, while still fooling us with them. He claims he doesn't know what he wants or how to achieve it, and the film proves he knows exactly, and rejoices in his knowledge.
on June 8, 2015
8½ is an Italian comedy-drama directed by Federico Fellini.Fresh off of the international success of La Dolce Vita, the master director moved into the realm of self-reflexive autobiography with what is widely believed to be his finest and most personal work. Co-scripted by Fellini, Tullio Pinelli, Ennio Flaiano, and Brunello Rondi, it stars Marcello Mastroianni as Guido Anselmi, a famous Italian film director; together with Claudia Cardinale,Anouk Aimée and Sandra Milo.
Guido Anselmi is a film director overwhelmed by the large-scale production he has undertaken. He finds himself harangued by producers, his wife, and his mistress while he struggles to find the inspiration to finish his film. He is suffering from "director's block". Stalled on his new science fiction film that includes veiled autobiographical references, he has lost interest amid artistic and marital difficulties. As Guido struggles half-heartedly to work on the film, a series of flashbacks and dreams delve into his memories and fantasies; they are frequently interwoven with reality.
Fellini jumbles narrative logic by freely cutting from flashbacks to dream sequences to the present until it becomes impossible to pry them apart, creating both a psychological portrait of Guido's interior world and the surrealistic, circus-like exterior world that came to be known as "Felliniesque."The marriage of Fellini's hyperreal imagery, dreamy sidebars, and the gravity of Guido's increasing guilt and self-awareness make this as much a deeply moving, soulful film as it is an electrifying spectacle. Mastroianni is wonderful in the lead, his woozy sensitivity to Guido's freefall both touching and charming--all the more so as the character becomes increasingly divorced from the celebrity hype that ultimately outpaces him.One of the greatest films about film ever made, 8 1/2 turns one man's artistic crisis into a grand epic of the cinema.