Fellini’s 8 ½ (1963) dir. Federico Fellini
Starring: Marcello Mastroianni
Ok, clearly I haven’t unearthed a diamond in the rough, nor am I writing about anything any reasonably knowledgable cinephile doesn’t know, but “Fellini’s 8 ½” is a great film and should be watched by everyone who wants to be a filmmaker.
Made in 1963, the film is surprisingly relevant in the present. Italian film director Guido Anselmi (Marcello Mastroianni) is on the verge of a nervous breakdown just prior to shooting his next big film. The expectations of him are high. His every word has importance and everyone around him, from his family to his working colleagues, are clamouring for his attention. His writer and producer eagerly want his input on script and production issues but creatively he’s broken down and has “filmmaker’s block”. As a result Guido retreats like a turtle into his shell, via his fantastical dreams and memories.
Guido ventures into his subconscious and visits himself and relives his adventures as a young child. He fantasizes about a beautiful and elusive siren/goddess played by Claudia Cardinale - the perfect uncritical respite from his chaotic world.
The fantasy sequences are celebrated and continue to mesmerize for its choreography and design. These sequences are technically amazing, and up until then, compared only with “Citizen Kane” for its visual inventiveness. Fellini’s use of actors and camera movement mimics the movement of the rides at a circus. Things just never stop going round – people pop up in places around the frame, constantly surprising us.
Of course, 8 ½ was named after eight and halfth film he made until then (he co-directed an early film). And so referencing his own work in the title was just one unsubtle way of informing the audience the film is autobiographical – based on his experiences after making “La Dolce Vita.”
The film should be seen by anyone who has questioned his or her talent, in any shape or form. Almost everyone questions their own ability to continue the upward trend of success. If the film were made today, perhaps Guido would have taken drugs to cope, and instead we would have had “Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas”. And who knows, maybe Fellini dabbled in some pre-swinging 60’s era hallucinogens. Either way, the film stands up to any of today’s films about filmmaking, and other creative efforts – ie. “Adaptation” or Wonder Boys”.
A beautifully pristine DVD is available in your foreign or classic film section. Please rediscover and enjoy.