MOVIE REVIEW: “8 1/2” stars Marcello Mastroianni (Ginger & Fred, A Special Day), Anouk Aimée (A Man and a Woman, Lola), Claudia Cardinale (Once Upon a Time in the West, The Pink Panther ), Sandra Milo (Juliet of the Spirits, Hungry for Love), Rossella Falk (Modesty Blaise, The Legend of Lylah Clare), Barbara Steele (Black Sunday, Shivers), Eddra Gale (The Graduate, Somewhere in Time), and Jean Rougel (Duck You Sucker!, Fugitive in Saigon). It is directed by Federico Fellini (Nights of Cabiria, I Remember), who also wrote the screenplay with Tullio Pinelli (La Dolce Vita, La Strada), Ennio Flaiano (Ghosts of Rome, Run for Your Wife), and Brunello Rondi (Il Demonio, The Sisters).
A director (Mastroianni) struggling to make his next film retreats into his mind instead of facing the challenges his set poses.
What better way to kick off October reviews than with an analysis on a Fellini film?
“8 1/2” is highly regarded in the cinema community, having been deemed as one of the greatest films about filmmaking of all time. It’s one of those art house pictures; one that makes you tilt your head and attempt to decipher what you are seeing. And with Fellini’s abstract, dream-like way of storytelling, “8 1/2” weaves a web of perplexity that borderlines “too lofty.” I for one found myself entranced, though more so at the fact that I had no idea as to what I was witnessing.
From the opening sequence to the final image, this movie moves to the beat of its own drum. It doesn’t wait for you to catch up, nor does it sit you down to explain what in the world is going on. As the synopsis explains, this story details an Italian film director who has hit a brick wall on his latest project. He is bombarded by many people requesting details for the set, from his set dressers to even his actors (all of whom have no idea what role they are playing). It’s odd to see a director man a set that no one on crew has an inkling of what it is. I wondered if there have been actual projects like this, where the bulk of decisions are made when the cameras are set to roll. There’s certainly a barrier between me and this film; that being the culture of Italian cinema, and how movies were produced over there in the early 60’s. From what I gather, there are government officials involved (maybe a censorship?) and the director’s responsibilities tip-toe American film and television responsibilties.
There’s no set of rules when it comes to this movie. The dreams our director has are given no warning, and its only when things get too mystical that you are led to believe that it isn’t real. As the film progresses, both dream world and realitly mesh together, creating an abstract piece that throws my mind in a wash. Critics and historians can deem it symbolic, and there are definitely symbols to identify (there’s a large theme of women in this director’s life), however I am not as intellectual as most TCM film enthusiasts. The behind-the-scenes featurettes on this criterion release I own will explain things to me better than the film ever could. Whether that is a firm judge on if the movie is good or not is up to you, though I will say that this one warrants at least a second viewing to better grasp things.
Narrative aside, there is a lot to admire about Fellini’s film. The cinematography is dazzling, as are the locations and wardrobes. This crew shot in locations that evoked the dream-like storytelling perfectly, utilizing wide spaces and specific lighting to capture mesmerizing images. The performers in this were solid, with Mastroianni leading the charge in great fashion. He fit the tone well, with a tortured image that made me feel sorry for him. Those that surrounded him made for interesting eye candy, as most of the actors had peculiar looks to them. Everything Fellini did in crafting this was well-informed. There’s a unifying feel he sought to capture and he achieved it. However, I would be remiss if I didn’t say I felt like an outsider in watching it. Because honestly, “8 1/2” is a movie that is too abstract for my tastes.
It may take a second or third viewing to fully grasp what I saw, but upon first watch, “8 1/2” didn’t reach the heights I was led to believe. It’s a puzzle of a feature that left me intrigued, though that can only go so far. Abstract cinema is hit-or-miss for me. Fellini hits the mark on many elements; it’s just the story that is difficult to be sold on. Because when it comes to “8 1/2,” it has less to do about what’s going on in the scene, and more about what’s going on behind it. FINAL SCORE: 79%= Juicy Popcorn
Here is the trailer: