8 1/2 (1963)
“Accept me as I am. Only then can we discover each other” – Guido
Federico Fellini’s “8 1/2” is a film about making a film. It’s told from the director’s point of view, Guido (Marcello Mastroianni), clearly playing Fellini. Guido has an enormous budget, stars and starlets at his disposal and completed soundstages and sets. The only thing left is a finished script and a director with some focus. While we see a confused director who has run out of brilliant ideas, Fellini has definitely not, unleashing a wave of unforgettable images. We get an insider’s view of what it’s like to make a film from a director with a creative block, a reflection of Fellini’s artistic ambitions.
While Guido is trying to determine the course of his film, he has to deal with several distractions on and off the set. He is bombarded by questions and needs from the media, his crew and actors, leaving him frustrated and lost. His producer questions the screenplay constantly while his actors beg for more prominent roles. Guido masks his uncertainties to everyone while tormenting in private. These are trivial issues when his mistress (Sandra Milo) pays him a visit on the set which is complicated by his wife’s (Anouk Aimee) unexpected appearance. His wife portrays the image of reserved, Italian chic mixed with sexy intelligence, a sharp contrast to Guido’s mistress of bosoms, an insatiable sex kitten.
During the most stressful times, Guido lapses into dreams and flashbacks of past romances and childhood memories. This is the strength of the film as it shows Fellini at his best. The camera lovingly embraces its stars, tracking shots are used to keep up with the film’s frenetic pace and artfully angled compositions create picturesque masterpieces, all supplemented by Nino Rota’s beautiful score. He lets his imagination blossom within the dreams and flashbacks, from an unforgettable harem scene of past lovers to one of his early childhood memories growing up on a cozy farm loved dearly by his mother, safely tucked into bed. The black and white look only adds to the film’s beauty.
As Guido slowly gets a handle on his role in life and art, reconciling with his wife and God, he finally comes to terms with his new film. He finally relinquishes the lies and conceit, letting himself breath again and embrace life instead of running from it. Many of these themes overlap in a mixture of reality and fantasy, an enjoyable blender ride of unforgettable visuals. Guido’s an irresistible character, full of charm, cynicism and confusion, like most artist’s grappling with their craft. It serves almost like an enjoyable warning.
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Tags: 8 1/2, Anouk Aimee, Classic Film, director, Federico Fellini, filmmaking, Marcello Mastroianni, Nino Rota, Sandra Milo