Tuesday, April 8, 2014

8 1/2 review

Federico Fellini's 1963 film, 8 1/2, won the Best Foreign Film award at the 1964 Oscars. It's number 10 on Sight & Sound's Top 250 films. It has a 97% Rotten Tomatoes score. It's on Roger Ebert's Great Movies list. Martin Scorsese lists it as one of his favorite movies, and his favorite Italian film of all time. As does Woody Allen. 8 1/2 is obviously a highly acclaimed film. Watching a highly acclaimed movie like this can be quite hard. You have all this expectation and buzz built up around it, often it can be hard for the film too live up to it. I remember watching Citizen Kane and being a little disappointed by it. You also don't want your opinion to be swayed. When you're told a film is the greatest of all time, it's awful difficult to enjoy the movie with a clear mind. Regardless of all the accolades and acclaim 8 1/2 received, it's a really fantastic movie. I watched it on Saturday. It's Monday now and I've already watched it twice. It is that good. The film is about film, essentially. More so, it's about the lack of film. Director Guido Anselmi (Marcello Mastroianni) is trying to make a movie, but nothing seems to be going his way. He's over budget. His wife is mad. His mistress is causing trouble. The producer of his movie keeps pressuring him to start production, but he has serious creative block and cannot do so. He's supposed to be making this movie, but he has nothing to make. He's exhausted and has really no clear idea on what to do. His only real reprieve is in his dreams and fantasies. There he has control over everything. In one very famous dream sequence, Guido has all the women in his life all in one harem. He's very happy and seems to have them all under control, but then they rebel and he tries to tame them to no avail. Even in his most wonderful fantasies Guido is losing control. Claudia Cardinale (of Once Upon a Time in the West fame) plays his muse and dream girl, also named Claudia. She comes to him in dreams to comfort him, but in real life she brings no such comfort. I've only very recently become interested in Federico Fellini. The only other film of his I've seen is La Dolce Vita, which was very good in its own right. Even after watching only two of his movies, I'm starting to see his style. 8 1/2 I think is the best representation of it so far. The two films have very similar themes and story: a man (coincidentally played by Marcello Mastroianni both times) who is going through a creative crisis, falling victim to infidelity and writers block. What's most obvious to recognize is Fellini's wonderful and camera work. Even those who aren't as infatuated with his movies as I seem to be can at least appreciate his awesome direction. He dances his camera around his characters, adding to the story and making his already great films just that much better. But he isn't only a technical director. The story here is great, as is the way he tells it. The only other filmmaker deal with creative troubles as accurately and wonderfully is Charlie Kaufman and Spike Jonze with Adaptation. With 8 1/2, Fellini really captures the spirit of frustration enormously well. And he does it in such an entertaining manner. Anyone who has ever embarked in making a movie, or really anything creative at all, can sympathize with Guido's hopeless plight. We often laugh at his troubles, but only because we really understand them ourselves. Many have called 8 1/2 surrealist. I'm not sure if I would completely group it under that category, but I'd definitely say it has some surreal elements to it. The movie opens with Guido in a traffic jam. In his car, he is trapped and his vehicle is slowly filling with a gas. Soon, he frees himself and begins to fly. He is a kite, his leg is bound to a string. He falls to the beach. He wakes up. Surreal and strange, yes, but there are only a few of these fantasies peppered throughout the film. In my opinion, it's a very grounded and realistic movie. Dealing with a filmmakers myriad troubles and issues, occasionally resorting to strange dream sequences. Don't get me wrong though, I absolutely loved the surreal moments in the film. Fellini handles dreams better than almost any director I've seen. The fantasy moments don't feel out of place or serve as clunky placeholders, they add a lot and just make the film all the more rich and beautiful. 8 1/2 has a few moments that drag on, but they are only a few. The rest of the movie is 100% awesome. It's a must see, not only for filmmakers and writers, but for everyone. Every single person can, in some sense, relate to Guido. Plus, it's just pure and wonderful movie making that everyone should see at least once in their life. Me? I may have to watch it a few more times. Happy Viewing guys. Don't forget to like me on Facebook at Facebook.com/WhitsMovies and follow me on Twitter @WhitsMovies if you haven't already.

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