Guido is a film director, trying to relax after his last big hit. He can't get a moments peace, however, with the people who have worked with him in the past constantly looking for more work. He wrestles with his conscience, but is unable to come up with a new idea. While thinking, he starts to recall major happenings in his life, and all the women he has loved and left. An autobiographical film of Fellini, about the trials and tribulations of film making.
This film is often described as the best film ever made!
Marcello Mastroianni ... Guido Anselmi
Claudia Cardinale ... Claudia
Anouk Aimée ... Luisa Anselmi (as Anouk Aimee)
Sandra Milo ... Carla
Rossella Falk ... Rossella
Barbara Steele ... Gloria Morin
Madeleine LeBeau ... Madeleine, l'attrice francese (as Madeleine Lebeau)
Caterina Boratto ... La signora misteriosa
Eddra Gale ... La Saraghina (as Edra Gale)
Guido Alberti ... Pace, il produttore
Mario Conocchia ... Conocchia, il direttore di produzione
Director: Federico Fellini
Nominated for 5 Oscars, won 2 Oscars: Best Costume Design (Black-and-White), Best Foreign Language Film
Codecs: DivX 5 / MP3
Subtitle: English (hard encoded)
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 in truth, and 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. 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. For all others: strongly, strongly recommended.
Fellini's 8 1/2 opens with a stunning dream sequence in which a man is trapped in his car in the middle of a traffic jam. The doors and windows are locked and there is no escape. Other drivers simply sit and stare at him passively. The driver starts to panic as smoke begins to build up within the car. Propelling himself outside a window, he floats over the other cars and soars above the world until he is pulled down a rope attached to a tether on his ankle. The driver is Guido Anselmi (Marcello Mastroianni), a film director at odds with himself. Shot in black and white, 8 1/2 is an exhilarating, confusing, irritating, and inspired journey into a man's consciousness. It is not just a look at the inner turmoil of one person, but also a commentary on each person's struggle to make sense of their life. The film's combination of kaleidoscopic images, evocative score by Nino Rota, and amazing performances ensure its place as one of the greatest films of the century.
Guido is preparing to shoot a new film with an expensive budget. He constructs a huge spaceship launch pad that costs $80 million but he is unsure of what he wants to say. Guido's dishonesty in dealing with his marriage, his career, and the fact that he really does not want to make the film forces him to falsely mislead people as to his true intentions. He feels like a failure and is physically spent. He checks into a spa to restore his health and well being but the contingent of producers, actors, writers, and hangers on undermine his strength. His feeling of being overwhelmed by personal and professional obligations provides the catalyst for dreams and fantasies that take him back to his childhood.
Fellini shows his encounter with the prostitute Saraghina (Eddra Gale) and the guilt he has to deal with in a confrontation with the Catholic Church. Guido invites his intellectual wife Luisa (Anouk Aimée) to the set but their relationship has turned cold and passionless, and sparks fly when she has to confront Carla (Sandra Milo), his buxom mistress. Guido is misguided but he has an innocence and charm that allows us to overlook his indulgences. He enjoys his pleasures but has a conscience and feels guilty about cheating on Luisa whom he loves and is afraid of losing. He fantasizes that all of the women in his life are together in a harem where they all dote on his every whim. When they finally recognize how little he cares about them, he is forced to suppress their revolt.
As image piles on image and the fantasy becomes indistinguishable from the reality, the viewer may get lost in a maze of dazzling incoherence. Fellini, however, always returns to solid ground and the film offers not only a satire on the frenzy, the uncertainty, and the clash of egos involved with making a film but also a serious commentary on the importance of honesty in a relationship. If 8 1/2 is occasionally exhausting, the ending is invigorating, letting us know that life is a game in which each of us is on the stage performing our roles and the only sane response to its turmoil is to join hands in love and celebrate the moment.
Intellectuals have written volumes on this strange film by Italian New Wave director, Federico Fellini. I am not an intellectual, so my review will be brief. At its most basic, "8 1/2" (a.k.a. "Otto e mezzo") concerns Guido, a film director (supposedly a surrogate for Fellini himself), who is having what amounts to a midlife crisis. Guido is frustrated in his film-making, and by his relations with other people in his life. But the film's story does not proceed in a traditional, linear fashion. Fellini more or less abandons logical narration, in favor of "open form" narration, wherein the story's causal chain of events is broken.
Thus, trying to figure out what is going on in this film can be hard. Guido's fantasies, memories, dreams, and reality co-mingle in a kind of cinematic stew. Fellini presents viewers with a kaleidoscope of surreal B&W images of ordinary objects and eccentric, chattering characters which interact with Guido and with each other, in ways that defy logic, and give breathtaking meaning to the term symbolism. Followers of psychologist Carl Jung would have a field day. In style, the film is flamboyant. In substance, the film is maddeningly subliminal. And yet, even the most metallic cynic, Pauline Kael notwithstanding, must surely appreciate the rareness of Fellini's probing introspection.
Given the bizarre, unstructured content of "8 1/2", I wonder about the issue of necessity. Suppose Fellini had added an extra ten minutes to the screenplay, or deleted ten minutes. Would that have made any difference? Apart from Guido, if this or that character had been deleted, how would that have changed the story's significance? And if, as some have suggested, the film is a mirror image of Fellini's own confused psyche, can the story be construed as an intuition of his future film-making?
"Otto e mezzo" is not for everyone. Like a Zen koan, "8 1/2" invites frustration. It is above all else a celebration of ambiguity and abstraction, a cinematic experience to ponder, especially on the heels of four or five martinis ... or 8 1/2, if you really want to induce immense intellectual insight. Cheers.
* The title refers to the number of movies Federico Fellini had directed up until that point - six features, two short (1/2) films and "half a picture" ("Luci del Varieta'" his first, co-directed with Alberto Lattuada), for a total of 7 1/2. So this one is number 8 1/2.
* The film's working title was "La Bella Confusione", "The Beautiful Confusion".
* Fellini attached a note to himself below the camera's eyepiece which read, "Remember, this is a comedy."
* Was the basis for the Broadway Musical "Nine", which won the Tony for best musical in 1982 and for best musical revival in 2003.
* At one point, Fellini wanted to cast Laurence Olivier in the lead role.
* In 2002, named by "Positif" (France) as one of the 50 best films of the last 50 years (critics' choice: #3)