8 1/2

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  • A cinematic spectacle of surrealism and reality.
    This review is for the 2001 Criterion DVD.

    The movie '8-1/2' is allegedly an "artistic" autobiography of Federico Fellini's life as a director. The essence of the film is that a director named Guido (Marcello Mastroianni) has started making a movie but has lost his creative energy. As a means of finding inspiration, Guido goes to an Italian health spa but is still tormented by his producer, auditioning actors and even an intellectual critic who all put great demands on Guido's time, energy and thought. Guido escapes his peers by having an affair with a trashy mistress in another part of town but is later joined by his embittered wife a few days afterward.

    The movie has plenty of abstract allegories, childhood flashbacks, present day issues and even some very restrained sexual fantasies about women. The movie reveals that Guido is torn in so many directions. When he has an affair, he is immediately conflicted as a Roman Catholic, as a husband, and as a son of morally upstanding parents. We also see where his infidelity has damaged his marriage - perhaps beyond repair. Finally, he also finds that the perfect woman doesn't turn out of be perfect after all. Eventually the film becomes a movie within a movie. He wants to make an honest film but is so saturated in the conflict and tormoil of life. Guido finally liberates himself when he realizes that the beautiful confusion of life is what needs to be celebrated on film.

    The movie at times is difficult to follow - especially since much of the abstract artistry is so ambiguous. But I found the characters very engrossing and early 1960's Italy a fascinating and fashionable setting. The most of the women in this movie are very beautiful and alluring while the rest had immeasurable entertainment value. The men are typically very animated and complex. I was never bored with any of the scenes, but as an art film, I can't say that I was inspired or moved by this picture. I thoroughly enjoy the energy of the Italian culture and this film certainly revealed much of it. The B&W cinematography was top-notch and the music has typically festive and quite enjoyable. This is a movie that is clearly not for everyone and I'll be the first to admit that on an artistic level I think it's just OK for me. But at the same time, I think this is a movie everyone needs to experience just once to have some appreciation and understanding for Italian neo-realism films. I've watched this movie now five times and I still get new insights with each viewing. The commentary is somewhat helpful but at times does not fully explain Fellini's true intent of some of the artistic episodes. Perhaps, that's the way he intended it - to mean what you want it to mean.

    The DVD is a stunning B&W widescreen transfer and the sound is excellent. There are plenty of extras in this double DVD package. As usual, Criterion did a superb job.

    Movie: B+

    DVD Quality: A...more info
  • A film about (not knowing how to) love
    I've been re-watching Fellini's 8 1/2 with all the commentaries... supposedly this is a "film about film". But, I think, it is a film about love.
    Even the title, I think is about the women in his life. Throughout the movie the director-protagonist is beseiged by reporters and critics asking about his new film and one of the repeated questions is, "Why don't you make a film about love?". His friend's neice teases him that he does not know how.
    Well, I think, this is how this film started- was the story Frederico was trying to tell but, as Guido agonizes to his sister at the rocket launch platform, he has lost his way. He wanted to tell such a simple story, "No lies at all. One that would help people bury forever all these dead things we carry around."
    The "perfect woman" who appears to him at the spa's healing spring and gives him water is the actress later walking through the streets with him as he agonizes over his life. She tells him then that he does not know how to love.
    Oh, sad heart, sad heart, he is Everyman.
    We can see the reasons for this as we are taken through his childhood memories, the stark role divisions, the repressive Catholic torture and Madonna/Whore template.
    His sister is his best connection to his soul from their childhood games of asa nisa masa (ai ni ma) to her adult connection to Spirit being who tells him, "You are free-but you must choose And you don't have much time.".
    The actress who plays the director's mistress in the film was actually Fellini's mistress for 17 years. The interview with her is AMAZING!
    The ending of the film was changed at the last minute-it was originally going to be the protagonist in a dream-visualization seeing all the women of his life together in a dining car, not the parade ending. Did Fellini chicken out, not wanting to give himself away too brazenly, or did he himself even realize what his film was about???

    1. Grandmother
    2. Mother
    4. Wife
    7.Friend's mistress (gloria)
    8. The woman at the Spring
    1/2. the Next Woman(in the Harem scene he asks, "But who are you?")
    I think, the most important thing in this world is to learn how to truly love. To open ourselves deep enough to share a living dream of love, freedom, creativity, divinity. To learn to live this knowledge of the Soul in real life.
    Yeah, I think, it's the only Revolution that will save the world.
    And, in such a subliminal way, this is what comes across in this film.

    ...more info
  • Fellini at his best
    This is among my most favorite films. Fellini's Guido is a director with an identity crisis effecting or as a result of his professional and personal life. The various scenes are powerful examples of what Fellini can do when he's operating at his full artistic capabilities. Part magical realism, part autobiography and done in a style that only Italian film was once able to do, watching 8 ? has always been a great experience for me.

    Fellini's self-conscious artistic manner and self-absorption, which can drag down some of his later works, become the strengths of 8 ?. His dreams, doubts and visions are the film itself and delivered so masterfully that Fellini never again was able to match (though he came close) this sort of narrative.

    There are so many great scenes in this film. Among the best is the imaginary "revolt" of the women in his life, where Guido's home is full of a "harem" that all turn against him. Equally great is the circus scene where freaks and mirrors reflect the turmoil and confusion in his life.

    Some might call this an "artsy" film, which I think is a back handed complement. I don't I think it's film being "artsy", I think it's film telling a story the way a great novel can. Along with "La Dolce Vita" this is Fellini's greatest work....more info

  • Another brilliant picture by Fellini

    Federico Fellini's deeply personal account of a film director (himself, played by Marcello Mastroianni) who at the start of a new picture finds himself dried up. In a wonderful blend of reality, flashback, and pure fantasy (the last two sometimes indistinguishable) we explore the director's dilemma: actors and actresses are waiting for auditions; the producer hounds him; his writer (actually his alter ego) keeps telling him the script is empty and pointless, the project a waste of time (this ironic character, played by Jean Rougeul, is a marvelous creation). Also there is his wife (Anouk Aimee), who no longer can stand his philandering.

    The flashbacks/fantasies are very funny, especially the one in which he imagines all the women in his life make up a willing harem. The only fault with the movie is the last five minutes where Mastroianni concludes he can't procrastinate any longer, and that making pictures is his life and he must get on with it regardless of the failures: it's all much too preachy and cheap. Actually, the movie should have ended in the car with Rougeul lecturing him on the uselessness of his work: that would've been perfect. Anyway, the movie is packed with great ideas and beautifully filmed images. Definitely worth a watch....more info
  • What can one say when one sees such a movie, but...Fellini
    Reviewing other movies where there are hundreds of characters running around in surreal madness and you can call it Felliniesque, but there are no real words to describe 8 1/2.

    It's easy to hate the first time through if you aren't already a fan of Fellini. It also helps to be not just a fan of Fellini, but a fan of the more sprawling and obtuse Fellini films, because this is the pinnacle of that style.

    Personally I prefer the more intimate and less populous La Strada, but there was no doubt Fellini was a master of sprawling madness, and this one is nearly his best in that style.

    ...more info
  • The substantial built on the insubstantial
    This movie is about as tiring and confused as the narrator/protagonist. Just like him we know his project is doomed, but we can't do anything about it until he does something about it, so we plod along with him and hope that maybe someone else will work it out for him.

    It's a very intimidating film, I think even moreso for filmmakers. It represents just the fear they have, where they want to express something but have no idea how to do it, so try to pass off a bunch of vague and insubstantial images as a plot for a while until other people start getting serious about what's needed to be put in it to make it actually a film. In that way it's a lot like Adaptation, except Adaptation makes it colorful and zany in a twisted way while this makes it pretty dark and brooding. Both films are brilliant, if for no other reason in that I can't believe it actually worked out.

    In fact, one thing that's amazing about this film is that I didn't feel like I was watching Fellini (like how in Adaptation I felt I was watching Charlie Kaufman). Despite the inherent self-reflexiveness of having a movie about movies, this one didn't seem to bring attention to the camera or exposition at all, instead making the "movie within a movie" moments a product of the antihero's film-centric imagination (how his dreams are filled with set pieces, rigid cutting, and silent, visual aura while the real moments in the film are filled with sound, other people moving, longer, more flowing takes, and less dance numbers.) It also is very interesting to follow the supporting characters, how they all seem to have wives you never see and mistresses you see all the time, how they all do their thing without knowing what they're supposed to do, all because that's all they know how to do, and how they invest themselves with the director and he just pushes them aside. Then with all the introductions to women who want parts, the whole melange of faces and bodies all trying to get something out of nothing... it's a very exhausting film.

    But that's what it's trying to express, so it's amazing. I love the obvious and yet completely profound images of stuff like "The set built on sand" and "I need to include everything to express nothing." Good stuff.

    --PolarisDiB...more info
  • Pretentious and Dull
    Personally, I found 8 1/2 to be one of the most boring films I've ever seen. It was a pretentious, self-indulgent trip down the director's memory lane. I understood the plot, and enjoyed some of the thoughts raised near the end, but overall was bored silly by stilted, pointless dialogue.
    Having said that, the cinematography was stunning and the music almost made the film worth watching. Perhaps 8 1/2 would have been better off as a series of photographs with musical accompaniment :P....more info
  • The best irreverent italian comedy ever made
    You'll find this movie a real tour de force with a script that doesn't seem get old, but becomes so fresh forty one years after being filmed. The presence of this mytical actor like Mastroinanni, giving one of his three best performances in his carrer. The charisma and beuuty of Claudia Cardinale (The italian image of Anna Karina), and the absolutely irreverent script supported by a cinematic progress in the narrative, the surrealistic elipsis that engage us with the different stages in the life of our undecided and troubled director. His dreams, fantasies of his childhood and youth, are described with elegant insolence.
    Together with Luis Bu?uel, Fellini makes a couple of directors who told all what they wanted without restrictions , with absolute liberty.
    Amarcord in my opinion is Fellini's masterpiece, but it's just to recognize that cinematographily is less border edge than 8 1/2.
    If you really want to have a real treasure cinematheque, don't think it over.
    Buy this , because this film owns the landmark of the inmortality.
    One of the best one hundred films of any age....more info
  • Fascinating, but a film more to respect than love
    For what it is---an intensely personal statement about Fellini's own frustrations at a film director at a certain point in his life, as reflected by the frustrations of his film director alter ego Guido Anselmi---Federico Fellini's 8 1/2 is indeed brilliant and creative. It is certainly not like any other film you've ever seen, and it deserves to be seen by any serious cinema enthusiast at least once or twice, since it is such an influential film.

    That being said, I have to admit that, after having seen it twice, I personally still can only express a cold admiration for Fellini's achievements here. I just can never really get myself personally involved in Fellini's world here to the point that I truly care about Guido and his predicament. Fellini hardly bothers to build up any sympathy for Guido or any of the characters (although I personally did feel some sympathy for Guido's wife Luisa, who is convincingly portrayed by Anouk Aimee as a woman who has had enough of his husband director's cheating ways). The film is on such a personal level that Fellini shuts the audience out and makes us view his universe from afar without truly enveloping us in it, and while what he does in that universe is undeniably brilliant, it means precious little to us in the end. I am almost tempted to echo some of the sentiments of critics (like Pauline Kael) who were less than enthusiastic when the film was first released in America---those who dismissed the film as "self-indulgent trivia." I expected a film about filmmaking, and what I saw instead was the story of a director going on and on and on about his own suffering, and frankly sometimes I just didn't truly care.

    But then, of course, maybe Fellini never intended to fully engage the audience in this film. Or maybe I just have to watch more Fellini films in order to perhaps get onto his wavelength (so far, 8 1/2 is the only film of Fellini's I have seen). Despite my personal misgivings, 8 1/2 does have some justly famous sequences and images(the harem sequence being the standout), and is interesting enough to warrant a look by any serious film enthusiast. Who knows? Great art sometimes doesn't reveal its depths the first time, and maybe this film will eventually reveal something more in subsequent viewings (although in the back of my mind I have my doubts)....more info

  • 8 1/2 (1963) - Federico Fellini
    8 1/2 is Federico Fellini's most famous film, and for good reason. The hardest thing for any director to do is make the film following their big hit because one always feels they have to top it. La Dolce Vita (1960) was Fellini's awakening to the world of international cinema, and he was left bemused on what his next project should be. So in one of the boldest and most brilliant moves in cinema history Fellini made a film about the troubles of making that film. 8 1/2 is full of nice imagery, both real and surreal, and the inner emotions of the director come flying out in wonderous scene after scene. The human psyche has never been shown so artistically, and Fellini is able to balance the outrageous moments with more quiet moments in the film to create a thoroughly engrossing, dramatic, and fantastic film masterwork. ...more info
  • Not to all tastes, and sadly not quite to mine
    Unfortunately, for the most part 8? left me cold, one of those films where you get what is being done but it's just not on your wavelength. It's pointless to complain about it being hit-and-miss or confused, since erratic confusion is the nature of the beast as Fellini becomes possibly the first man to film his own nervous breakdown (or at very least his crisis of creativity). In many ways the turning point in Fellini's career where fantasy and grotesquery would become an increasing part of increasingly disjointed phantasmagorias with a design style as cluttered as a tart's dressing table, there are moments that strike home and the latter scenes with his wife and with Claudia work because there's a sense of self-awareness of Fellini's limitations not just as an artist but as a human being. But overall I was just left with the feeling that I'd got on the wrong train by mistake.

    (Incidentally, to strike a timely note, it's amusing to note that the producer's brainless bimbo girlfriend is the spitting image of Paris Hilton!)

    It's a shame Criterion's otherwise excellent 2-disc DVD couldn't locate the deleted sequences, although they are represented in the excellent stills galeries. Alongside the 50-minute 'Director's Notebook' documentary TV special by Fellini, the 45-minute German Nino Rota documentary is interesting and has a wonderful moment where the composer accepts a proffered cigarette only to turn down a light because he doesn't smoke! ...more info
  • Nearly unwatchable...
    Without a doubt, the most pretentious, self-indulgent mess of a movie I've ever seen. The high praise showered on this film baffles me. ...more info
  • Excellent. Recommend Highly.
    I have watched this film about once a month for the past 14 years, and I never get tired of it. A MUST HAVE....more info
  • A must see for the artsy types.
    Every shot in this film seems like it could be framed and put in an art gallery. Beautifully restored by Criterion, this film is Fellini's magnum opus. This two disc set is the BEST version and the only way to see and understand this brilliant film. Filmmakers such as Woody Allen and Terry Gilliam adore this film and consider it to be one of the greatest of all time. It might take the average viewer a few times before they fully understand the meaning behind this film, but it is a truly amazing and important contribution to the history of film. Give it a chance and watch it a few more times. This is the film for the SERIOUS film fan!...more info
  • Criterion transfer much better
    First off, its one of the 10 greatest movies. If you have any interest in the history of cinema, its a must-view. However, the Image Entertainment single disc edition suffers from a decent transfer of a mediocre print, with much distracting dust and emulsion chipping present. The Criterion 2 disc version, while weighed down by a second disc of less interesting documentaries issue appears to have far fewer print defects. IMHO the commentaries and better transfer make the Criterion disc a better purchase....more info
  • Absolutely Essential
    One of the greatest movies in history. Funny, serious, cerebral, experimental, touching, hopeful, autobiographical . . . not list of words can really describe it. A director struggles to make the film that is in his imagination. Internal and external conflicts pull him from all directions. It is a movie about the movie you are watching (that will make sense after you see it.) Every scene is wonderful. Fellini's masterpiece....more info
  • Applaud the man with no clear ideas
    I have to admit that I didn't fully understand Federico Fellini's 8 ?. I got a little confused with the constant interchange between Guido's dreams, fantasies, memories, and present events. Although it was easy to distinguish the reality from fantasy, I did not fully understand the reason for these fantasies and what they were about. Having already seen a similar great mind game movie "Mulholland Dr." without a doubt, 8 ? is one of the best movies made about filmmaking. Many believe that master director Federico Fellini based the movie on himself and his struggles. The movie appears semi-autobiographical because the central character in the movie is also a director named Guido Anselmi, played brilliantly by Marcello Mastroianni. It is about Guido's confusion on what his next movie is about. While trying to reach a decision, Guido also confronts his own personal problems.

    Guido is already a successful and famous director. And for his next film, a science fiction one, he asked the studio for a massive construction of a prop spaceship. The construction cost the studio millions of Liras, but they did it anyway because they are confident with Guido's abilities. Before filming starts, Guido had a nervous breakdown that made him think about what he is doing. He then postpones the shoot and tries to rewrite the script. When he could not come up with the story he likes, he believes that he ran out of inspiration. So retreats to his dreams and fantasies to come up with one, while his producer, cast, and crew keep pressuring him to start the shoot.

    Aside from his problems with his film's story, he also confronts his problems with his wife Luisa (Anouk Aimee) and his mistress Carla (Sandra Milo). Guido invites Luisa to the set even though he knows Carla is there. Guido is even careless enough to let the two women be present at the same place. Luisa knows about Guido's affair with Carla, but Guido keeps insisting her that its over. Fellini's directing is excellent. He gracefully guides the audience inside what is clearly a troubled man's mind. Sometimes, Fellini does not show a transition from the realities to the fantasies, but we know that it's only a fantasy because it couldn't have happened in reality. We take a journey through Guido's mind. From his memories of dancing with a prostitute as a child to a fantasy where he has all the woman in his life in the same room. Fellini's camera work is amazing, and he also added some entertaining dance sequences.

    My only criticism here is that it takes the movie too long to get off the ground. It seems to be stuck in its launching pad at some times. Some scenes and sequences are a little too long and extended. Nonetheless, 8 ? is still amazing and captivating. It exhibits and plays gently with the mind. 8 ? is one of the stalwarts of foreign cinema, and I recommend this movie to movie lovers who want to see the works of Fellini.
    ...more info
    Just behind WINGS OF DESIRE is Federico's masterpiece.
    A true ICON. 8 1/2 not only resounds with my Italian Catholic
    upbringing as it displays in obvious detail the time-wasting
    progression of guilt and shame; it commands me to again
    possess the mantra quoted from WALL STREET: "To be rich enough
    not to waste time". ...more info
  • Watch this once through , then with the commentary on
    This is a classic film , but some people used to Hollywood type films may well find it baffling . This is why the Criterion DVD is so helpful to those who like me are happy to admit that they find it difficult to follow and appreciate having it explained to them on a second viewing via the commentary .

    The visual world of Fellini is like none other .
    This film would be great for those going through a mid life crisis , but luckily the rest of us can find something in it .
    One of the questions it puts forward , is 'could someone start their ( internal ) life again' ? The main character has many parellels to Fellini , but forget about that when watching .
    There are ideas about creativity , intellectuals and the movie business itself .

    I note there are a lot of used copies of this DVD as it is not one you watch for entertainment , or often for that matter .
    It is unashamedly 'arty' , so keep that in mind .
    Rent before buying .

    It is a film everyone should see , though ....more info
  • Fabulous Fellini in all his glory.
    What else can I say? It's Fellini at his best. It's the antithesis of a Hollywood movie, which is to say that it't thought provoking and demanding of the viewer....more info
  • Classic, but not quite great
    8? is suffused with the fictive childhood memories of Fellini's onscreen doppelganger, Guido Anselmi (Marcello Mastroianni), which- if the DVD experts on Fellini, and those I've scanned in gathering background information, are correct- are merely Fellini's own true memories transferred to film. They can result in some interesting themes and scenes for the film, but often, most manifestly in the Saraghina and Cardinal digressions, they make far too much of points that could more easily and poetically been conveyed onscreen. Both of these motivs waste a good twenty or more minutes of the film's running time....As for the famed narrative- or meta-narrative. Let me give a brief rundown of what 8? is about. The film opens with shots of 43 year old married filmmaker Guido Anselmi in a traffic jam. It is obviously a dream sequence- or is it a scene from the film that he is to make, the one this film is about? It is clearly a set piece, and after escaping from his car window, as if from the uterus, he takes to the air, and becomes a kite, pulled back down to earth by whom we later recognize as the filmic representatives of Claudia Cardinale (playing herself), the actress who is to star in Guido's film within this film. As he falls to earth he wakens at a health spa where he is recuperating from a breakdown of some sort, along with his screenwriter, a dense film critic named Daumier (Jean Rougeul). Outside the spa he has a vision of a virginal white clad goddess, also played by Claudia Cardinale- although she is a separate character from the Claudia Cardinale who later appears as an actress in 8?. She manifestly represents an idealized vision of love and femininity to Guido. Daumier then criticizes Guido's ideas for his upcoming film as immature and self-indulgent, as Fellini obviously is striking the first blows for his film's claim to greatness.
    He then spots Mario Mezzabotta (Mario Pisu), an old friend who is squiring around a dark, sexy young American girl he intends to marry. Her name is Gloria Morin (Barbara Steele, Mario Bava's horror film diva). Guido then heads to the train station to meet his gauche and buffoonish married mistress Carla (Sandra Milo). He already regrets asking her to come, until that night they play a game of hooker and john, and she eagerly plays her naughty role to sexual perfection. Guido falls asleep and dreams of his parents at a cemetery, His father (Annibale Ninchi) is dead, and his mother (Guiditta Rissone) kisses him lasciviously, then pulls back to reveal it is his wife, Luisa (Anouk Aim¨¦e). Later, Guido tries to avoid movie types and reporters who are after the story of what his next film will be about. Some entertainment ensues at the hotel, and Guido is reminded of a mysterious childish saying from his past, asa nisi masa. This nonsense phrase is the film's equivalent of Citizen Kane's Rosebud. How this all turns out is well known and detailed by others.
    Incidentally, there is some confusion over why the film is called what it is called. The truth is that the film's final title 8? refers to the number of films Fellini directed to that point- six features, two short (?) films, and his first film, half a feature, Luci del Varieta, which he co-directed with Alberto Lattuada, thus totaling 7? films. This was therefore his 8?th film. As for the critical reception and continuing misconstruals this film receives, both positive and negative, it is easy to see why. Much of this confusion is recapitulated in the film's original title La Bella Confusione (The Beautiful Confusion). It is not clear whether or not this internal artistic confusion was genuine, in Fellini's case, but it does not matter to his puppet, Guido Anselmi, for intent is meaningless in art. The end result is all, always all. Thus, 8 ? is a weird m¨¦lange of Freudian pop nonsense (id, ego, superego), and Salvador Dal¨¬ lite imagery, that badly dates the film intellectually. All of it is well handled, in beautiful black and white cinematography by Gianni de Venanzo, with an intriguing and well-placed musical score by Nino Rota, to enhance the artificiality of it all, but all the personal references, which in the film do little to enhance an understanding of Guido, even as they may lend obsessive critics insight into Fellini's life, drag the film down by its own overblown heft....8? improves with rewatching, but it's still too long, filled with clumsy satire- Saraghina and the Cardinal, pointless digressions, and the like.
    ...more info
  • Very personal, very interesting
    I wrote originally wrote this as a comment on one of the negative reviews, but thought it might be beneficial to expand it and post as a review in its own right:

    I can understand why this movie might appear pretentious.... I'm not saying it's especially esoteric, but because the method of expression contrasts with traditional film-making it can appear pretentious until you get the feel for it. This isn't something that requires special technical knowledge, it just has to be developed intuitively---once you get it, it's like "ah-hah!" and it suddenly seems very down-to-earth and human.

    This film doesn't follow traditional narrative structure, it is more a series of vignettes or impressions that relate to Fellini's improvisational and personal style. I can still understand why someone might not relate to Fellini himself, but that doesn't render his art worthless. It is a highly personal, accurate, and outstanding expression of his self, and that is why it is great--- not because of the hype that has been forever associated with Fellini's films and larger-than-life persona.

    This film represents a good place to start if one wished to begin understanding other works of art that make use of subjective or surrealist methods in their presentation. I think some David Lynch films use a very similar technique, though applied to specific characters which are not strictly auto-biographical.

    8 1/2, does a very good job of blending subjectivity and "objectivity" throughout. It is an interesting portrait of a person's psyche---his psyche shapes his reality, and vice versa. In this light, every person's reality is truly their own, though I can't know if Fellini really intended to make any larger implications such as these. Fellini knows himself best, his own bank of experiences and perceptions form the basis of the content. All great art is highly personal like this, whether it admits to it or not.

    It is important to stress that this is not a film that makes use of dynamic narrative tensions. It has basically one situation: the main character. It explores that one situation as fully as possible--- all of the things that make him who he is and in turn shape the way he perceives and approaches his circumstance. The film is highly unique in the skill with which it does so, and the loose, almost improvisational nature of this film-making is suited to presenting its subject.

    Relying on circumstance to intervene in the creative process allows aspects to manifest that could not have if he were trying to write a film of this nature. Subconscious and unintentional aspects could reveal themselves, giving the film a psychological weight that contributes to the feeling of personal depth. These aspects may not be picked up consciously by the viewer except on repeated viewings...this is what I mean when I say you have to develop an intuitive feel for the way these kinds of films work.

    Until you develop that feel and understanding, more emotional than intellectual, these and other films (like those of the aforementioned David Lynch) will just appear pretentious. I do not deny that there are a lot of folks who act like they understand these kinds of movies more than they do, contributing to the pretentious vibe.

    There can still be differences of opinion in terms of interpretation, but the essence of the film is not intellectual---varying interpretations can simultaneously be accurate given the layers of ambiguity and complexity that great minds (and subsequently great works) possess. People and works with one simplistic message are not nearly as compelling. ...more info
  • Self-indulgent, although somewhat entertaining
    You know when you watch a film where the characters are filmmakers, you've entered the vanity zone. It's just a basic conceit that anyone who wants to create should avoid... don't make the creation about the act of creating it.

    Yet, time and again it's an irresistible lure... the grand tell-off tell-all that creative people can't resist. It always stinks, and this wasn't really an exception. Things are constantly "told" rather than shown... from politics, to philosophy, to love, this is more of a director's essay disguised as a story, than a story. Fellini throws in lively dream sequences, and tries to doll the whole thing up as a righteous attempt at clearing the skeletons out of his personal closet by blurring the lines of film and barely disguised confession. Yet, like any artistic adventure so audacious, in the end you feel a little sick that he felt the need to share so personally and so indifferently to the fact people might rather see a good plot, than the weak wailing of his self-abased soul.

    For all that, the movie is rather beautiful sometimes, just in looks and music. I'm just at a loss as to where people think this even a "great" piece of art though. The revelations in it are nothing if not weak, and "The Director" in the fictional sense seems to make out ok in the end without truly atoning for a lifetime of treating his women like garbage....more info
  • slaps your face, but it feels good
    A slap in the face to every critic out there. Let art be art for artsake (or is it "arts sake"). ...more info
  • Best Movie About the Artist
    I saw 8 ? (1963) for the first time on South Street in Philadelphia at the old TLA theatre. I was in my mid-twenties and liked the big-breasted women. Saw the movie again yesterday at the Colonial in Phoenixville, PA, a wonderfully restored small town theatre, and reentered the world of the great director Federico Fellini. The cast consisted of Marcello Mastroianni (mid life crisis of the great director), Claudia Cardinale (the perfect woman), Sandra Milo (the chesty but dim lover) and Anouk Aim?e (the ordinary wife he cheats on).For Fellini, 8 ? continued a trend away from the realism of his early movies to a surrealistic view of his own life. The film has a simple premise. The great director has no idea what his next movie is about, while his producer and film company wait for Mastroianni to tell them what the movie is about. It does not help that Mastroianni falls in love with every woman in the cast and every woman he ever knew. The famous harem scene is near the end of the movie, where all the women in his life await his every whim. The older ones get banished upstairs. When the women revolt, he gets his whip and regains order. The women love him again. Oh, irony, but in Surrealism, Freud reigns supreme and dreams are a wish. I rate 8 ? one of ten best movies ever made....more info
  • 8 1/2 opens in a dream.
    Or maybe more precisely, a daydream. A man is stuck in heavy traffic. Not a car is moving. It's utter gridlock. It appears that most everyone in close proximity is deeply focused on him, with the exception of a car or two and in short order, his car begins to fill with smoke. He begins to choke and tries to escape the car but cannot. He struggles with the latches, but has to crawl out a window. Then he proceeds to float above the gridlocked traffic and into the sky, where he notices a rope tied to his ankle and a man below is basically flying him like a kite. The man is actually trying to pull him to the ground. The man in the sky reaches to liberate his leg from the rope, wishing to float away free. But the dream ends.

    Guido is a mollycoddled famous director who we find, in the beginning of the film, being pampered and who's "well being" is being scrutinized by a room full of attendants. I'm tempted to do a straightforward account as if this were a simpler film, but 8 1/2 is a film about the making of a film and simultaneously, what seems to be, a real-time documentary about said film about a film. But I don't think that's complex enough. A fourth dimension to add might be the context of Fellini's actual life is being played out above and beyond that. Fellini does a pretty fine job at intertwining those threads, with an emphasis on his self-examination. He lays it all out there. He may have benefited more from a Freudian examination.

    The tortured and eternally frustrated director seems to be at a crossroads in his career. He's on the cusp of his biggest film to date. The only problem is he doesn't seem to be inspired or motivated to make it. He seems willing to play the roll of director, but hardly seems to enjoy getting his hands dirty anymore. All day, everyday, he carries a pained look on his face as he has to fend off his anxious producer or evade countless wanna-be actors or has-been actresses. It doesn't help that the perfect lead actress isn't the one he's been seeing behind his wife's back. On top of juggling his mistresses (of which he's alternately tired and inspired to do), he's constantly getting his ass kissed by staff who have relatives sprouting from everywhere to get in on the film. It begins to pain him to have to meet with his staff, his producers, or longtime friends in the industry who find it difficult to associate with Guido because "he's changed".

    What's amazing about 8 1/2 is that it's extraordinarily well thought out and meticulously planned. For all the soul searching going on and questions being raised, the film uses Guido's past and several delusional/male fantasies to answer them. Just as a something to ponder comes up, it's addressed. After all, it his his film. But, as segmented and, dare I say, somewhat dissatisfying as that aspect is, it comes off as clever and insightful. I love how Guido seems to always be in a state of reflection, but at the same time, he conducts himself as though the past doesn't exist. He comes off quite self-centered and arrogant; which to those around him choose to accept as charm. But his closest friends & family have become weary of Guido's childish exploits. In a twisted sort of way, I think that's what motivates and inspires him.

    Those first few minutes of 8 1/2, in my opinion, is essentially the entire film encapsulated in dream form. I found that fascinating. For the entire movie to be fully effective though, it might have dispensed with what I consider to be an ending that may have appeared to be the allocution the film built up to, but was actually as evasive and nonchalant as Guido was to his wife. I believe his wife was the voice of reason in the film, but was once again, patronized and handed a bill of goods from her husband. Which makes his revelation all the more disingenuous. The journey of Guido (Fellini) into absolution has him remaining the self-centered person he truly is and at the risk of losing his marriage and career, conjures up a moment of lucidity to pacify his wife's contempt. It would be a beautiful thing indeed if it wasn't just a defense mechanism which only enables Guido's ego. Sadly, his revelation is for the benefit of himself, and maybe also for his adoring audience. The irony is, that I didn't (or wouldn't have) expected anything less. How could I?

    A brilliant and deep film that is resolute and steadfast with it's content, but can surely mean many different things depending on the viewer.
    ...more info
  • a stunning transfer with a wealth of extras!
    Criterion has done it again with a fantastic edition of this classic Italian film. They have packed this 2-DVD set with an incredible amount of supplemental material AND a stunning transfer of the film -- it has never looked this amazing. No specks of dirt or scratches, no print fade... incredible. This was the way 8 1/2 was meant to be seen. Now when are the folks at Criterion going to get to LA DOLCE VITA?...more info
  • The Emperor has no clothes
    It's really quite amusing reading all of the fawning encomia to this pretentious piece of garbage. Because this film's reputation is based on a top-down critical diktat rather than on inherent quality, most of these reviews either cite some sort of authority (Roger Ebert, the Academy Awards, some frou frou list of the greatest "films" of "cinema") to justify their adulation, or they seem to be quoting accolades and analysis from some film-history textbook. The sheep can't bleat their loyalty to received judgement fast enough. After two viewings, I have found nothing of value in 8 1/2. This movie consists of glamourous Italians going here and there talking about_nothing_, with occasional surrealistic hallucinations interspersed. This entire movie is a cheap trick, and that will be acknowledged in a more honest era. In the meantime, it is our duty, like the little child, to proclaim very loudly that the Emperor is naked! I give this movie negative 8 1/2 stars. ...more info
  • The Delightful Confusion.....
    "The movie business is macabre. Grotesque. It is a combination of a football game and a brothel". Fellini, from the book Fellini on Fellini.

    Round and round we go with this film, one of the greatest films ever made, one of my top 10 films, and arguably Fellini's greatest work, or close to it (La Dolce Vita is as good as this one). It's the film where Fellini went into surrealism and dreams and never went back. It's also one of the greatest films ever made about filmmaking and the artistic process. Despite being a cinema person, I don't like films about the business, as they become so esoteric (especially films made about Hollywood) that they are far too "inside" for most. The Hollywood films (especially ones of recent vintage) give the impression that only in Hollywood are there problems on film sets, and that making films is difficult. Problems exist on all films sets. That's life. 8 1/2 is not esoteric. It's a universal film.

    We see Guido, a famously successful film director, who is suffering from creative block, a ballooning budget on a film he doesn't want to make, martial problems, mistress problems, health problems, etc., etc.. At times, it's hard to tell what's real and what's imaginary, but you're ultimately not to supposed to know what's real and what's imaginary. This causes much confusion at times, but it's supposed to be, and it works magically. The film is really striking for many reasons. Its excellent pace, wonderful, crisp photography, great performances, its unforgettable imagery, and one of the greatest endings in the history of cinema.

    For those who don't know, Fellini called this 8 1/2 because, according to him, it was his "8 1/2th" film. He co-directed his first film (which he counted as half), and made 7 features up until this one. Despite being made over 40 years ago, the film hasn't dated and remains, rightfully so, on many greatest films ever made lists. ...more info
  • Fellini & Mastroianni Essential Viewing
    If you have ever wondered what all the fuss was about regarding director Fellini & leading man, alter-ego Mastroianni, this film will resolve any doubts. It is a superb autobiographical look at Fellini (played wonderfully by Mastroianni) by Fellini. He sugarcoats nothing so it is a complete portrait of the artist, the man, the filmmaker. It is peopled by the many distinctive faces that would be called Felliniesque in later years plus is shot in surreal, dreamy black and white. Perhaps the most complex issue is the role of women in his life plus its related issue of family. Those hugely influenced his filmmaking even though most viewers associate him with much more avant garde issues. This film later influenced Woody Allen in making his autobiographical "Stardust Memories" and Bob Fosse in making "All That Jazz." The word that comes to mind about all 3 films is "unflinching." There is a companion film to this one that I like as well or even better, Fellini's "City of Women," also starring Mastroianni....more info
  • This comes in third of my top 3 Fellini films
    My favorite aspect of Fellini's films was that there was never a shortage of beautiful women and 8 and half(Otto e Mezzo) is of no exception. The scene I enjoy watching repeatedly is of Guido in his fantasy mind with all the women of his life- past and present; from his childhood nannies to Carla his current mistress. The women frolic and giggle whorishly, playing a catch and tame game as Guido cracks his whip. All of Guido's inner fantasies and desires fulfilled, yet he is missing his inner peace and fulfillment of being happy with his wife. We visit Guido's childhood and see glimpses of his strict Catholic upbringing. Guido's escapades with the Saraghina, the town whore who lives in a tiny hut on the beach. Saraghina dances for Guido and his fellow school boys to the dismay of their priest headmasters; as Saraghina is the diablo(devil).
    My favorite Fellini film is "Juliet of the Spirits"- 1965 and the first one that I saw of his films around 1989 or 1990. As Fellini fans know this was his first color movie. These two films are akin to each other as they share simular storylines and the main character stepping in and out of reality and into their fantasy world to cope with the bitter realities of life.
    Anouk Aimee makes a return appearance as Guido's wife. She was in his previous film "La Dolce Vita", as Maddelena the bored Rome socialite. Sandra Milo who plays Carla, the mistress who's vying for Guido's attention and every moment. Sandra Milo also potrays Suzy, the head of a bordello style household in "Juliet of the Spirits" and befreinds Juliet, played by the real life Mrs. Fellini, Giulietta Messina. The beautiful Claudia Cardinale as Guido's muse and actress he obsessively desires sexually and desperately wants to cast in his next film which never comes to fruition. Barbara Steele as the young fling of a disolving marriage of Mario, an old freind Guido bumps into at the resort he's staying at in order to get those creative juices flowing for a screenplay. Barbara Steele played the doctor who tries to help rid Barnabas Collins of his vampirism in the prime time revival of "Dark Shadows" on NBC in the late 80's. Mario Pisu and Catarina Borato are from his stable of actors he utilizes in his films.
    I suggest If you're a new comer to Fellini, watch "La Dolce Vita","8 and half", and "Juliet of the Spirits". He was on a streak of excellence from the late 50's through the mid to late 60's. ...more info
  • Spiral To Amazement With The Best Fellini DVD Out There
    As soon as I saw ?E ??E I fell in love with it. Possibly it was because I completely related to the main character's pain of being trapped in a reality that made him paranoid, or that every problem that he had would topple down his other problems like dominoes, pressure from the people who surrounded him, personal and professional alike. Or maybe since it was directed and written by Fellini. In any way, this vision only Fellini could take on, a director who had no idea how to finish his own film, with his personal struggles surrounding him at the same time, was destined to be the film that Fellini should be remembered for. You may want to scream at yourself after watching this film. But do you exactly know why?

    Criterion put together the ultimate package for ?E ??E supplements galore. Commentary is fun for the enthusiasts, along with Terry Gilliam's intro. But all the fun to me lies in the autobiographical film that Fellini made for television. Just sit back and watch this after the movie. You'll see what I mean by it. Or maybe you won't. The documentary on the amazing Nina Rota from German television is also included, the composer behind many of his films, possibly this one being the most memorable of his film scores. They also held back at nothing and included many essays for the booklet inside, which I still have no idea why other companies feel this is not a `supplement?E If you don't own any of Fellini's films on DVD, this is the one to start off with. This has the best extras of any out there.

    On a side note, the audio seemed to be slightly off, but it might be a defect on my copy, I haven't seen anything on Criterion's website that says anything about it.

    Best shot/sequence:
    With Criterion remastering every frame, it's hard to pick out the best of the best. But the opening dream sequence when Guido is stuck in traffic and floats away is still far and away one of the greatest dream sequences ever made, with subtle uses of freeze framing, dissolves, and telephoto lenses. I especially love the old man caressing the younger woman in the other car. Strange, but very much part of the dream that has to be seen to understand....more info

  • Fellini's fragmented masterpiece of an internal crisis...
    The prominent film director Guido (Marcello Mastroianni) finds himself overworked, harassed, and fatigued in all aspect of being. Guido is sent to a health spa where he is supposed to recover from his stressful life, but instead is continuously pursued by people around him, by his past, and by his conscious. The people around Guido are either dependent on him, desire his company, or merely try to advertise themselves in his presence. In order to cope with a large number of people Guido has developed a social dance where he is able to circumvent or approach the individuals of his choosing. This dance is also Guido's way of dealing with life and its complications, which affects him physically, psychologically, and socially.

    8? fragmentally displays Guido's life as he dances between reality, dreams, and memories in the developmental stage of a film production. This cerebral dance helps him to avoid what is deemed as uncomfortable as he escapes into his memories where he can find some joy and peace. However, Guido often reminds himself of how his past sometimes plagues him as he can recollect deep memories of discomfort and guilt. These negative emotions lead Guido into an internal crisis where he struggles with his decisions in the light of moral judgment that is heavily weighted by his Catholic upbringing. Despite the internal crisis, the dance continuous as Guido is compelled to flee his painful memories by seeking company outside of his marriage as he seeks self-affirmation when he is alone. The cheating provokes further guilt which urges Guido to remain dancing as he escapes into a dream world where he attempts to unify memories with the present where his consciousness sets the rules. But to Guido's dismay he finds the dreams forcing him back into reality as his dreams rebel against himself. This is due to his conflicting ideas that are simultaneously rejected and approved of in order to find temporary happiness and please those around him. In essence, it is Guido's denial of his own lies that is the root to his guilt and unhappiness.

    Fellini's 8? is a cinematic masterpiece, which encourages analytical and artistic thinking as it dives into a dense fabric of inventive imagery. Vividly Fellini paints Guido's moral crisis onto the silver screen, which offers a surreal cinematic experience as it drifts between reality and dreams. In addition, 8? shows Fellini's profound understanding of human psychology, which possibly could have been based on himself. The fragmented story line enhances the visual feeling of the stress that Mastroianni's character experiences as well as developing a deep understanding for his mind. The opening shot where Guido dreams of being enclosed in a smoldering car stuck in traffic displays Fellini's true cinematic genius as he develops an image of panic, anxiety, and fear. This visualization is something that can be discovered in every film that Fellini has directed as well as his trademark of having a circus-like atmosphere. 8? has everything of what makes it a Fellini film, which offers a unique experience that could only have been accomplished by a true cinematic artist....more info

  • Masterpiece!
    I bought this copy for a very good friend of mine who just enrolled into film school. Being a mentor to him (as he very kindly regarded me as) I thought this would be a great piece to his collection. This is, without a doubt, Fellini's greatest work and Criterion does an excellent job with its special features and impeccable transfer....more info
  • Wearing on my patience
    Overrated nonsense. I love arty films, and there are plenty to choose from, but this one is nothing. A director doesn't know what to do with his movie. Alright already. He's boring the hell out of me. For a masterpiece of film, this emperor is in his underwear. This hodgepodge of nonsense just gets on my nerves and wears out my patience. It shouldn't have been over two hours. It should have been 15 minutes.

    It took three sittings before I could get through it. By the end, as the DVD clock said it was 2:12 into it, I felt betrayed because it was only supposed to be 2:10. It lasted another few stupid minutes. The best moment in the film is when I knew it was finally over. God be praised. This idiocy is over....more info
  • One of the best I've ever seen
    This is one of the most wonderfully moving films I know. A great creative man has a kind of breakdown - he is not sure that he can continue on, seeking his next project. So he withdraws to a sanatorium, where he attempts to collect himself and rest, so that he can go forward.

    There you see his entire life unfold before his imagination: his deeply troubled relationship with his wife (incredibly well played by Anouk Aimee, perhaps her greatest role), his crass mistress who revels in the humiliation of his wife, and all the hangers on that surround the truly talented. Then there are his memories, which interweave with reality and are so indistinguishable from it that at times the viewer is uncertain what has really happened. Much of it is bizarre and surrealistic, a collage of the unresolved, the loved, the pressing need, the hope. It is all in Mastroianni's expression, which is impassive yet full. Everything is grotesque yet understated and subtle.

    He feels besieged, overwhelmed as so many people keep coming at him, and yet he tries to see his way forward. It is that powerful nexus where the creative force, personal crisis, and the demands of his industry collide. Never has it been so well portrayed. It moves me to tears every time I see it.

    Recommended with the greatest enthusiasm. ...more info
  • Brilliant!
    I remember a time around jr. high school when there was a spate of kids writing homework papers about how they couldn't write the paper. They always had a ring of authenticity and sometimes some humor but usually very little else. This movie is about a film director who is making a movie about not being able to make a movie. The difference here is obviously that Fellini is a genius and his creative effort turns out to be splendidly brilliant and entertaining unlike those jr high school papers.

    There's so much to say about it. It's like life--where do you approach it? Obviously some folks won't like it and that's understandable and fine. No one likes everything. For those who want a linear plot and everything spelled out for them, forget it. For those who can let go of logic for a little while, ascend into a space where where dreams and reality, the past and present intermingle, this film can be deeply rich and satisfying.

    I saw it when it came out and was dazzled. In those days, style was big in my book and this film had all of the elements that impressed me and my friends. It's always a risk for me to re-view those films that I fell in love with so long ago...sort of like meeting a first love again in middle age...will he still charm? This film stood the test. I was still wildly entertained by the surface beauty but this time I think I understood the basic story a little better. It's part of the value of this film that there is more to it than style. It has psychological and social validity as well.

    I won't recount the story as so many others here have done that. A psychiatrist could have a field day analyzing Guido's neuroses. I did actually have a hard time believing the final resolution--it seemed to come a little too easily after the long "display" of the problem. But what comes across, finally, is the joy of it all. Fellini may escape into a dream world to avoid his adult commitments but he does come back again...just like Guido escaped from his car up into the stratoshere, but was pulled down by the cord tied to his ankle. We are asked to believe that these descents or ascents into his dreamworld have helped him to resolve his conflicts.

    There is a very touching interview included on the second disk with Sandra Milo, who plays Guido's mistress in the film. She was Fellini's mistress for 17 years and her comments are not to be missed. I don't know if Fellini's actual conflicts were resolved as Guido's seem to be, in the film. But the joy and beauty of the film along with the honesty of the self-revelation give this great magic.

    Some of my favorite scenese are those remembrances from Guido's childhood-- like playing in the wine vat and then being adoringly wiped off by the loving mama. And the unforgettable scene on the beach of the schoolboys jumping up and down for joy as the town prostitute does the rhumba. The sheer exuberance and joy of these scenes make the film worth watching. And the music...!! I give it 8 1/2 stars!

    ...more info
  • In Praise of Reticence.
    Notes on 8-1/2:
    In praise of reticence...
    Many critics and reviewers mention the "Creative Block" that the
    character of Guido/Fellini experiences. I don't think that is the
    case. Rather I believe Guido(Fellini) knows what he can do, and how to do it. What he is actually questioning is whether his next creation, whatever
    it might, be is worthy of being created at all. Is what he can do,
    artistically valid? When Guido sarcastically and self-mockingly sings:
    "I have nothing to say"; then speaks: "But I want to say it anyway." is
    a telltale not to a creative block, but to a questioning of the
    legitimacy of his creative spirit at this point in his life. Ultimately
    his character, comes to the conclusion that it is not
    worthy of him giving it birth. The alleged "space-ship" is actually
    Guido's (Fellini's) egoism, nothing more, and all his acquaintances
    must climb it. I choose not to see it as a phalanx, and find that
    interpretation to be an over simplification, if not completely unnecessary. Whether 8-1/2 is a cinematic masterpiece
    is not at issue in my argument. If it, in fact, is a cinematic
    masterpiece, it was a great work of artistic genius FIRST. I believe
    these two things can be exclusive of one another. Lean's Lawrence of
    Arabia is a cinematic masterpiece, but NOT a great work
    of artistic genius. If you see what I mean.
    If you look to "Amarcord" (a film that follows 8-1/2 by ten
    years), you find many of Fellini's so-called memories are congealed into that unmistakable cinematic masterpiece. However the cinematic masterpiece
    that Amarcord is, is not the great work of genius by a mature artist
    that 8-1/2 is. Consequently I would recommend Amarcord to anyone, while
    I would highly recommend 8-1/2 only to a select few. This is not to
    insinuate that 8-1/2 is an elitist work. Elitism of late and genius, within the last twenty odd years, are two words that have been bandied about to be rendered meaningless.
    Artist are artist, so they must call themselves, non-artist, as the word has become polluted. Fellini does this in 8-1/2 better than any one I've ever seem.
    ...more info
  • "8 ?," is regarded as one of Fellini's best...
    Federico Fellini continued to create bizarre, highly personal films that were lavishly produced and immensely entertaining...

    "8 ?," so named because he had previously made six films and parts of three others, is regarded as one of Fellini's best...

    The description of 8 ?'s plot is a flagrant exaggeration, but no summary could precisely reflect the complexity of the film... Obviously autobiographical, the 1963 film stars Marcello Mastroianni as a major movie director unable to complete his new film due to creative confusion and personal crisis... It is a voyage into an explicitly autobiographical world... Among the most vivid scenes are an orgy in a wine vat, an interview with a cardinal in subterranean steam bath, and a sequence in which the director pictures himself as the master of a harem, cracking a whip over all the various women who have been important in his life...

    The film is like a carousel in a circus, bringing scenes, dialog, and characters in and out of focus... The best way to appreciate this dazzling epic is to see it more than once... On the first viewing, simply leave with your impressions about plot and people... There is enough richness to suffice, yet future screenings will simply add to the joy through understanding...

    ...more info
  • One of the Best Films
    I have to say that I have watched a lot of movies, probably like everyone else on this page. However, I consider myself to be sort-of a film buff and I think 8 1/2 is one of the best movies ever made. I can completely understand why some people do not like the film, or feel that others who do are trying to be stuck up, superior, artsy fartsy jerks. But, make no mistake, 8 1/2 is an amazing movie; and, even though you may not understand everything, that does not make the film "bad". Some movies take patience, maybe even some research, and sometimes a few more viewings, before the viewer can fully appreciate what the director is trying to accomplish. Some of my favorite movies I hated the first time I watched them. Yet, I gave those movies another try because I thought that I must have overlooked something, that for some reason I was not glimpsing the true vision of the Director.
    Most people want to see movies that they have already seen. Many movies are just repeat plot tricks, with the same characters and heros and anti-heros. Doesn't anyone want to see a movie that attempts to unveil a part of the soul, not one that simply aims at that base desire to be entertained. Just give 8 1/2 a try, I don't think It could hurt!...more info
  • The beautiful confusion
    It's easy to see Guido Anselmi, the lead character in 8 1/2, as Federico Fellini himself. The movie is easier to understand if you realize this movie is essentially about itself. Quite a departure from Fellini's work in the 50s, such as the mesmerizing Nights of Cabiria. With 8 1/2, he embraced a much more fanciful surrealistic style, later to be dubbed "Fellini-esque". It's a much more imaginative and cinematic style than the earlier neo-realist style. It allows us to really get inside the head of Guido (and Fellini also). We witness his dreams, his fantasies, his frustrations, his memories, his ideas, all in vivid carnivalesque vignettes. The opening sequence features Guido stuck in a traffic jam, then climbing out of his car and flying away in the sky. He flies far above a beach almost like a kite, with a rope attached to his leg held by one of his associates. Then he is pulled back down to earth by the rope and promptly returns to reality. This sequence sets the tone for the film. Guido drifts back and forth in between fantasy and reality. Perhaps to escape the frustrations of being unable to make his next film, of dealing with his producers, or of dealing with the women in his life. However, he never manages to escape for long without being pulled back down to earth by his problems.

    It's a scenario that we can all relate to. The reason that we go to movies in the first place is to escape from our everyday problems and concerns. This is Guido's (and Fellini's) predicament: that he can't even escape from his own concerns long enough to create a film, so that his viewers can escape theirs. Fellini, however, was able to take this predicament and make it into his film. The result is probably the most clever and complex film about filmmaking ever made.

    This can be a bit daunting to a first time viewer. 8 1/2, I think, is a film that you really have to grow into. It takes multiple viewings to really get a good grasp of everything that's going on. And with each viewing, you should notice something new and catch on to the many complexities of the film. I will admit that I have not completely grasped all the meanings of this profound film, but it's a joy to experience even if you absorb only a little. The combination of the images and Nino Rota's music and Fellini's dazzling photography makes for quite an experience.

    The Criterion DVD is definitely one to pick up. I haven't seen all the extra material on the disc, but the movie itself looks superb. The picture quality is really astounding. I saw 8 1/2 on an old VHS tape a while back and this DVD looks much, much better! It's a clean, detailed picture that really brings out the beauty of the black and white photography. The picture is also enhanced for 16:9 TVs. Film lovers should definitely have this disc in their collection....more info

  • The Reviewer Below Doesn't Get The "Art" ; )

    There was a challenge in the review below to offer an essay for why 8 1/2 truly is a great film. I offer Roger Ebert's essay in his The Great Movies archive. It can be found on his website. There are some great reasons brought up on why 8 1/2 works so well and I really enjoy his observations about the movie.

    Criterion also makes a great dvd package.

    Great film, great picture quality, great extras, and a great book of essays to go with it all.

    This one is worth picking up, hands down. ...more info
  • Does not hold up well
    Self-absorbed and vain, the movie was novel for it's time, taking a "critical" look at the movie making process and it's often shallow
    and materialistic nature. Unfortunately, this is a well worn theme
    by now. It's egotistical self-fawning is reminiscent of Woody Allen's
    Stardust Memories, which is also an annoyingly narcissitic work. I love "art movies", but along with Bergman, Truffaut and others, Fellini
    is often overrated....more info
  • Fellini is the mack.
    Otto e mezzo has now entered my top ten movies of all time!...more info
  • Beautiful Confusion
    The first time I saw 8 1/2, I grasped bits of its structure but didn't really understand it. It challenges you to understand it. Then I listened to the commentary track, and everything fell in place, more or less.

    The story, if we can say there is one, follows Guido, a movie director, staying at a health spa while trying to organize his next movie. His problem is that he has no idea what the movie is about, nor does he know what he is doing. Everything in his life lacks balance and he cannot admit the truth to himself or others, so he looks inwards to try to find answers, while being hounded by disgruntled actresses and journalists.

    8 1/2 has a multitude of narrative levels, even its own critic. At a first viewing, you have an utter but "Beautiful Confusion", as the movie was first supposed to be called. But there *is* a method to this madness, and if you are very patient and have the DVD commentary track, you can understand it, I promise you. I think I managed that, but it's difficult (I don't want to give it away, however tempting it is). There is a reason why it's called an art students' favourite.

    Contrarily to what some ignorant critics have said, 8 1/2 is not about creativity or making a movie or somesuch nonsense. There is strictly no movie-making in this movie, as Guido has no screenplay, and no idea where he is going. Trying to explain this movie cannot be done, unless you simply tell the truth - that it is an exploration of Fellini's psyche and problems. The movie itself feels more like a sustained emotion than a movie, because we are basically exploring one gigantic theme, and we just don't know it. It is not an easy movie to watch emotionally or to remember, because the storyline is fragmentary. It's more like a dream than an actual story.

    From the opening dream scene of Guido trapped in a car, to the bath house (the most inspired scene I've ever seen), to the unfinished spaceship structure, 8 1/2's style is the equal of its content. This is a beautiful movie to look at, and its black-and-white cinematography is not only great, I didn't even notice it was black-and-white unless a commentator mentioned it !...more info

  • Truly a Masterpiece of Cinema
    Federico Fellini's "8 1/2" is considered by many to be one of the best films ever made, but has a large amount of haters too. It's not hard to see why, even if you love the film. It mixes fantasy and reality, sometimes jumping from one to the other with little-to-no warning. Some critics have even complained they couldn't tell what parts of the movie were fantasy and reality, which I think is actually kind of stupid...I knew exactly what was and what wasn't. I think it'll be hard for people to not acknowledge that this is a great film. It's not one of the most entertaining movies I've seen, but it's wonderfully photographed and has some classic moments. Visuals definitely overrule plot in the film. The movie opens in a very trippy dream sequence. Our main character, Guido (Marcello Mastroianni), dreams that he suffers asphxia in his car and then is suddenly floats into the sky; Before being pulled down via a rope by one of his associates. Namely his screenwriter. The movie is basically like this; Guido is a director who wants to make a movie, a good movie to be precise. Problem is, he's ran out of ideas and is stuck directing a science-fiction movie he has no interest in. Meanwhile, he juggles an affair with his mistress and his wife; He's not good at it. In one scene, his wife and mistress end up at the same place together. But, looking away from plot for a second, there's one scene that stands out among all others in my head. There's a flashback scence, where Guido, as a young boy, and his schoolmates go to the beach to watch the prostitute Saraghina. This scene plays almost like a silent film. She, basically, dances for the sex-crazed young boys; But it's not the dance itself, but the music on the soundtrack that she's dancing too. Neither one of these would factors would be of much importance, but it's the combination of them that makes the scene so great. It's very surreal and just really well done. I've only seen this film once, but I'm already curiously eager to see it again. It's not like any movie I've ever seen before; The ending, especially, fits the film so well. A lot of people won't like it; It's in Italian, lots of fantasy sequences, etc. But this is a great film. Most critics, most filmmakers, Roger Ebert, and myself agree. See this film.

    GRADE: A-...more info
  • Artistic overindulgence
    I was interested in getting into Fellini. I once saw a bit of "Satyricon," and I remember liking it. I had read about his unique style, the history of Italian cinema, and had spoken with an art historian I admired who suggested his films to me. And I'm not a novice in film - I've studied film theory, film method, and have bored many a friend with lectures on a director's style. I also have an open mind about different film styles: my favorite films include Terry Gilliam's "Brazil," "Pink Floyd the Wall," Akira Kurosawa's "Ran," and many others of the avante-garde nature. Yet with this film I was met with such shock and...I hate to say it...boredom, that I began to question the very nature of Fellini's fame.

    The film centers around Guido Anselmi, an acclaimed director filming a strange sci-fi movie. Suffering from some ills, he retires to a health resort only to be followed by his crew. He is hounded by everyone from his producer to the set designers to the very writer of the book he is now making a film of. As an actor, Marcello Mastroianni is fantastic as Guido: he performs dances from one problem to the next, if anything to keep himself sane. You can definitely see him take in all the stress that comes with a film, from a washed up actress desperate for the role to the writer who just won't stop with the flowery metaphors. (there's a humorous scene near the middle where Guido imagines having him hanged)

    The film is, like a lot of Fellini's work, very surreal. The opening shot is a dream in which Guido himself stuck in a traffic jam, only to break free of his car and fly off into the air. The film will cut to moments in Guido's past as he recalls milestones that affected his present condition. There's a long sequence near the end where Guido imagines a fictionary mansion where all the women of his life - either those he slept with or lusted after - are present. Now granted, from this information it sounds like it might be an interesting film. Well, unfortunately, it suffers from a couple of faults.

    For one, there is no real structure to the film. You basically sit and watch as these sequences come before you, one after the other. Guido does something, gets a look, and there's a flashback. He does something, gives a look, and then there's some kind of dream. This goes on for two hours. Worse still, there is no real plot to speak of. You will follow the course of Guido's filmmaking, then suddenly that stops and you're thrown into various romantic subplots. To be perfectly honest, I was BORED throughout most of this movie. Near the middle it became unbearable to watch, and I felt trapped - I wanted to skip through the DVD chapter, but I couldn't because I believed I might notice some great artistic moment that would have relevance later. But I didn't. It's just a stream of random ideas tied together with a loose story.

    It wasn't until after I listened to the commentary that I realized the disturbing truth: Fellini made this film without a real script. This explained to me why so much of it came across as a jumbled mess. To tell the truth, if seen in parts "8 1/2" can be entertaining. The various sequences (Guido's first dream, meeting his parents, the Saraghina's dance) can be entertaining and even thought-provoking. Watching them all together, however, gets obnoxious. It became obvious to me that Fellini became too infatuated with this work, and tried to include too many good ideas into a story he didn't have a framework for. The fact this was a personal project (Guido is supposedly based off Fellini himself) only adds to that, as many personal projects from directors have turned into overindulgent messes. "8 1/2" is, unfortunately, one of them. The best way I can suggest viewing it is to catch it on TV and watch it in bits, seeing Fellini's moments of genius but tuning away when it begins to drag.

    After seeing this film, I wanted to give it a second chance. I was told by someone to think on it again after eight days, so I did. That didn't help. I listened to the commentary. The three people who talk about the film discuss minor facts about the film, blab about film theory even a novice in cinemas would already know about, and state the obvious. ("Guido is his father's son..." Really? As opposed to what, his father's daughter?) I went online and read essays by several critics about the importance of the film, how much it's loved, and how brilliant all those sequences are. Unfortunately, they haven't answered my problems with how the film works in its entirety.

    This if, personally for me, a fine example of art for art's sake. It's an example of those strange films they show in art houses and film festivals. It's one of those movies that confuse the common man, and enrages the more moderate film critics, but will be staunchly defended by the elites and the hardcore critics. Any one who disagrees with their ideas will be branded unintelligent...or simply one of those people who don't get the "art."

    By the way, does any one else find it ironic that the Saraghina is the only "ugly" woman in the entire film, yet she's the only one without armpit hair?...more info


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