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8 1/2 (1963)


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You have to hand it to Federico Fellini for directing a film about the trials of a director. Perhaps no other film captures what it means to be un regista as 8 1/2 (1963) does.   The job is really a vocation.  The great Marcello Mastroianni, who plays Gui*do Anselmi, Fellini's alter ego,  at times resembles a cleric, even down to the hat that adorns his head. Catholic imagery abounds.  Making a film is all-consuming, blocking out other urges and emotions. Gui*do invites his seductive but needy mistress, Carla (the wonderful Sandra Milo), to keep him company on the set.  He checks her into a hotel, and basically forgets about her.  Indeed, the set of Gui*do's film is full of attractive women, all unsuccessfully vying for his attention, professional and otherwise.


Mastroianni doesn't portray his character as a Casanova, luring actresses with job offers, only as a pretense to sleep with them.  He's truly tortured.  A real crisis of confidence has set in.  And the way "Doubts" can destroy the faith of a clergyman, Gui*do begins to question his worth as a film maker, and the worth of films in general.  Surreal flashbacks to his childhood - Saraghina, the scary but gentle prostitute; his parents, for whom he has many questions - provide momentary comfort before vanishing into reality. Fellini faced similar issues, about what his next project would be after the monumental La Dolce Vita (1960).


Anouk Aimee appears in the second act as Luisa, Gui*do's long-suffering wife.  Luisa knows very well about his affairs.  They love each other but the passion is gone.  They sleep in separate beds.  Luisa's steely resolve is shattered when she sees Carla walking around the set.  That her husband would parade his mistress in front of her is one insult too many.  Luisa's plainness, with her short hair, glasses, and unflattering clothes, is a sharp contrast to the voluptuous and hip-swaying Carla.  The Madonna/tart symbols personified in Luisa and Carla are unmistakable.


8 1/2 is a triumph of production design. Nino Rota's brilliant score complements the tableaux.  The stark and beautiful black & white photography enhances the dream-like feel.  I'm not sure 8 1/2 is Fellini's best film.  Self-indulgence creeps into the picture. Following its release, Fellini hit a slump that would last 10 years, until he rebounded with the superb Amarcord.  Nonetheless, 8 1/2 is a great film.  Mastroianni gives a memorable performance, his trademark cool and charisma ever on display.  The film even functions as a slice of Italian history, as the country's film industry in the early 1960s  was a magnet for wannabe celebrities and the glitterati. 8 1/2 was literally Fellini's eighth and a half film.  His directorial debut, Variety Lights (1950), was a collaboration with Alberto Lattuada.


Every time I watch 8 1/2, I like it and appreciate it more.

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The character name, Gu*ido, is considered an ethnic slur against Italians by some people, therefore it gets zapped by the auto-censor. Much like trying to discuss Doo-Wo*p music or the Chester Morris series of Boston Black*ie movies.

Thanks for this info.  I couldn't figure it out. 

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8 1/2 is one of my all-time favorite films: No. 2 on my top ten list. 


I didn't realize this whole foreign language film discussion was here and I'm so glad I found it. This is only second post so I'll also keep it short, too.

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