8½ || 1963, Italy || Drama || Directed by – Federico Fellini / Written by – Federico Fellini, Ennio Flaiano, Tullio Pinelli, Brunello Rondi / Produced by – Angelo Rizzoli / Music by – Nino Rota / Cinematography by – Gianni Di Venanzo / Editing by – Leo Cattozzo / Production Design by – Piero Gherardi / Starring – Marcello Mastroianni, Claudia Cardinale, Anouk Aimée, Sandra Milo, Rossella Falk, Barbara Steele, Madeleine Lebau, Eddra Gale / Running time: 138 mins.
Fellini has been quoted as one of the most important figures of 20th century filmmaking because of his distinctive and characteristic blend of social realism with gothic dreamlike imagery and flamboyance. 8 ½ almost directly allows us a rare glimpse inside the mind that originated such fantastic juxtaposition and creativity.
That is because 8 ½ is, after all, one of the most revealing works a filmmaker ever made about himself. The story is that of a man, the suave as ever Marcello Mastroianni – here an icon of pure cool – who is a filmmaker that has already gone into production with a film of which story he is still not certain.
The structure of the writers’ block, or more generally speaking the creative mental block, has been used in cinema time and time again. Here, however, it is used with such a drastic mixture of anarchic artistry and eccentricity and yet used on a linear and understandable narrative arch that it is hard not to see it as a definite incarnation of said subject.
On top of this, as mentioned before, there is no doubt that this is a rather personal film. In fact, 8 ½ could easily be considered as one of the most honest self-reflective gothic autobiographies ever made by any filmmaker, as Fellini skims through some personal aspects of his life, some of which he references quite openly and directly, with finesse and a hint of undying melancholia. But aside from the personal inclinations, in the wider scheme of things, much like in his previous masterpiece La Dolce Vita, this is a beautiful blend of realism nd escapism. A drastic representation of the thoughtlessness and consumerism of the Italian economic boom, and its resultant emptiness.
This film is also a triumph of visuals. The black and white photography by Gianni di Venanzo is mobile, playful and ambitious. The costumes glamorous and joyous. The art direction is in complete synergy with the nature of the film. Among the wonderful works by Federico Fellini, this is one of the most memorable and most influential – for some might even be the downright definitive work of the Italian filmmaker. – 5/5