Sunday 7 January 2018

8 1/2 (Otto e Mezzo) [1963]

Fresh off the smashing success of La Dolce Vita, Fellini hit a massive crisis in the form of “director’s block” – a thing which he captured brilliantly in the arresting opening (dream) sequence itself of 8 ½, where the protagonist, Guido (Marcello Mastroianni), is seen stuck in a car amidst a crazy traffic jam. Fellini took an overtly autobiographical route for this magnificent venture and possibly his greatest work, and created a grand, deliriously messy, absurdist, self-referential, modernist and maddening extravaganza which seamlessly transitioned from the real to the surreal and back, and one of the most fascinating films on filmmaking itself. Titled so as he’d made 6 feature films, co-directed a film and made an episode each in 2 anthology films (the last 3 accounting for half each) – thus making this the his 8 ½-th work, it has a renowned filmmaker who is beset with his inability to put his next film into motion. While the bored Guida is stationed at a luxurious hotel in a spa-town, and is surrounded by a madcap ensemble of oddball characters – his increasingly frustrated producer, a hilariously biting critic spewing bile on his half-baked script, a flabbergasted cast awaiting details of their roles, a fawning crowd of admirers and journalists, his vivacious mistress, his estranged wife (Anouk Aimée) and an enigmatic woman (Claudio Cardinale) – one also gets intriguing peeks into his repressed memories, dreams and desires dealing with his Catholic past, tryst with sexuality, fetishistic desires and encompassing fears. Accompanied by Nina Rota’s captivating score, fabulous B/W photography, and a host of dizzying set-pieces and sequences, Fellini filled this blazing tour-de-force with grotesque imagery, carnivalesque spectacles, self-effacing humour, and an intensely personal evocation of an artist racked with guilt, doubts and ennui.

p.s. This is a revisit. My earlier review of the film can be found here.

Director: Federico Fellini
Genre: Psychological Drama/Social Satire/Showbiz Comedy/Avant-Garde
Language: Italian
Country: Italy