8½ (1963) Poster

(1963)

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9/10
Fascinating
kyle_c20 July 2002
I certainly wouldn't be saying anything new if I said that "8 1/2" is one of the most unique, fascinating, and personal pieces ever committed to film. It has consistently hailed as such, and its influence on film is far reaching and undeniable. It is certainly not one of the most entertaining movies of all time, and is actually quite long and difficult. But it is an incredible piece of filmmaking, and a gripping look at the difficulties of creating not just a movie, but art in general.

Guido (Marcello Mastroianni) is a popular movie director who is working on his new film. Along the way, he struggles with his screenwriter, producer, wife, and mistress. Each presents a different problem and obstacle. More and more difficulties arise, not just in his attempts to complete the movie, but in his own mind.

Guido, although flawed, is completely fleshed out, and draws sympathy from the audience. Yes, he is an adulterer, but he loves his wife. We see all of his personal desires and agony. We see how he suffers when he struggles with his desire to create the ultimate piece of art, one that offers something to everybody.

The movie is technically wonderful. The movement of the camera, the lighting, and the direction in general is top notch. The movie mixes in dreams with reality to create a dreamlike world, and put us closer into Guido's own mind.

Somebody who is looking for a movie as a two hour piece of entertainment will not enjoy this. But if you enjoy a movie that truly satisfies when it is finished, this is for you. It is quite long, and somewhat loose, but that is part of the interest. Moviemakers, or artists in general, will find that this film has a great deal to offer.
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9/10
Such Vitriol
Hitchcoc31 March 2018
I have to admit that my love of movies has always allowed me to endure those which demand a lot of me. When I watched my first Fellini movies, I have to admit I was confused. I was young and they were intimidating. And, yes, there were a lot of pretentious people around, acting as if they understood every second. What films like "8 1/2" did for me was to stretch my own thoughts and intellectual being. Those of you who write such angry commentary on movies thought to be classics by the vast majority critics seem to think that Fellini was making art so people could sit around pontificating. To give this a one out of ten shows a kind of petulance and childishness. It simply shows that you have disdain for people that don't agree with you, not with the director or his product. It would be like disliking "Ghandi" because people who see it sit around with their friends and pretend to be compassionate. There are numerous parts of this film that are very accessible and gripping. Fellini was attempting to show how difficult it is to make films that give us the soul of the director.
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9/10
A Rare but Must-see Movie
zombking18 April 2003
I'm sure the average movie watcher would take a look at some of the reviews on this page and wonder what in the world these reviewers are talking about, so here goes a simple explanation. First of all, understand that with Fellini, nothing is for certain. The prefix psuedo- fits extremely well with the director, because nothing is ever for real. While this definitly hurts some of Fellini's films, it helps 8 1/2 very well. The lines are blurred slowly throughout the film, till there are no lines. Hope I haven't lost anyone yet. The movie, about a fairly well-known director with no clue what he is going to film, manages to display the chaos of the directors life very well. While the director's conflict at first seems simply to be a case of over-hyped writers block, it turns out that it is much deeper. The director goes through more conflict than anyone around him knows, and soon the man starts having psuedo-flashbacks (there's that word again.) Remembering events from his joyfull and sometimes sad childhood helps the director escape from his chaotic everyday life. Fairly soon the line between dreams and real life are blurred, and it becomes impossible to tell what is real and what is not. The life becomes more and more downhill in a spiral motion till the end of the movie. While it is highly hinted that the movie is autobiographical, maintain a critial eye while watching. Some of the footage may be based on the life of Frederico Fellini, but most is probably not. Should you go see it? Yes. Should you like it? Some do, Some don't, I can see from both perspectives. But in this case I'd still give it 4 out of 5.
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My brief review of the film
sol-9 July 2005
At times fascinating blend of memories, fantasies, dreams and reality, of all which end up overlapping each other, the film nevertheless fails to tell what I could call a very good story. The reality sequences feel loosely threaded together: just events showing different struggles on the road to having a film made. The film brings up some notions about personal film-making in order to show one's past and significant memories, and this is mostly likely what the film is about. Yet, there are a number of other unrelated events thrown around the place in a very episodic manner. Since these episodes to not all have the same relevance to the story, they are arguably excessive and are depicted for too long. Even some of the dream/fantasy scenes feel like they could have been cut down in length. The storyline has a good core, but the outer shell just does not fit in a way that I can call good. There is very limited development of the supporting characters too, which makes it difficult to be swept away in the story. The acting never rises above the ordinary either. However, the film succeeds okay even with a story that is perhaps not much good, as Fellini knows how to direct a film very well. The lighting is great, with some excellent use of over-exposure, and superb contrasts between darkness and lightness. It is well shot too, with the camera often following the characters around, and the costumes are glitzy in an almost dreamlike manner, well suited to the film's project. Fellini's use of music feels a bit too infrequent, because when it is used it really enhances the images. This is an excellent film for technical specs, however I would imagine that the storytelling method and the story itself will leave many viewers groping for more.
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9/10
Fantastic
gbill-7487724 October 2018
Beautiful, artistic, well-crafted, innovative, influential, heartfelt, and playful.

I'm usually not that big a fan of movies that describe the process of movie-making, or books that describe the process of writing for that matter, especially if it's about the difficulties and what amounts to 'writer's block', but in this case, director Federico Fellini is so masterful that it's impossible not to love 8½. Through flashbacks to childhood, dreams, and fantasies, we see the inner mind of his main character, a director (Marcello Mastroianni) who struggles to figure out what to do for his next big film, even after sets have been built, and actors brought to the location. Everything around him is a swirl, from the pressure his producer applies, to advice and commentary from everyone around him, to his lover (Sandra Milo) and wife (Anouk Aimée) both showing up.

What we see is just how close to the surface events from his childhood long ago really are. It's like a 'Rosebud' type of effect spread out over many situations, and it reminds us that the good and bad memories we carry around are always present, influencing our thinking and our emotions. Because of the fantasies the film has a surreal feel to it, but at the same time, it's also quite realistic, and feels at least partially auto-biographical. I say realistic not in the sense of neorealism (far from it), but in the sense that this is how our minds work - for the director, events in the present trigger memories of his past, and memories of the past are reflected in his actions and his films in the present. Everything is connected in this carnival of the mind.

My only criticism of the film is that the director's fantasies, while honest, are not exactly enlightened relative to women. He wishes his wife was content to work long hours cleaning and taking care of the house. He wishes she accepted his mistress, and got along with her. He wishes all of his past lovers were available to him, and that they brought him new women, such as an 'exotic' black girl from Hawaii. He wishes that when they got too old, they accepted being removed from his life/consciousness by 'going upstairs'.

On the other hand, Fellini gives us a marvelous moment when even these women in his fantasy rebel against these thoughts ("A real man loves women with no regard to their age.") The director is called out by his wife for his deceptions ("Another fiction, another lie"), as well as by his 'ideal woman' (Claudia Cardinale: "You're such a phony.") He is also redeemed in a very touching speech to his wife:

"Luisa, I feel like I've been set free. Everything seems so good, so meaningful. Everything is true. I wish I could explain, but I don't know how. Now everything's all confused once again, like it was before. But this confusion is me, as I am, not as I'd like to be. I'm no longer afraid of telling the truth about what I don't know, what I'm looking for, what I haven't found. Only this way do I feel alive. Only this way can I look into your faithful eyes without shame. Life is a celebration. Let's live it together. That's all I can say, Luisa, to you or the others. Accept me for what I am, if you can. It's the only way we might find each other."

To which she simply replies: "I don't know if what you've said is right, but I can try if you help me."

The cinematography throughout the film is beautiful, and it seems like a lot of care went into maximizing the aesthetic of each shot. At the same time, this is not a pretentious film, and in fact, in creating a 'film within a film' which he cleverly warns us "lacks a philosophical premise", "is a series of gratuitous episodes", and is not "about love" because he's incapable of telling a love story, Fellini critiques his own work. The director is full of self-doubt, and understands the supreme egotism of the artist, which we hear from Cardinale when she tells him "What monstrous presumption to think that others could benefit from the squalid catalog of your mistakes." He feels like a phony as a husband and as an artist, and yet is simply striving to be honest and true to himself. It's a gripping feeling, and one that I feel is universal, perhaps more so to people in middle age, or to those who have found success in what they do. And, it turns out that for a film that is 'not a love story', there is a message of love in the end, one from a man who humbly understands his shortcomings, wishes to do better, and loves his wife.
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9/10
"He has nothing to say!" Thank goodness.
charlesem11 March 2017
Warning: Spoilers
At one point in 8 1/2 an actress playing a film critic turns to the camera and brays (in English), "He has nothing to say!", referring to Guido Anselmi, the director Marcello Mastroianni plays and, by extension, to Fellini himself. And that's quite true: Fellini has nothing to say because reducing 8 1/2 to a message would miss the film's point. Guido finds himself creatively blocked because he's trying to say something, except he doesn't know what it is. He has even enlisted a film critic, played by Jean Rogeul, to aid him in clarifying his ideas, but the critic only muddles things by his constant monologue about Guido's failure. Add to this the fact that after a breakdown Guido has retreated to a spa to try to relax and focus, only to be pursued there by a gaggle of producers and crew members and actors, not to mention his mistress (Sandra Milo) and his wife (Anouk Aimée). Guido's consciousness becomes a welter of dreams and memories and fantasies, overlapping with the quotidian demands of making a movie and tending to a failed marriage. He is also pursued by a vision of purity that he embodies in the actress Claudia Cardinale, but when they finally meet he realizes how impossible it is to integrate this vision with the mess of his life. Only at the end, when he abandons the project and confronts the fact that he really does have nothing to say, can he realize that the mess is the message, that his art has to be a way of establishing a pattern out of his own life, embodied by those who have populated it dancing in a circle to Nino Rota's music in the ruins of the colossal set of his abandoned movie. The first time I saw this film it was dubbed into German, which I could understand only if it was spoken slowly and patiently, which it wasn't. Even so, I had no trouble following the story (such as it is) because Fellini is primarily a visual artist. Besides, the movie starred Mastroianni, who would have made a great silent film star, communicating as he did with face and body as much as with voice. It is, I think, one of the great performances of a great career. 8 1/2 is also one of the most beautiful black-and-white movies ever made, thanks to the superb cinematography of Gianni Di Venanzo and the brilliant production design and costumes of Piero Gherardi. (charlesmatthews.blogspot.com)
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9/10
The Fellini Complex
aciessi26 September 2015
After WWII, Italy went through a cinematic renaissance that shaped the way we've watched movies ever since. Italian Neo-Realism laid the groundwork for movies that dare inspire to feel real, and in the moment. No longer was the cinema an extended apparatus to the theater. The Italians made it possible to use the camera as it purely was meant to be, to capture reality. In walks Federico Fellini, the man, the artist and the noun. Generations from now, the name Fellini will still resonate with all moviegoers. Fellini had set a new standard for modern cinema, in a time when the standard of "Neo-Realism" was considered a new standard in itself. Fellini wasn't just own filmmaker. He was also his own therapist. From the minute he woke up in the morning, to the minute he fell asleep, nothing else in the world mattered more to Fellini than Fellini. Suddenly, he brought his own careless narcissism into his own pictures. Suddenly, cinema became self-reflexive. We're talking about movies about movies, and filmmakers about filmmakers. What a concept! Honestly, Italian Neo-Realism couldn't get any realer than that. The movie that caught the world's fascination over Fellini's self-reflexivity is what is widely considered his masterpiece, and one of the defining films of the 20th century, "8 ½ ". To anyone with any knowledge of Fellini, it is practically his biopic. Nonetheless, whatever it is, it's brilliant.

"8 ½" centers on famed film director Guido Anselmi. Remember, Guido is Federico Fellini. The art world loves him, and he's about to make yet another astounding picture. The problem is, Guido doesn't even know where to start. He's completely run out of ideas. He has producers, actors, production crews and critics talking into his ear, asking him favors and trying to control him. It's the same problem over and over again, and Guido just want's to run away from it all. His only refuge is to spend time with his woman. But, wait, there's another problem. He doesn't have one woman (singular), he has women (plural). He's stuck in an absolutely mind-boggling love triangle between and intellectual, a stunning dame and a prostitute. Guido has nowhere to turn. He loves all of his women equally, and can't settle with just one of them, despite their advances on to him. Guido tries to clear his mind at a luxurious spa, but then that only leaves time for himself, and even Guido can't escape his own mind. Flashbacks of his childhood comes back to haunt to him, and every time, they remind him of how dysfunctional his love life has become. One flashback recounts the time he went with his friends to see a local prostitute, and was persecuted by his catholic school for escaping during class and giving into impure thoughts. Guido is at odds with his faith, his love and his work. It's all just driving him mad. Everything ends up coming to a head at the end of the picture, and instead of choosing what to do, he quits his massive, over-budgeted picture all together and decides to focus on himself and finding the true woman that he loves.

Federico Fellini constructs this film as a free-form diary. Every last anecdote and mannerism about Guido, is 100% true to the man that Fellini is. He is neurotic about his movies, his life and his women. Fellini's self-reflexivity, to me, is very reminiscent of one of cinema's more contemporary masters, Woody Allen. Woody Allen, much like Fellini, always casts himself or a version of himself in his movies, and every time, that character has a serious problem with women. Fellini and Allen both see themselves as comical losers, and just way too fascinating to not make films about. Woody Allen even made a complimentary film to "8 ½" called "Stardust Memories", which is basically the Woody Allen biopic. While narcissism is arguably the fuel to a filmmaker's imagination, these fellows have cemented themselves as the biggest ones in the history of cinema. But then, is it any wonder why they turned out as legendary as they did?

"8 ½" is a wonderful film, and includes some of my favorite moments in any movie. From the opening scene, Fellini had me wrapped into his world. I absolutely could relate to the kind of man Fellini is. Most filmmakers can, as I've explained. We're all aware to how making films, can literally drive you crazy, and in this film, it nearly breaks Guido. I will never forget the famous fantasy scene of Guido's kingdom of women. Guido hit's his highest moment of narcissism in this glorious piece. Almost as a wink to the French Revolution, his women begin a violent, feminist revolt against Guido. Let me tell you, there is nothing more priceless than a man who is frightened that his women are out to destroy him. I saw his three main women, to be very apparent to Guido's personality. Less Heart + Mind and more like a personified version of Id, Ego and Superego. The prostitute at the film's beginning was purely Guido's Id, as he is seen foolishly messing around with her, and even telling her to sloppily put her makeup like a "whore". Carla is like a fetish to Guido. On the other hand, Luisa is Guido's superego, or the person that he really wants to be like. She is a devout, intelligent companion and wife to Guido. I found his relationships struggles really funny and quite introspective. The ending, of course, is arguably the most memorable scene. It all ends in a giant circus, with clowns and horns and everybody dancing around in a circle. Fellini was always obsessed with the circus, and always gave it a place in his films. It's strange to wonder why, since Fellini never actually participated in the circus, and yet he thinks that he did. Perhaps it's an allusion to Fellini's mind itself. Perhaps Fellini's mind is one giant circus.
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9/10
Profound insignificance bathed in beautifully stylish surrealism
ms_woo30 July 2007
Warning: Spoilers
It would be easy to be put off by the oft cited notion that this is a difficult film to watch and understand - it really isn't.

A successful filmmaker reaches crisis point when he is forced to seek meaning in both his his overindulged personal life and his career.

Just like his film, the theme of which even he isn't sure of, his life is full of a cast of characters - from home life, school, church, loves - from whom he has taken but given very little in return As he tries to figure out the point of his latest, somewhat autobiographical film project, his mind takes him on a reverie of memories, fantastical ideals and a search for meaning.

In the end, the beautiful and elusive young actress he wants for his movie but who seems to be about the only woman who is not in thrall to his charm, points out that his main character (essentially him) is an empty man incapable of love, for whom no one can feel sympathy.

It would seem that, ultimately, his anxiety stems from the fact that he (the director), whilst still being indulged by actors, producers, friends, the Church and women, realises that he really has nothing particularly profound to say.
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9/10
A fiercely personal testament on creative paralysis.
mrmackey14759 December 2001
Much has been said of this cryptic masterpiece. Many seem irretrievably vexed by its slow pace and the variety of mysterious sub-plots. Well, this is definitely not a film for everyone. But the discerning viewer has at least a fair chance of finding in it a subtle and reflective beauty that is all the more poignant when one considers that it is basically a true story, not in a specific sense, but in an emotional one. It is basically a manifestation of Fellini's inner landscape and the creative paralysis encountered by many great artists. I think even those who dislike this film should still be able to appreciate the uniqueness of this approach as well as the artistry with which is was executed.
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9/10
Now that it's a beast in the cage, try to perform a perfect circus.
e-7073310 March 2018
The discussion of inspiration exhaustion is not new. But it is valuable to see the mental struggles became a succesful dramatic story. When the course of searching for meaning eventually ends, the artist decides to create an emotional carnival with the fragments of his private memory. Therefore, with strong rhythm and beautiful cinematography, Federico Fellini used the craftsmanship of cinema to restore the essence of spirit, using rational analysis to negate rationality itself. Now that it's a beast in the cage, try to perform a perfect circus.
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9/10
From skeptical confusion to disbelieving enthusiasm
markmuhl6 February 2016
Wow, watching this movie really felt like a ride on a roller coaster. What a tedious ascent at the beginning to grasp what was going on there on the screen. Did I do right by stepping into this cart? Then on top you can already see a bit clearer and you start feeling comfortable to be taken along in the cart only to become surprised again and again by unexpected bends and loops that still make you dizzy until you realize in the end that the roller coaster is in fact a closed circle where all the parts fit together. After having digested the heavy meal one feels eager to take another ride in order to find out whether this time the dizziness will become less and in fact, it is so: details become visible that one could not capture before.

Giving it a second thought it is quite surprising that the understanding of the movie does not come easier since the film is working in exactly the same way as our brains. Reality, memories, daydreams and real dreams, doubts, fears and wishful thinking all have their share and interfere with each other without warning. Actually, we are sitting in Guido's brain but we watch him from the outside. Hence, sometimes it is up to the viewer to decide whether something is fantasy or reality. Is Claudia, Guido's ideal woman, a real person or just an always-welcome daydream? Well, I think, she is most likely to be Guido's idealized image of a real person. Why would otherwise the ideal woman turn out to be a disappointment or at least very much the same and demanding as all the other people. Disillusionment, however, can also make free … Is this what the movie suggests in its final scene? From Guido's perspective, most probably, the story line is less confusing than for the spectator, since he is sitting in his own brain, but I guess also for him it is still tiresome.

Marcello's performance in its style of underacting is brilliant one more time. He actually does so little to express the emotions of his characters. He does just enough to feel with him and by doing not more than that, it feels very convincing at the same time.

Master Fellini at its best. If you can relate to demanding story telling you should definitely give it a try. Yes, it is old, but for masterpieces time is no factor …
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9/10
Why you have to see 8½
beeka19826 February 2010
unlike many viewers i've watched nine before 8 1/2 and because i loved it i thought i had to see the original. I was expecting a masterpiece and usually i get disappointed with such high expectations but still Fellini's magic totally captured me into his unique world.

The film tells us a simple story about a great director who is so confused, falling under the pressure of film producers, press and of the people in his life while his subconscious is relating his actions to his memories and desires.

The greatest thing about this film is that there are no apparent lines between what's real and what's fantasy, unlike films like nine, big fish and finding neverland; this is a film that simply offers you some vision that doesn't require knowing where reality ends and fantasy begins. it happens all the time, so simply, so swiftly and surprisingly it is not confusing either. it just fits.

The main theme of the film is about confusion, and the greatest question that is there is, what if my confusion is what defines me? what if my confusion is what makes me what i am? can it then be accepted? I can go on forever about this film, so i'll try to add just one more comment, you have to see Saraghina, the best casting i've ever seen in any film.

In short, you have to see this film, if you don't like it you'll not loose a lot,just the 130 mins runtime, but if you like it, it will amaze you, it will easily go to your all-time favorite list and it will haunt you to come back and watch it over and over again.
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9/10
Artistic philosophy on the purpose of art
Movie_Muse_Reviews18 December 2009
There are many different ways to look at Federico Fellini's masterpiece, "8 1/2," and the one you choose ultimately determines how well you understand and enjoy the film. There are broad lenses that capture the bigger picture of fictional film director Guido Anselmi's creative block and the tighter lenses that zero in on Fellini's creative choices during imaginary sequences and their underlying messages. For the average viewer, the big picture lens -- if you can keep that perspective the entire length of the film -- will earn the more favorable response. It's the artist, however, anyone who watches this film that has struggled to create, ever, who will love it most.

With the title actually referring to the number of films Fellini had made, "8 1/2" is clearly a personal endeavor. It is an acting out of his own personal struggles as an artist by having his main character imagine his own struggles. Guido (Marcello Mastroianni) has a number of women in his life -- a wife, mistress, a couple actresses -- even brief acquaintances that have stuck with him somehow. Juggling them all in his mind, he tries to make sense of them all together but can't do it without favoring certain ones and his attempt to use this as the basis for his film fails him.

He also wants to create something meaningful to people -- something truthful. Nothing purely escapist, but still effectively consoling. Holding himself to this standard, he is able to achieve nothing artistically with regard to his "upcoming film," completely unable to satisfy himself, his producer or anyone else in his life for that matter.

The result of "8 1/2" is a discussion of the purpose and role of art. Is it purposeful or purposeless? Meaningful or ultimately meaningless? The surrealist quality of the film reflects the chaos of addressing that very subject. There is a futility in attempting to create art that fully and completely encompasses and reflects truth and reality and that in itself is the point of art. It's the beginning of what could be an endless discussion and that's yet another characteristic of exceptional art.

Fellini has made this discussion come to life in an evocative way and one that is just as cognizant of relationship drama as it is about relationships being artistic inspiration. There are countless aspects to analyze as a result and it makes "8 1/2" one of those "Film Studies 101" movies

~Steven C

Visit my site at moviemusereviews.com
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9/10
A true picture of human mind…
badar198112 March 2007
After watching "Nights of Cabiria" I really wanted to see this movie. I searched a lot to find but eventually I got one. In the end I have a feeling that is so satisfied and enjoyable that brings a gentle smile on my face.

According to me movie starts of a little abruptly but eventually grips you and even haunts you in various scenes. It is very hard to show the mistakes you have done and a special praise too. There are lots of small things which are so innocent that you fall in love with them right away like the one scene in which one of Guido's co-workers asks him to say something harsh as he used to be. Not only this, the confrontation between Guido and Luisa and the full scene in which he shown that he has problems with not only his wife but with all.

And music, it is soothing rhythmic and above all in sync with the movie. Acting is very good; especially Guido and Luisa rest is pretty OK.

Now the direction: one of the most accomplished work I ever watched and very handsomely done.

A must watch.

9/10
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9/10
Cinema!
Caught this magnificent film at the start of an extended run at BFI Southbank, London and it seemed as fresh as ever. From the claustrophobic opening sequence, trapped inside a car and watched by surrounding travellers, to the exhilarating ending where everyone joins hands, this is confident and bold and always visually stunning. Many images I remembered from my last viewing, many years ago, and they made me smile with recognition, like old friends. Claudia Cardinale is not given an awful lot to do here, she just has to appear as the perfect fantasy beauty and that she does to perfection. I had, actually, forgotten that Barbara Steele was in the film and was startled to see her pop up, with her distinctive and luscious features. Anouk Aimee is great as the director's wife in a very tricky role as she comes to terms with his friends, male and female. Sandra Milo is the fourth fine actress helping this vast venture with her blowsy and bosomy performance. I am surprised and glad to note that these four are all still well and working today 50+ years on. There are so many vignettes one could draw attention to but, suffice, I think to say that despite (or maybe because of) the many imponderables and failures illustrated, this remains a most life enhancing movie. Too long? Well maybe just a shade but who would dare to put their scissors to this work of genius? PS: I notice that amazingly i have written this piece and not mentioned the towering and pivotal role played by the ever excellent, Marcello Mastroianni. Whether seen quick stepping away from an unwanted encounter, liaising with one of his ladies or simply seen in close up peering over his glasses he seems to be the very essence of 'charismatic'.
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9/10
A Landmark in filmmaking
willwoodmill1 March 2016
In 1960 Federico Fellini released La Dolce Vita, a film that received wide-spread praise. It unanimously won the Palme d'Or at the Cannes film festival, and was nominated for four academy awards. After its release, there was a lot of pressure on Fellini to make his next film. But there was one small problem, he had no idea what he wanted to do. Fellini had a terrible case of writers block, and the pressure from the general public and the studios wasn't helping. Eventually Fellini decided to make a film about the only thing he really knew, himself.

As if the plot of the film wasn't meta enough already, the title took it a step further, Fellini named it 8 1/2. Fellini named it his because, by his count, he had made seven and a half films before, so this would be his eight and half. About as good a name as any I suppose. I said that 8 1/2 was about Federico Fellini, but what does that mean? Well 8 1/2 tells the story of Guido Anselmi (played by Marcello Mastroianni, who played the protagonist in La Dolce Vita), a film director who has no idea what his next film is going to be. (Sound familiar) If all of that wasn't enough, Federico Fellini makes several clever references to his previous films. For example in one scene a character is talking to Guido about his film, and the character describes it as a serious of gratuitous images without any central conflict. This is a reference to Fellini's previous film La Dolce Vita. And in another scene two characters are conversing with each other when Guido comes in, and then one of the two says that Guido doesn't know how to make a love films, this could be a reference to either Nights of Cabiria or La Dolce Vita, both of which have twisted love stories. Or the comment about love films could even be referencing 8 1/2, after all Guido fails at every relationship with a women that he has in the film.

It would be a nearly impossible task to try and name every single instance of 8 1/2 referencing itself, Fellini, or any of Fellini's past films. 8 1/2 is probably the first film to be meta. Yes there were films like Man With a Movie Camera, that acknowledged the fact that they were films, but there was nothing like 8 1/2. Every single scene in 8 1/2 has some sort of comment on the film industry, the director, or even the film itself. A good example of 8 1/2's self-referencing comes when Guido describes the opening of his new film to a young actress, Guido then describes something that is suspiciously similar to the opening to 8 1/2, and in that very same scene Guido admits to the girl that there really is no film. The way this scene is structured, and what it means, is mind-blowing to say the very least. First Guido, who represents Fellini, describes the beginning of his film and that description matches 8 1/2, so Guido's film, is Fellini's 8 1/2, and then Guido says that there is no film, which then forces the audience to question what they're watching. And that's just one small scene in the film. 8 1/2 is one of the most influential films of all time, because it basically invented the "meta film," or "self-referencing film" a genre that is still quite popular today.

I spent most of this review talking about 8 1/2's genius meta structure, and have neglected to mention all of its other great aspects. Marcello Anselmi is one of the greatest actors of all time, and his role as Guido is one of his best. The transformation is so natural, and believable, that you actually think that he is a director who can't make a film. The cinematography is gorgeous, especially the lighting in the film. The cinematography was shot by Gianna Di Venanzo, who also did Fellini's Juliet of the Spirits, and Michelangelo Antonio's La Notte and L'Eclisse. The film also has some interesting ideas about religion. First of all Guido, who again represents Fellini, is talking with a priest, and the priest asks him if the film, which again represents 8 1/2, is religious in nature and Guido's reply is, in a way. Later in the film when Guido is in the sauna, he is invited to see the bishop. What follows is a dark macabre montage of Guido descending deeper into the underground sauna to go see a bishop in a way that can't help but feel like Guido is descending into the depths of hell.

During the filming of 8 1/2, Fellini kept a sticker on the camera that said, "remember this is a comic film." Fellini didn't want his experimental film of self-discovery to bore or depress audiences, because after all, even with how much I've been saying 8 1/2 is about Fellini, it is really about much more than it. Yes it is extremely personal, Fellini's most personal film actually. (well this or Amarcord.) But 8 1/2 is also about the creative process and if there is any real point to any of it. 8 1/2 lived up to the high expectations that had been placed on Fellini's next film. It was nominated for five academy awards including best director and screenplay, and won two. (Best costume design, and best foreign language film.) 8 1/2 is landmark in filmmaking, it was one of the first films to ever question why people make films, and if it is worth it.

9.8/10
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9/10
8 1/2: A true Masterpiece
FightinTexasAggies12 May 2010
When watching 8 ½, I was confused at many different parts. The overall coherence of this movie, to me, seemed pretty vague. Although I must say it was pretty interesting after establishing the "why's" and "what's" that I was asking myself. It was well known that Frederico Fellini was a playboy and was known to be the master of flamboyant costumes, all of which can be seen in this movie. After watching the movie and learning about Fellini, everything comes together.

The flashbacks are what make the film so famous. The first scene of the movie sets it all up and, in my eyes, is the most important flashback scene throughout the movie. The flashbacks in the first seen are easily paralleled to Guido's life. He is stuck in traffic and he cannot escape the smoke. Both situations are metaphors to how we are unable to escape the everyday oppression and pressures of life. In this metaphor, the line between reality and dreams becomes very vague.

These dream-like sequences help to portray the movie to an even greater level at its fullest extent. The movie would not be as well looked up to as it is today if it weren't for Fellini doing this. It is still highly looked up to by many of film viewers and critics around the world for being the true masterpiece that it is.
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9/10
The circus of life on film, sort of...
RJBurke194217 November 2007
Warning: Spoilers
I note that Fellini directed twenty-four films, of which I have seen only La Strada (1954), La Dolce Vita (1960), 8 ½ (1963), Fellini-Satyricon (1969), Roma (1972), and Amacord (1973).

I still rate La Strada as his most powerful and tragic; Dolce Vita explored moral ambiguity of the times; Satyricon was an off-beat fantasy; Roma an interesting documentary of part of Fellini's life and of that city; Amacord looked at the comedy of life from the child's perspective.

This one just kept asking questions, and still does...

When he directed this enigmatic masterpiece, Fellini had been making films since the late nineteen-forties (when he was in his mid-twenties); by the time 1962 rolled in, he was obviously in state of mental flux, if not fugue, all or some of which has gone into the making of this exquisite puzzle.

Was that Fellini's motivation? I can only guess, as much as Guido (Marcello Mastroianni) keeps trying to sort out what his life all means, what and who is really important to him, and the extent to which the heart or the mind should rule the choices we all have to make in life. To do that, poor Guido has to cast his mind back to various episodes in his life – just as we all do, from time to time – and come to some reconciliation about what he'd done to himself and others in his quest for...what? Salvation? Happiness? Fulfillment? Answers? As somebody once said: In life there's only one answer – there are no answers.

Everybody goes through some sort of mid-life crisis, so why should Fellini be an exception? And, what better vehicle to make an attempt to sort out parts of your life than put it on film where, if necessary, you can review it, as often as you wish, just to see again whether you got things right, after all...

So, in my opinion, the ending for Guido can be interpreted in two ways: either as a wish fulfillment of death, or as a reaffirmation and reconnection with life, depending upon one's own particular point of view. Why? Because, throughout this narrative, there are a few times when the viewer is uncertain whether Guido is only fantasizing or when he's grounded in the reality of the narrative.

Hence, was this narrative truly an autobiographical exposition from Fellini, depicting much of his own thoughts, doubts and knowledge? Well, with others, he was the story developer and scriptwriter, so it's hard to say no, I would think. As every writer knows, there is always part of him/her in every story s/he writes.

And as the clincher, in my view, there is no better quote than that from one of the guests who mocks Guido during the final party on the beach - because no writer ever wants to hear this assessment of a life's work: "He's lost it! He's got nothing to say!" That says it all...

What is there to say about the cast, except near perfection? With brilliant, black and white camera work, a great score, and settings that range from the surreal to the sublime, even if you've never seen an Italian film before, make this one that you must see.

Highest recommendation.
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9/10
One of the last personal geniuses of cinema
rino-520 November 2005
Commencing with the nightmarish traffic shot of silent, hemmed-in despair, and ever after that open to dream, suggestion and imagination, this is the culmination of a kind of cinema we'll never see again. The era of Cinecitta, of oligarchic producers and fabulous set pieces and swirling arrays of extras, littered with personal recollection, wish fulfilments and fear. And total dubbing. And wholly personal, boyish, poetically inventive direction. I love that his critic character, besides spouting an endless bilge of intellectual clichés (all of their time), states early on that his film is nothing more than a sequence of disconnected scenes; a film about film-making must employ self-criticism at some point, and when he talks about the failure of a scene with the dream-girl at the therapeutic springs, which we've just seen, well, it's significant that it doesn't deflate the narrative at all. And of course the critic hangs later on (how could he not see that coming).

The strong mover of the film is the sense of being carried along by large events one is complicit in creating, yet losing all willed responsibility for; the alienating fear of losing the thread, to get off the moving train and admit to not knowing. The endless circus of faces asking for their parts or opinion, always a circular chaos of distractions crossing the line of sight or sweeping up from the corners. The continual demands. The unspoken fear of failure, hungrily grasping at every (feminine) distraction. One of the great films about failure, fact. Fellini has a gift for controlling very large studio spaces, making them buzz and thrive with visual activity and eclectic peoples; contrasted of course with Guido's unflappable calmness at the centre, the quiet heart of adriftness.

Along with childish masculinity, the distractions of feminine beauty, the injection of personal drama (the wife, the musical director, and of course the producer) and ceaseless directorial invention. In a film that is ever erupting into dream and fancy, or rather, which is more dream than real (hence honest about the illusions of cinema). The scenes in the steam baths, the profound nocturnality of the film contrasted with the washed out, over-exposed daylight scenes, the sheer improbable cohesiveness of it all… again, one has to resort to lists to distil the breadth of the scope, and avoid wanting to analyse everything (fear of women, Catholicism etc).

This is film-making on the genius side of Italian cinema: the Fellini method. Renown, production excess, cartoon humour, gorgeous dolls, a frenetic chaos externalised yet humanised by uncertainty and a search for clarity, or simple, useful and effective film-making; and still to be able to say Yes, this is my (mad) method but there's more to it than that… there are lies, begged indulgences, cover-ups and denials, tawdry lovers, common gossip, domestic despairs, staged resolutions and uneven or badly-paced ambiguities in life, and producers bearing gifts… So much personal free reign will never be given in a studio environment again. rino breebaart
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9/10
The perfect score
jonr-38 September 2003
This film, which certainly deserves to be called a great masterpiece, is blessed with Nino Rota's phenomenal and gorgeous score, in which not one note, not one cadence, not one harmony is misplaced. I don't think even Mozart could have handled this task better!

Just felt like expressing my appreciation for this great music, a worthy accompaniment to one of the greatest films.
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9/10
Hot and cold shower
ms-524868 June 2016
Warning: Spoilers
I found this film to be an emotional roller-coaster ride. Many things are being said about the opening sequence. Terry Gilliam claims it to be the most important film sequence in his life, and I can see why. Like the overture of an opera, it captures all the conflict and all the drama that is laid out through the rest of the film. It grabs you and will not let you go anymore.

It wasn't possible for me to sit through the first viewing, because I was too repulsed by all the sociable chatter in the first half of the film. I got the point Fellini wanted to make (I think), but I still couldn't take it. But the opening sequence was so incredible, that I decided to continue watching the film where I had last stopped. What I got was like a hot and cold shower.

Alternating between the chaos and the madness that Guido's life is, and calm, isolated settings, the film comes at us like waves. In his more introspect moments, Guido is usually talking to a female character, and it is here that his visions and his demons are revealed to us. The way he opens up to his sister beneath the spaceship scaffolding reminds of the struggle of an artist who tries to create something personal which he beliefs will not only lift himself above everything, but others, too. His more stable sister just laughs at his pathos and self-pity.

We also meet him as the egocentric, irresponsible character that he is. He discards women that do not physically attract him anymore with the strictness of a World War II general. Claudia Cardinale, his muse, confronts him with the sobering fact that he does not know how to love.

It all culminates in a press conference that Guido is forced to attend because his producer is putting the pressure on him. Facing the whirlwind of questions from the reporters, and having no answers, he decides to escape by crawling beneath the table and shoot himself. Whether it is fantasy or reality, we don't know, and it doesn't seem important. The movie ends on an up because Guido somehow manages to find a way out of his isolation and to embrace the people, characters and collaborators that accompany and form his life.

A very personal film. I think the opening sequence will be a good indicator whether you will relate to it or not.
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9/10
A director's ruminations on the women in his life
antagonist11717 June 2013
Warning: Spoilers
A director is supposed to be working on a big-budget film that is part science fiction, part autobiography, but he becomes obsessed with the process of casting actresses to portray the various women in his life: his wife, his mistresses, his first crush, women he passed on the street, and finally even the actresses who represent these women. This is a lengthy, often-abstract, but usually-coherent reflection of the director's conflicted attitudes and desires. Through fantasy sequences it displays the character's private thoughts and memories with disarming honesty and a fair amount of humor. Charlie Kaufman's "Synecdoche, New York" (2008) could almost be said to be a remake of "8 1/2," or at least a very similar rumination on very similar ideas.
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9/10
If you're looking for a unique experience in film; this is it.
glock38_1106 September 2010
A riveting experience, difficult to sum up in a few words but I'll try anyway. The film explores the dreams, inner thoughts and fantasies of a famous director suffering "directors block". At first it's hard and confusing to figure out exactly what is going on but as you delve deeper you realise that it's a portrait of a man's mental state whilst he comes to terms with his mid-life crisis. Definitely a film you need to watch more than once to truly appreciate, in some ways it reminded me a lot of films like Barton Fink, Inland Empire and Synecdoche, New York. The influence of a film like 8½ is clear from the get go. Marcello Mastroianni was excellent as the lead and apart from the occasional overacting the supporting cast (which consisted of a host of beautiful women) were good too.

8.5/10
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9/10
8 1/2 (Federico Fellini, Italy 1963, 138 min.)
butler-britney11 May 2010
8 1/2 (Federico Fellini, Italy 1963, 138 min.) is a beautiful Italian film. Federico Fellini created a visually stunning film with a story that surprisingly captures the viewer. The story may be a little hard to follow at times especially since element after element is being thrown together. The skipping of time and place also adds to the confusion. Yet with proper viewing the film reveals itself to be rather stunning. The film is about a director named Guido Anselmi, played by Marcello Mastroianni. Guido is trying to compose a film concept inspired by life events and the relationships he has held, mostly female relationships. With producers pressuring him to make the next science fiction film, Guido's mind wanders in an artistic path of self reflection. Throughout the film many comparisons are made to link Guido Anselmi's character with the director of the film Federico Fellini. A few examples would be when Fellini acts as a stand-in during the introductory flying scene, also at one point Guido looks into a mirror not to reflect Mastroianni but Fellini himself. I would highly suggest this film to an audience, just make sure you are in the right mood to pay attention. With an undivided focus it won't be hard to be stunned by the creative design that splendidly overwhelms the film. I also think Colin Firth would make a perfect Guido Anselmi if the film was ever remade correctly.
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