8 1/2

Year: 1963
Production Co: Cineriz
Director: Federico Fellini
Writer: Federico Fellini/Ennio Flaiano/Tullio Pinelli/Brunello Rondi
Cast: Marcello Mastrioanni

Someone once described 8 1/2 as 'the best movie about filmmaking ever made'. Not only is it not the best film about filmmaking ever made, it's not even a very good film about filmmaking. It's not even a very good film. In fact, I'd be hard pressed to even call it a film. It's a collection of incoherent dream sequences...I think.

By now you'll have characterised me as either a multiplex-haunting philistine who wouldn't know cinematic art if it kneed me in the groin or one of the shameless chorus only too glad to pull back the veil and reveal the man working on the wizard effects in Oz, the little boy pointing out that the Emperor actually has no clothes on at all.

I also have to admit I knew almost nothing about it before watching it aside from its stratospheric reputation, and when you listen to the praise that surrounds a movie it can impose suggestion upon your opinions. I preferred to come at it completely blind and I just didn't know what brilliance to look out for.

I won't debate about the difference between movies where you know what's going on and ones you don't because I've spoken about it in other reviews quite enough. But I do think of movie goers as one of two different breeds. The first is one who can appreciate the crafting of a shot and ruthless mastery over the image. That's what Fellini does (here at least). You can't say he isn't completely in control of the mood he was after.

The other is the kind who wants movies to be more like a book with moving pictures. They want to be told a story that, regardless of a few ambiguities and mysteries, they can follow without having to peel back countless thematic layers or watch it six times before the penny finally drops. It finally did for me when director Guido (Mastrioanni) was surrounded by a harem of attentive beauties and I realised it was a fantasy sequence, so most of the others I hadn't understood must be too.

I'm firmly in the latter camp, and so it's with some regret that this review isn't really about the plot at all, because for the life of me I couldn't see one. It seems to concern a director and the travails he's going through trying to make a movie while surrounded by the various ex wives, mistresses and assorted partygoers who drift in and out of his life. The 'story' described above probably takes up 20 minutes of the screen time. The rest are scenes of dinner dances, spa treatments and some comical and frightening woman who looks like a drag queen dancing on a beach.

Story? You don't need one, you cultural retard, it's Fellini [sic] ! Or as another blog post I read realised 'if you only watch it once, you'll miss a great film'. Therein lies the crux. This is one of those movies made to be watched and pored over again and again, and I'm just not that kind of filmgoer any more.

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