Wednesday, May 27, 2009
Films I Love #33: 8 1/2 (Federico Fellini, 1963)
Federico Fellini's 8 1/2 transforms the director's preoccupation with his own creative difficulties and his tangled relationships with women into a wild film where fantasy and reality blend together seamlessly. Fellini's stand-in, the director Guido Anselmi (Marcello Mastroianni), is having problems making his next picture. He's out of ideas even though sets are being constructed and the characters are being cast, and his attempt to relax and focus on his work at a remote spa is sabotaged by the frenzied circus atmosphere that inevitably develops around him wherever he goes. He's surrounded by producers, writers, advisors, actors and actresses, as well as both his wife Luisa (Anouk Aimée) and his lover Carla (Sandra Milo). Guido retreats into dreams, and increasingly hangs all his hopes on impossible fantasies regarding the actress Claudia (Claudia Cardinale), who he hopes will resolve his many problems once she finally arrives; he imagines her as a pure, calm, angelic presence who will be able to quiet his busy life.
In the meantime, Fellini packs the film with Guido's fantasies, dreams and nightmares, many of them loosely based on Fellini's own experiences, and all of it propelled by the jaunty music of Fellini's frequent composer Nino Rota. There's certainly no missing Fellini's own nostalgia in the film's most iconic sequence, the boyhood reminiscence of the grotesque Saraghina (Eddra Gale), a powerful mountain of a wild woman with legs like tree trunks. Outside her beachside hovel, she teases and dances for the young boys of the town. Fellini presents this memory with the force of a defining moment, an experience that contributed to the formation of the impressionable young Guido's sexual identity. Scenes like this — or Guido's surreal dream about his parents or his extended fantasy about a harem of women kept in line with a whip — are charged with Fellini's unique, hyper-real aesthetic, in which dreams and illusions have as much presence and physicality as Guido's reality.