I’ve decided to go on a bit of a Fellini-a-thon, so this film seemed the likely progression. I once heard that every director at some point makes a movie about movies; Scorsese did recently with Hugo, and Truffaut did with Day for Night. For Fellini, this film is his. It is his eight-and-a-halfth film (6 features, 2 shorts, and one collaboration), hence the title 8 1/2; brevity works to this film’s advantage. So does its stylistic flair, which it has in spades throughout.
The plot is simple enough, even if it’s not so simple to grasp from the film; a director is stuck in his own form of writer’s block, and attempts to work it out through working on his film and through a series of fantastical dream-like sequences that frequently slip in between with reality. The dream-like sequences also allow the film to fill its artsy quota, which is of course the most important aspect of a Fellini film of the time. The film also, in what seems typical of the “film about films” genre I pointed out earlier, plays with the tropes of cinema quite often, which always adds an extra bit of fun for filmophiles like myself. The director reunites here with Marcello Mastroianni, who gives a much more noticeably good performance here than in La Dolce Vita. The music adds a bit of delightful playfulness to the whole affair, and the cinematography is very solid, to the point where you hardly notice it, which is of course the best kind; the invisible kind. One little seam that wasn’t so invisible was Fellini’s use of dubbed sound for all the dialogue, which adds a layer of separation to the film for the viewers but also calls a little too much attention to itself at times.
8 1/2 is Fellini’s Annie Hall; the one film just about everyone cites as their favorite of the director’s work, and like Annie Hall, I have joined this particular collective. I greatly enjoyed what I saw, and even when I couldn’t make sense of it, it was still entertaining. For film lovers, this is of course absolutely essential viewing, and is especially a must-see as a standout in even a career as great as Federico Fellini.
Arbitrary Rating: 9/10