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This is cinematic pseudo-autobiography by one of Europe's, or the world's, most gifted directors.
It's about the making of a film or, more accurately, the processes that link imaginative sparks to
full-blown mind's eye visions, and the drive that gets such concepts imprinted on celluloid. It is,
in many regards, a pretentious piece of cinema, but it's also one that's proved highly influential -
although bits of its avant garde style may appear outrageously kitsch, today, in mise en
Marcello Mastroianni is widely perceived as Fellini's alter ego, and that view is never truer than in the scenario that develops around Mastroianni's character of Guido, the successful filmmaker taking a rest at a health spa while he plans what to do next. We have heard of writer's block, but this is a film examining director's block, and rarely has artistic crisis been so well symbolised or represented as it is here. There's a bizarre parade of clowns and an auspicious, impromptu gathering of everyone Guido has ever known over the years. He attempts (unsuccessfully, I should point out) to manage a domestic harem that includes both his wife and his mistress, while the superb female cast includes Claudia Cardinale as a beguiling dream girl, and there's a notable role for horror movie icon Barbara Steele.
As dramatised fantasy, Fellini's 8½ (aka: Otto E Mezzo) is just as whimsical, extraordinary, frustrating, awkward, incredible, and spellbinding as any honestly insightful apprehension of creativity must be. Pure self-indulgence is seldom this absorbing from the outside looking in and if, at times, Fellini himself just doesn't seem to know what he's doing or trying to say, well, then perhaps that is all the fault of the decidedly human character of Guido and not the film's director at all!
DVD extras: digitally re-mastered from a restored print, so the b/w cinematography (by Gianni Di Venanzo) is especially startling upon changes from bright to darkened scenes. Scene selection (with only 13 chapters), a photo album of full-size pictures, director filmography, Italian dialogues with English subtitles.
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