8½

★★★★

is a love it and hate it film for me. It splits me down the middle.

It follows Guido (Marcello Mastroianni), an acclaimed film director who has lost direction and is half-heartedly struggling to realise a half-arsed science fiction film, contend with his memories of childhood and manage his relationships with many, many women.

What I didn’t like about the film was how exhausted it made me feel. I found the dubbing and harsh sound design wearying, as I did the effort required to keep up with the shifts between memory, fantasy, nightmare and reality. Hardest of all was keeping track of the relationships between the large cast of characters passing continuously through the frame.

What I loved was the sheer style of it all; the way Mastroianni peers above his glasses and the beautiful wrinkles under his eyes; the way hedonism and religion mingle; the use of silence and music to intensify key moments; the gliding camerawork and its eye for faces; the scale of Fellini’s imagination in full flight; the extraordinary opening dream sequence; the earthy rumba on the beach; and the film’s beautiful evocation of childhood.

Nino Rota provides a toe-tapping carnivalesque score, which helps Fellini’s film retain its energy and light-footed high spirits throughout. There’s a hurdy-gurdy meets classic Hollywood feel to some of the themes, which perfectly encapsulate the film’s mix of surrealist head-rush, aching style and romantic ennui. Carlotta’s earthy rumba on the beach is accompanied by a brilliantly infectious gallop.

What a brilliant but exhausting film.

Best Music (Scores and Soundtracks)

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