EJ Paras’s review published on Letterboxd:
“If we can't have everything, true perfection is nothingness. Forgive me for quoting all the time. But we critics... do what we can.” (Rather tongue-in-cheek for all of us here on Letterboxd, right? Lol.)
A surrealist masterpiece about the struggles and immense pressure of making a movie, 8½ is a love letter, damnation, and apology from Italian writer/director Federico Fellini to the film industry and the act of creating itself, as well as to the people in his life who may have been hurt or have suffered from his creative tendencies.
“I really have nothing to say, but I want to say it all the same.”
This was the Synecdoche, New York of the 1960s, or rather, Synecdoche, New York is the 8½ of the 2000s. While that movie is eternally sad, I felt much more hopeful with this movie (even with this movie’s ending).
There’s a stereotype of the sad, lonely artist. I think there’s definitely some truth to that. In order to create a work that is so self-reflective and honest, one has to ponder and allow oneself to think of these vulnerable moments — in all their beautiful messiness. There’s a quote from CBS legend Lou Dorfsman who said,
“Creativity is essentially a lonely art. An even lonelier struggle.”
In 8½, we follow director Guido as he drifts between fantasy, reality, and memories of the past. His life (and mind) appear to be in total disarray at all times — all of these variables and people keep showing up to just add more chaos in the life of a man who can’t keep his mind straight.
“I’m the one without the courage to bury anything at all.”
Some of the best art comes from the most tragic or traumatic instances. Guido is kind of a masochist; creating some of his best art by pulling from moments of great distress to him.
A movie now regarded as one of Fellini’s masterworks, 8½ acts as a great viewfinder into the inner mechanisms of an artist, more specifically the mind of a tortured artist. When your art becomes a marriage of your personal life and creative inclinations, they often bleed into one another, leading to (sometimes) disastrous results.
The movie’s most tender moments are Guido’s memories of his childhood and the past. I’m fucking obsessed with nostalgia, so these moments came across to me as so beautiful and so honest. Also, one thing I made note of while watching: some of the best cinematic portrayals of Catholic guilt! Catholic guilt… a powerful tool at one’s conscience! Lol.
Major kudos to all-involved. I don’t really feel like diving into the technical achievements because it was all amazing. This is an essential arthouse film for a reason.
“Such a monstrous presumption to think that others could benefit from the squalid catalogue of your mistakes! And how do you benefit from stringing together the tattered pieces of your life? Your vague memories, the faces of people that you were never able to love.”