8½

★★★★★

“Accept me as I am. Only then can we discover each other.”
-Guido Anselmi (Marcello Mastroianni)

Something happened whilst I was watching this film, something that occurs only very rarely. It’s the sort of sensation one looks for in cinema; and the subsequent feeling of gratification afterwards. For me, sitting down for what is shamefully my first time seeing this, and indeed anything from Fellini, I felt that response that one only feels once in a blue moon, that lasting impression so sincere and strong that it leaves itself imprinted on your psyche forever. My mind was literally blown, for lack of a better expression, from the sheer intensity of the experience.

Now, perhaps that is just me going a bit insane, but I like to think that if a film can extract such a reaction, it must be magnificent. And Fellini’s can certainly be described as magnificent.

is Italian director Federico Fellini’s 8th feature film (which is where the title came from), discounting the two segments he produced earlier for L'amore in città and Boccaccio ’70 as the 'half'. It follows a stressed film director, Guido (Mastroianni), whom has been struggling to find new ideas for his movies. As it goes on, Guido finds himself retreating further and further into the recesses of his memories and fantasies. It is an autobiographical film in many respects, a film about a director who doesn’t know what to direct, just like Fellini prior to making this film. The novel I, Fellini provides some excellent information about how came to be, and therein he describes his ‘director’s block’ that he managed to turn into this masterpiece of filmmaking, arguably his magnum opus. Somehow, Fellini literally created something from nothing. More so than that, he crafted a nigh on impeccable film in which each and every factor feels in unison.

The acting, particularly from the lead himself, is absolutely fantastic. Marcello Mastroianni is nothing short of phenomenal in his delivery of strained director Guido Anselmi, a role he seems born to play. Every facial expression, every word he utters from the equally sublime script is just searing with raw, pure perfection. The plethora of talented ladies assembled alongside him are also marvellous, with each creating a unique and memorable character. Visually the film is without fault. It is meticulously crafted, a real labour of love, and is perhaps one of the most striking movies ever committed to film, certainly to my memory. The music is also chosen with a stroke of genius, with each song working in lieu with the scene it is in in an almost poetic fashion. All of these separate elements are brought together under Fellini’s talented hand, whom offers nothing short of excellence in his direction.

Despite having more than its fair share of memorable scenes, the film is not marked by certain sequences alone, but rather as the film in its entirety; which is, at its heart, a beautiful exploration of humanity itself through the eyes of one struggling individual. Whilst the premise and plotline Fellini weaves is largely wistful and meandering, this is very much a film about subtext – it is less about what we actually see, and more about what we feel and interpret. Fellini manages to raise and thoroughly explore a good number of issues, both literally and symbolically. It is almost impossible to take it all in. As many critics have stated, this is very much a film that demands repeat viewings, not necessarily because it is complex in story, but because it offers so many ideas, attempts to challenge so many themes, that one would be hard pressed to get them all in one viewing. The most notable commentary he presents is that on the arts in general, from the creativity needed to the very nature of it.

Beyond that, Fellini gives us the battle of the genders, a crucial thematic concept through the film between Guido and his number of lovers. Then there is the difference between fiction and reality, which obviously plays a large part in the story in Guido’s dreams and fantasies. Fellini explores how the line between the two is often blurred, and how the two can so easily intersect.

I love films like this, films that have so much food for thought that you could spend a century analysing it. Alas, I’ve wrote far more than I mean to, as I typically do. If you made it to this point, I hereby bestow upon you a medal. I’ll just round it off here and shall not drawl on any longer. This right here is intelligent filmmaking, this is proof of all that cinema can be, and this is now cemented as one of my favourite films of all time. Ciao.

VERDICT; Easily one of the most wonderful films I’ve ever had the pleasure to witness. Pictures like Fellini’s are sadly a scarcity nowadays, as the industry seems set to veer far too much toward commercialism rather than being works of art in themselves. I’m just thankful that films like this are still available, and that there are still those out there whom can appreciate a masterpiece such as this. It seems almost deliciously ironic that Fellini’s meditation on the bankruptcy of artistry is more topical today than ever before.
It is as they say; they truly don’t make them quite like this anymore.
5/5 or 10/10

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