8½

★★★★½

Back in my junior year at college, I made a friend who shared my interest in movies, and we used to leaf through a book of film history and talk about the movies we'd seen and the movies we hadn't. One of the films that he held in highest regard was , and he would describe its crazy self-referentiality to me as though it were the greatest trick ever pulled on a helpless audience. I hadn't seen any Fellini movies at that point (or maybe La Strada, I’m not sure), but I was able to get a copy soon after; the college library had it on VHS, and I had a part-time job in the AV department, so I bought one of those special 140-minute blank VHS tapes and dubbed it. My friend's enthusiasm rubbed off on me, and it became one of my favorite films as well. It had a certain magic quality, as if it represented the very extremes of art, passion and technique; it was a pinnacle of sorts. I would often throw it on in my little dorm room at the end of a night when I was too drunk to sleep but not sober enough for any other godfearing activity.

Watching it again tonight was a different experience from the times I'd watched it before. It'd been about six years since I'd last seen it. The lines between its incidents seemed so much clearer, the marital strain at the center of it felt sharper, and I was focused less on the artist's yearning for escape and more on the man's human weakness. I don't think I felt quite the same magic as I once did — maybe I've seen it too many times? — but that's okay. Still a great movie. I'm going to watch it without the subtitles some day, just so I can experience the wild, shifting imagery all by itself.

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