Larry’s review published on Letterboxd:
This challenge was going to be a few firsts for me. Some of those firsts include my first Tarkovsky film, and my first Fellini film. I've been looking to jump into films like these forever, and the challenge finally gave me a formal excuse. While I had to make a sacrifice and watch this over Netflix instead of the (Ive heard) beautiful Criterion Collection BluRay. But that hardly matters.
8 1/2 is one of the most mysteriously brilliant films I've seen.
The movie is about a director who is experiencing a mental block or lack of creativity with his new film. This apparently mirrors the real life struggle that plagued Fellini and any other professional in the field at one point or another. He retreats into his subconscious and his own fragmented memories and dreams. The dreams and flashbacks merge with reality and we are left with a dreamy and elegant piece of film making that leaves more questions that it does answers. It's highly ambiguous and even more subjective. It is, after all a film about filming a film as told by a film maker who is having trouble filming films.
That's where my explanation of the plot will live and die. Anything I could possibly add on to that would be null and what follows is only my half assed and slightly confused look at what the Hell it all meant.
8 1/2 is a highly stylistic and neo-realist take on the creative process and people being slave to their own minds. Fellini wants us to believe that creative types are often living in their own worlds and constantly shaping projects based on past experiences and memories. The flashbacks in this film are photographed with a tranquil sense, juxtaposed against the quick and frantic feeling of the scenes depicting real life. The scenes that are supposed to be real life are almost always accompanied by pieces of classical music being sped up. It's a very breezy and sometimes stressful pacing style that is probably what working as a director feels like. But as the film moves along, these predefined styles to differentiate dream and real life are mixed and matched. What is real? What is imagination? What is happening? This blending of real and imaginary makes for a very compelling and thought provoking experience. There are moments of happiness, sadness, love and laughs. The sets are amazing and the cinematography here is too notch. I can tell it was a very ambitious film for its time; both on a technical and thematic level. It's a film about the enigma of film making and I'm pretty sure it's the best of the best when it comes to that genre that Fellini created and refined in 1963.
So if Fellini wants us to believe that this was the mind of a director, I'm convinced he was an alien.
A crazy alien bastard.