Gio Orlando’s review published on Letterboxd:
Directed by Federico Fellini
Cinematography by Gianni Di Venanzo
I started watching 8½ a while ago, but it was a bad copy and the subtitles weren’t correct, so I wasn’t really feeling it. But, god, when I rented the Criterion version and watched it on our 4K TV, it just transformed the whole thing. I think this is one of those films that’s a very… cinematic experience. You have to watch it on a big screen with good sound and in high quality, kinda similar to how 2001 is. You can’t watch it on your phone (don’t watch any film on your phone) or on your computer, you have to watch it like very cinematically. I’ll say what I said about the Seventh Seal here - even if you don’t usually watch foreign films, check this one out. It’s not as good as the Seventh Seal, but it’s still excellent. Where can I start, where do I start?
Well, I’ll start by saying I hope Marcello Mastroianni won some kind of award - I don’t known what the Italian equivalent of the Oscars is… - for his performance as struggling film director Guido Anselmi. Also, I couldn’t help but find it amusing that his name is Guido and he’s Italian… must have had some pretty rude parents. Anyhow, Mastroianni was just about perfect for the role, I mean, he perfectly, PERFECTLY, plays the disheveled, nervous, and beaten-down director. I love his character, and you can’t help but feel bad for him, I mean, he’s just trying to make a film, and everyone is just all over him! A lot of scenes are shot in a way that really make you feel the claustrophobia that Guido is feeling. I love cinematography that emits feelings, it’s the best kind.
8½ is a film that also deals with some pretty interesting themes - women, choosing work or love, faithfulness, the stress of being in show business. A lot of these themes are shown very well in the dream sequences that have a very prominent role in the film. Such as the intro, where Guido feels as he is being dragged down by his kin, which he was. My personal favorite dream sequence is the one where Guido is with all the women in his life. I think an interesting part of his character is that although he is married, he consciously gets himself into relationships with tons of other women - something that I feel happens a lot with men in high positions in the industry. I’m personally still trying to figure out if the ending scene is a dream or not, because it feels very VERY out there. One theory I have is that Guido has been dragged down all the way, and then dreams of making everything right, and spreading the love he lost the chance to give the first time around, which may quite possibly be the intent with it. Quite a lot of the film is interpretive, really.
This film is also very funny, in a dry, witty, sarcastic way - my favorite kind of humor, I mean, my favorite comedies are Dr. Strangelove and A Hard Day’s Night, after all - and I love all the comedic scenes that are in the film. Very Richard Lester-esque humor, I think. Another scene I like is the flashback to when Guido is a child and his sister I think it is (?) tells him that the eyes on the painting in their room with move, and I kind of see that as the film symbolizing his belief in his “fantasies” from an early age. The original working title for the film was “The Beautiful Confusion” and I think that would have been a much more suitable title. Because, sure, this film is confusing, and everyone seems to feel some sort of confusion, but, god, is it beautiful.
It’s films like this that remind me why I love film. Everything about 8½ is just… pure cinema. I love it. See, I don’t wanna be a director for the money. I don’t want to do it for fame. I want to do it, because when I’m down, films brings me up. Films mean something to me, they send all kinds of meaningful emotions spiraling through my mind with a bunch meaningful images. I want to make films to help people, as films help me. But like Guido, I wanna love, too. And I don’t want to miss out on it while I have the chance. I don’t wanna spoil any more of this film, it’s just amazing, go watch it!
This film really inspired me, and I hope one day you go to the theatre to see one of my films. Quite simply, 8½ really sums up why I love film.