8½

★★★★★

Federico Fellini’s grand opera of cause and effect, the greatest cinematic exercise in self-debasement alongside Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo. It would be easy for younger viewers to misconstrue as a glorification of misogyny, which is quite amusing when considering that it’s quite the opposite. The links between Guido’s sensuous upbringing and his promiscuous proclivities as an adult are more than mere coincidence, proving that the environmental temptations of his youth are as much to blame as he is. Maids fussed over him and bathed him, tempestuous guardians caressed his growing body, and the local prostitute Saraghina was more than willing to provoke him sexually. The varying dreamscapes imply a lack of intimacy with his parents (specifically his mother), thus encouraging his morally floored mentality all the more. This isn’t a story of women in a man’s world, it’s a story of a man trapped in a world comprised almost entirely of women; an everlasting limbo of self-indulgence and vice. I know I’m saying nothing new with this, but isn’t just the greatest film on the life of a tortured artist, it’s the greatest film ever made, period. Ennio Morricone is widely considered to be the apex of Italian composers, but it’s Nino Rota who remains the unsung champion. Honestly, if purgatory looks or sounds anything remotely like this, I’ll be happy to end up there.

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