ben’s review published on Letterboxd:
1960 was, undoubtedly, the most shocking year that cinema had ever seen. At its Cannes premiere, Antonioni’s latest venture and future art-house classic L’Avventura was met by a predominantly hostile audience, whilst Fellini’s La Dolce Vita incited riots as a result of its scathing and surgical condemnation of the post-war excesses of Rome; which in spite of this, was soon to become the cultural-hub of Europe in the same way that London would be just a few short-years later. In all respects then, it appeared that, at least in Italy, we were entering a new golden-age of cinema.
Across the Atlantic, Hitchcock was in the midst of finalising his most shocking feature yet, and over here in Britain, critical-darling Michael Powell was in the midst of being black-listed for his infamous and utterly debilitating work Peeping Tom. Yet, in spite of these advances in thought and feeling, cinema was yet to reach the unparalleled heights it would just a few years later, when Fellini dropped his much-anticipated and equally maligned follow-up to La Dolce Vita, 1963’s 8 ½.
Born amidst the throes of a creative crisis, 8 ½ was Fellini's most magical film yet. It proved to be indelible to the impending march towards modernity in art and helped to liberate cinema from the cultural and artistic mores of yesteryear. Whilst the coming-years would produce such classics as 2001: A Space Odyssey, Persona, and Andrei Rublev, Fellini was ultimately the first to transcend the medium, providing his audiences with a God’s-eye view of the creative process and its many misgivings. Whilst I certainly prefer La Dolce Vita, I am enthralled by the ingenuity of its craft. 8 ½ is cinema at its most pure and artistically profound, the distilled essence of the language of dreams laid bare and thrust at a canvas like a Jackson Pollock painting; and my God, is it beautiful.