Zoë 🐝’s review published on Letterboxd:
I'm having trouble figuring out what to write about 8½, which feels appropriate given the main character's writer's block as well. It's a really incredible film, but like La Dolce Vita there was so much going on on screen with the intentionally frenetic and overwhelming energy (and having to read subtitles) that I think a rewatch is necessary for me to begin to delve into this wonderful and one of a kind film. I find it fascinating when directors expose their self loathing and personal flaws on screen and 8½ is so deeply personal and intimate, ironically so since Guido himself is so afraid of genuine intimacy. Similar to La Dolce Vita's Marcello and Emma I was most drawn to the relationship between Guido and his wife Luisa, especially because the very intense and overwhelming love he feels for her is so tragically juxtaposed by his inability to be a decent husband because of a cycle of faithlessness and gaslighting. I'm naturally drawn to these types of stories thanks to my affinity for cinematic female angst and melodrama, and probably also because of the voyeuristic glimpse into Fellini and his wife Giulietta Masina's personal life. They're two artists who fascinate me and let's be frank, cinema is a voyeuristic art form, a peak into a director's mind, into taboo and the unspoken truths about the self.
But Luisa and Guido's on screen relationship goes beyond a peek behind the curtain, beyond the catharsis from marital anguish and guilt. One of my favorite scenes in the film is when Guido, his producers, his wife and her friends watch the screen tests for two major parts in the film Guido is preparing to make: the wife and the mistress. The women in the screen tests for the mistress wear the exact outfit we saw Carla (Guido's mistress) wearing earlier in the film, and the woman in the screen test for the wife parrots several lines that Luisa said verbatim to her husband earlier in the film. Luisa is rightfully angry and storms out. In this scene Fellini is not just fictionalizing his real personal life on screen but he is also questioning the ethics of such an artistic choice. The pretentious film critic mentions F. Scott Fitzgerald at one point, providing comparison between Fitzgerald and Guido as talented men whose talent ran out in their later careers, but the comparison also extends to using words from their own wives' mouths in their art. Is it right for an artist to use words said in genuine frustration and anger not to better himself but for his own career? Is a director entitled to share his personal life on screen, even if that includes sharing the personal life of loved ones without their consent or knowledge? To Luisa it feels like a violation and it's the last straw.
This is just one tiny part of why 8½ is so magical to behold. I hope I will have more to say when I watch this masterpiece again.