Monday, November 29, 2010

8 1/2

Famed Italian director Federico Fellini's most celebrated work is unfortunately not one that I can say I truly enjoyed all that much. It's a well-made film with a lot of thought, creativity, and inventiveness crammed into its two hours of meandering story, but at times I found actually watching it more of a struggle than a classic should be. There was obviously a lot of talent involved in making it, it just wasn't a movie that was made for me. I probably would have appreciated more if I knew more about Fellini's life and career, because it's known as an especially autobiographical film, as he delves into his own mind quite a bit. But as it is, that doesn't enhance it that much for me. I guess you could say it's about as watchable as an Italian expressionist film from the 60s could be, but it's still something that requires a lot of attention and forgiveness for certain production quirks.

It's about a film director struggling to come up with his next picture. He spends a lot of time talking with his writer and producer, meeting actors, and wondering what he will do. But while this is the focus of the plot, the film itself goes a bit deeper. There are tons of dream sequences, and they're usually interwoven with reality so before you know it you've transitioned from one to the other and back again. These scenes are often the most interesting in the film, because they shed light on the director's psychology, particularly in regard to all the women in his life, and they often have an energy that's missing in the scenes from reality. The film's score and visual sense are some of its greatest assets, with a ton of well chosen imagery and darn good cinematography for the 60s, and a mix of classical music that tends to enhance what's happening on screen. An unfortunate aspect of the way it was put together is the dialogue though, with every single line being overdubbed and often quite obviously not matching whatever the actor was saying on set. I realize that it was a choice by Fellini, but that doesn't make it less distracting, and with a movie that's basically filled to the brim with rapid dialogue as the director is bombarded with questions, it strikes me as a curious relic that I'm glad doesn't happen anymore. It's the kind of artistic movie that I think almost anybody could see the intelligence and craft in, although I think many would struggle to enjoy it as I did. Worth seeing if you love the medium, but definitely a long two hours.

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