8 1/2

Fedrico Fellini's 8 1/2 is one of the most outstanding films about filmmaking, and an outstanding film by any right. This is the first Fellini film I have seen, and is widely regarded as his signature film.

8 1/2 follows Guido Anselmi, a famed director who, in the thick of pre-production on a big-budget blockbuster, loses all sense of what he is doing. What kind of film does he really want to make? What kind of story does he want to tell? Does he even want to make a film in the first place? He's lost all sense of inspiration, vision, and personal motivation. Producers, critics, agents, lovers, family, cast, and crew are pressuring him from all sides.

Guido's breakdown is conveyed in a combination of narrative, flashback, and fantasy, all so seemlessly layered as to effectively cause disorientation in the viewer. Yes, from the opening scene of the film, in which Guido psychosomatically suffocates in his car during a traffic jam, then floats away only to be pulled to Earth by a dangling rope, we know to expect anything and everything to happen in this suureal world. Thankfully, it is a whimsical journey, not heavy-handed.

The direction and camerawork are superb. Nearly all scenes involve meandering camera moves where the points of interest shift from various layers of foreground and background and then back again, with characters constantly coming and going. It's dizzying and surprising and conveys the relentless demands put upon Guido, and his inability to stay grounded.

In the end, Guido finds redemption, and we are treated to one last bit of humorous cinematic absurdity.


Gabe said...

Brock keeps forgetting to loan this to me! Brock!

Joshua Provost said...

Go get it now, he can't stop you! He's loopy from the extraction.

Cool film, the shot above was just incredibly cool. Not sure how they did it, but wow!

Gabe said...

I should!
Yeah, I was staring at that still, wondering "what the...?"

Brock said...

Man, I'm so glad you decided to post about this film. When I decided to try and write filmic, this is the first film I picked up.
I had never seen it before and I'm glad I took a chance and did a cold pick-up of the Criterion DVD, because this is a fantastic movie. The surrealistic atmosphere of the entire piece is what kills me, how seamlessly we are thrown from illusion, to paranoia, to reality and back to fantasy. Oftentimes, the reality is far more twisted then the fantasy.
I totally agree with your points on the film Josh. The combination of narrative, flashback and fantasy is something I'd love to attempt in a future piece.
That opening sequence with the traffic jam is probably on my top ten best opening sequences. Heck, it would probably be in the top 5.

Brock said...


The DVD is at Marco's house. I think they're all done with it, so I'll pick it up and get it to you.

Joshua Provost said...

Yeh, it made me realize how important a striking opening sequence is. I haven't thought about that much in regard to our films. Yet, the best opening sequence, intentional or not, is probably Intense Math, with those "dolly" shots. Sets the tone.

Man, how complicated must it be to make a film like this. Even if it wasn't constantly shifting realities. Just the matter of making a film about a film. You have the real crew, then all the actors playing crew, then the actors playing actors, etc. Tim Nm, CPA was mind-boggling enough with just one character!