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.