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Seen at the weekend on DVD. I've watched quite a few Fellini films before, but not since I've got into the habit of recording everything systematically here. So, for my own reference, the other ones I've seen are La Dolce Vita (1960), Fellini - Satyricon (1969) and Roma (1972) - amongst which the latter is probably my favourite.

This one is very much in the now-familiar vein. The story is impressionistic and open-ended, full of dream sequences, fantasies and childhood flashbacks, and it is of course also strongly autobiographical - the main character, played by Marcello Mastroianni, is a director trying to plan his latest film while grappling with his own personal lack of direction. The line between art and life was clearly very blurry for Fellini - which is part of why his films are so good, of course. The cinematography is also very beautiful, with lots of shots from interesting angles, compositions which speak volumes about the emotional space the characters are inhabiting and so forth. Also, it does not hurt to have Claudia Cardinale about the place, looking all doe-eyed and beautiful.

Perhaps most striking, though, was the in-story meta-commentary. Throughout the film, Mastroianni converses with a cinema critic: ostensibly about the film his character is planning, but in fact it is clear from the content of their conversations that they are actually discussing the film we are watching. Arguably this is a bit self-indulgent, since it allows Fellini to pre-empt the real critics before they can speak by showing that he is quite aware of their narrow-minded little views, thank you, knows what he's doing and has an answer for them. But it's also bold and self-assured, and helps to guide the viewer through what is otherwise quite a fragmented narrative, so on balance I rather liked it.

Overall, not quite on the same level as Roma for me, but a very accomplished piece of pure Fellini all the same.

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( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
Jun. 26th, 2009 10:10 am (UTC)
I love Roma too- one of my very favourite films.

The thing to remember about 8 1/2 is that it came first. It was so clever, so different, so daring. It's a landmark movie. Personally, I think it drags a bit- and that it verges on the puerile at times. I prefer la Dolce Vita- which is utterly brilliant from beginning to end.
Jun. 26th, 2009 10:45 am (UTC)
Yes, indeed - it may not be quite as rich or mature as Roma, but Roma could not have happened without it.
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )

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