8½ (Federico Fellini, 1963)

What's it about? Guido (Marcello Mastroianni) is a famous film director who has lost enthusiasm and inspiration for film-making, preferring instead to wallow in dreams, memories and fantasies, usually involving the various women in his life. Essentially, it's Fellini's attempt to represent his mid-life crisis through the medium of cinema.

Is it any good? A curious film, which almost defies criticism, since it explicitly states its own shortcomings throughout.
On the one hand it is an impressively surreal satire about the process of film-making, offering a fascinating mix of imagery, music, themes and ideas. Equally, though, whilst it was presumably a cathartic experience for Fellini, there is something disagreeable and (for the viewer) rather pointless about a film that is such an obviously self-indulgent, self-pitying exercise. Or perhaps Fellini was just having a big joke at everyone's expense, and somewhere is still shaking his head in bemusement at how he got away with making such a film at all.

I don't trust you. What do others think? Naturally, such a daring metafilm is revered by critics (read an appreciation here and here) and is a regular fixture on Greatest Films lists, such as Sight & Sound's. Secretly, though, I think they're all a bit confused as well. It's perhaps telling that this is one of the first films that people intentionally got stoned to go to.

Anything else I should know? Why "8½"? With six solo films behind him and three collaborations (counting as a half each), this film was Fellini's 8½th movie. See? Also, REM's Everybody Hurts video is a homage to the opening sequence of the film.

What does the Fonz think? My head hurts - I think I need a spliff. Still worth a look.





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