User Reviews (238)

  • gftbiloxi24 April 2005
    10/10
    A Masterpiece
    Frederico Fellini's masterwork 8 ½ is difficult to approach largely because of its reputation. Many critics also state that the film is so complex that it requires multiple viewings to understand, and this is likely to intimidate many viewers. But in truth, and in spite of its surrealistic flourishes, 8 ½ is more straight-forward than its reputation might lead you to believe.

    The storyline itself is very simple. A famous director is preparing a new film, but finds himself suffering from creative block: he is obsessed by, loves, and feels unending frustration with both art and women, and his attention and ambition flies in so many different directions that he is suddenly incapable of focusing on one possibility lest he negate all others. With deadlines approaching the cast and crew descend upon him demanding information about the film--information that the director does not have because he finds himself incapable of making an artistic choice.

    What makes the film interesting is the way in which Fellini ultimately transforms the film as a whole into a commentary on the nature of creativity, art, mid-life crisis, and the battle of the sexes. Throughout the film, the director dreams dreams, has fantasies, and recalls his childhood--and this internal life is presented on the screen with the same sense of reality as reality itself. The staging of the various shots is unique; one is seldom aware that the characters have slipped into a dream, fantasy, or memory until one is well into the scene, and as the film progresses the lines between external life and internal thought become increasingly blurred, with Fellini giving as much (if not more) importance to fantasy as to fact.

    The performances and the cinematography are key to the film's success. Even when the film becomes surrealistic, fantastic, the actors perform very realistically and the cinematography presents the scene in keeping with what we understand to be the reality of the characters lives and relationships. At the same time, however, the film has a remarkably poetic quality, a visual fluidity and beauty that transforms even the most ordinary events into something slightly tinged by a dream-like quality. Marcello Mastroianni offers a his greatest performance here, a delicate mixture of desperation and ennui, and he is exceptionally well supported by a cast that includes Claudia Cardinale, Anouk Aimee, and a host of other notables.

    I would encourage people not to be intimidated by the film's reputation, for its content can be quickly grasped. When critics state the film requires repeated viewing what they actually seem to mean is that the film holds up extremely well to repeated viewing; each time it is seen, one finds more and more to enjoy and to contemplate. Even so, I would be amiss if I did not point out that people who prefer a cinema of tidy plot lines and who dislike ambiguity or the necessity of interpreting content will probably dislike 8 ½ a great deal. For all others: strongly, strongly recommended.

    Gary F. Taylor, aka GFT, Amazon Reviewer
  • Asa_Nisi_Masa222 February 2006
    10/10
    This movie taught me a new "language"
    It's been said before: Marcello Mastroianni plays Guido Anselmi, a fictitious, 43-year-old film director with a personal crisis that stunts his creative flow and his inability to get on with his new film after the enormous success of his previous one. The character is iconically brought to life by the immortal Mastroianni with artificially greyed hair and is universally identified as an alter ego of Fellini himself.

    The first time I saw 8½ I was in my teens and hated it. I then rewatched it only a few years later, in my early 20s, and something miraculous happened. It was probably a pivotal moment in my film-viewing experience: it suddenly gave me new parametres by which to judge movies and even art in general. I suddenly learnt this new language, so much more beautiful and sophisticated than anything I had heard before. What was most amazing was that after the first negative experience, I had somehow tapped into this language's secret, and it wasn't in the least bit hermetic or difficult, though more complex and sophisticated than other languages I already knew. Many of the movies I'd considered greats became amateurish or dwarfish in comparison.

    To me, this was no longer simply a movie, but Art in a more universal sense of the word, Art that just IS and has nothing to strive for or prove. Which is why I find it so nonsensical and contradictory to call something like 8½ "pretentious" - to me, pretentious is when an insecure auteur is trying consciously and hard to be profound, difficult, original, ground-breaking, and you can see their intent clearly, and detect the effort behind the artifice. Nothing of any of this is anywhere to be perceived in 8½, which makes creating masterpieces look easy.

    I admit that 8½ is not an easy movie, nor one for everyone. Visually, fewer movies are as iconic, memorable, original, poetic, funny, inventive, allegorical, exhilarating.

    The scenes I love are too many to mention, but here are just a few: The steam bath scene when in an odd procession/ritual, the patients are being led into what must be a Turkish bath. All the steam surrounding them, the men wearing sheets that look like shrouds or togas, all looking like mock-ancient Roman dignitaries... Then, through a loud-speaker Mastroianni-Anselmi is told the dried-up, turkey-like Cardinal, will now condescend to meeting him. Before Guido rushes off to meet the Cardinal, all his friends and colleagues beg him to put in a good word for them. This is such a gleeful stab at Italy's grovelling, nepotistic culture of ingratiating oneself to the powers-that-be by paying them lip-service even for the most petty personal advantages. Then Guido stands before the embodiment of Catholic paternalism and his obsequious minions. And everything is at its most pompous and lifeless - this dusty, mummified institution is less in touch with the humanity it's supposed to comfort and advise than it is possible to believe.

    I also love the character of Guido's mistress, Carla, played by Sandra Milo at her gaudiest and most voluptuous. Though initially it's difficult to understand what Guido would have seen in her, eventually it become more apparent. Meeting his wife Luisa, you see how well the two women's ways of being complement one another. See for example how she reacts in a simple, good-humoured, self-deprecating way when in the café scene, Guido's elegant, neurotic wife played by Anouk Aimée at her most androgynously attractive - mockingly compliments Carla's tacky outfit for its "elegance". In such instances one gets a sense that though Fellini is parodying his subjects, he also has a fundamental love and human compassion for them.

    The prostitute La Saraghina is probably one of the most memorable female characters put to film ever. She is probably somewhere in her 50s and rougher than sandpaper, overweight yet strangely fit and voluptuous, with lots of scary, wild dark hair, overdone raccoon eye make-up caked onto her aggressive, striking, sardonic face as she sits and dances on the lonely beach in Rimini next to her war bunker-home. Guido is fascinated by what is "young and yet ancient", eternal, meaning what is muse-like, archetypically, like the divinely beautiful Claudia character, perfectly embodied by Claudia Cardinale (the ultimate director's muse rather than a real woman or mistress). La Saraghina may not be a young woman like Claudia, she may not represent spontaneity and fresh, uncluttered artistic inspiration like she does, but she is also a muse of sorts - the muse of guilt-free pleasure and non-self-conscious, free, unidealised, earthy femininity. All this is La Saraghina - the town's young boys respond to this in her (including Guido as a child) and are bewitched by her and pay to her to see her demonic yet liberating, visceral dance.

    I have so much more to say about this movie, for instance about Nino Rota's memorable score, or how the movie's non-linear structure and juxtaposition of seemingly unrelated scenes emulates the rhythm and mood of dreams to perfection. Also, the scenes featuring Guido's parents and their embodiment of the emotional blackmail, that eternal sense of guilt and the stunting of individuality that the paternalistic institution of family at its most traditional represents in Italy. Or of Guido's touching childhood memories, of the wonderful way in which the movie ends, in a merry-go-round of what really matters in life, when all else has been swiped aside and all that remains is the desire to cherish (with all their imperfections) all those who have really mattered most in our lives...
  • Alexandar30 December 2004
    10/10
    8½: An Inner-Space Odyssey
    Warning: Spoilers
    (excuse me for my bad English)

    Thoughts on Fellini's carrier can be divided on people who think his peak was early neorealist phase (Vitelloni, La Strada, Nights of Cabiria) (do you remember the guy in the line from Woody Allen's Annie Hall?) and on the ones that praised his fantasy phase starting with La Dolce Vita and followed by 8 1/2, Roma etc.

    They are both wrong. Both periods and its films are very important, cinematically rich and skillful in directing. The fact that there are many followers of both periods and equal artistic success shows that the only real difference is among their aesthetics. And isn't that what makes a great director?

    This film is considered one of the best movies of all time among critics and directors. Many people have complaints of how this movie is difficult to understand. It is. When I first saw it, it was a rather very frustrating experience. But once you capture it fully its amazing. In fact, I fully captured it after the third viewing (and after that, every time I see it I can find something new or different). That's because this movie works differently. It works out of standard movie patterns and conventions we use to see in everyday cinema. Above, and most important of all, it speaks with the different movie language. And that is a real cinematic language, because 8 1/2 uses specific movie instruments to transmit it's content. It cannot be transferred in any other form, including literal. That's why it is so hard to put the plot into the words and that's the major merit of this film.

    After the tremendous commercial and artistic success in 1960. with his previous film La Dolce Vita, Fellini decided to make a film (8 1/2) about the movie director (played by Marcello Mastroianni as Guido) fresh from recent success who is not sure what to film next! And this egocentric director, under the pressure of his producer, actors, friends, fans and journalists, is escaping into the memories of his childhood, wishful fantasies and dreams.

    At the beginning of the film, there's a stunning famous dream sequence. Guido is trapped in a traffic jam. He loses his breath while unsuccessfully trying to escape from his car. People around (in their vehicles) are starring at him. The whole scene is mute (except the constant monotonous sound) and, from time to time, it freezes. Suddenly, he is free, and flying towards sky. Then, one of his assistants pulls him down to earth. And, he is awake. I think it's unnecessary to explain the meaning of this brilliant scene.

    There is also a scene where he is persuaded to ask a catholic priest for an advice about the content of his next film (since his films are widely released there is a moral issue). But he apparently has an aversion towards Church. And then, during a conversation with this priest, Guido suddenly associates his early childhood event (watching a dance of a prostitute Saraghina, and the subsequent punishment by one priest). So, the current event forces its cause to come out of his subconsciousness.

    Then, there is a scene – quarrel between Guido and his wife (played by Anuk Aimee) while sitting outdoors. She is complaining about his mistress(es) and he is denying everything. Then, his mistress (Sandra Milo) suddenly arrives and, after she saw Guido with his wife, sits to one table not so close. Guido's wife noticed that and realized that woman is his mistress. So, she is continuing her quarrel with him. And then comes one of the most visceral and fascinating scenes in the Movie History. Suddenly, wishful fantasy starts… Guido's wife stands up, coming towards mistress. They are kissing each other like longtime friends and making a nice conversation. Then, Guido enters his house from the childhood (which is shown before) with some presents in his hands. And, there are like 20 women around him fighting for his attention. He is whipping them (dominate them). And there is his wife – peaceful, calm, conservative, loving… So, under the pressure of all-around-him messes he is fantasying. This is psychologically known as the regression to the pleasure principle and is very common. This scene is known as "The Harem Scene" and like others is followed by brilliant, very suitable music score.

    From time to time, Guido is fantasying a beautiful young woman (Claudia Cardinale). She is another projection of his narcissism – an ideal woman to please all of his wishes not making a single complaint.

    Rosella represents (symbolizes) his super-ego. Pay attention to their phone conversation. Also in Harem scene (harem is actually his Id, fulfilling all his infantile fantasies) she is ABOVE him making complaints.

    His producer is "paternal figure". All his father's wishes, demands to Guido are now "reactivated" with producer. Pay attention to very interesting first "fantasy" scene in the movie (on the grave). Father asks a man something like:" How is my boy doing"? and the man makes face like: "Well...". Later we discover that the man is his producer.

    Guido's wife and his mother, the same thing. And we discover this in the same scene when his mother turns into his wife.

    Critical writer may represent his raw intellect but also artistic vanity while Conocchia is his neglected emotional aspect.

    At the end of the movie, he eventually becomes aware of the causes of his confusion and self-deceptions (this sudden awareness is symbolized by "shooting himself", shooting his confusion that is) and having a final monologue: "...Accept me as I am. Only then can we discover each other..."
  • Howard Schumann26 April 2004
    10/10
    Exhilarating and inspired
    Fellini's 8 1/2 opens with a stunning dream sequence in which a man is trapped in his car in the middle of a traffic jam. The doors and windows are locked and there is no escape. Other drivers simply sit and stare at him passively. The driver starts to panic as smoke begins to build up within the car. Propelling himself outside a window, he floats over the other cars and soars above the world until he is pulled down a rope attached to a tether on his ankle. The driver is Guido Anselmi (Marcello Mastroianni), a film director at odds with himself. Shot in black and white, 8 1/2 is an exhilarating, confusing, irritating, and inspired journey into a man's consciousness. It is not just a look at the inner turmoil of one person, but also a commentary on each person's struggle to make sense of their life. The film's combination of kaleidoscopic images, evocative score by Nino Rota, and amazing performances ensure its place as one of the greatest films of the century.

    Guido is preparing to shoot a new film with an expensive budget. He constructs a huge spaceship launch pad that costs $80 million but he is unsure of what he wants to say. Guido's dishonesty in dealing with his marriage, his career, and the fact that he really does not want to make the film forces him to falsely mislead people as to his true intentions. He feels like a failure and is physically spent. He checks into a spa to restore his health and well being but the contingent of producers, actors, writers, and hangers on undermine his strength. His feeling of being overwhelmed by personal and professional obligations provides the catalyst for dreams and fantasies that take him back to his childhood.

    Fellini shows his encounter with the prostitute Saraghina (Eddra Gale) and the guilt he has to deal with in a confrontation with the Catholic Church. Guido invites his intellectual wife Luisa (Anouk Aimée) to the set but their relationship has turned cold and passionless, and sparks fly when she has to confront Carla (Sandra Milo), his buxom mistress. Guido is misguided but he has an innocence and charm that allows us to overlook his indulgences. He enjoys his pleasures but has a conscience and feels guilty about cheating on Luisa whom he loves and is afraid of losing. He fantasizes that all of the women in his life are together in a harem where they all dote on his every whim. When they finally recognize how little he cares about them, he is forced to suppress their revolt.

    As image piles on image and the fantasy becomes indistinguishable from the reality, the viewer may get lost in a maze of dazzling incoherence. Fellini, however, always returns to solid ground and the film offers not only a satire on the frenzy, the uncertainty, and the clash of egos involved with making a film but also a serious commentary on the importance of honesty in a relationship. If 8 1/2 is occasionally exhausting, the ending is invigorating, letting us know that life is a game in which each of us is on the stage performing our roles and the only sane response to its turmoil is to join hands in love and celebrate the moment.
  • kyle_c20 July 2002
    9/10
    Fascinating
    I certainly wouldn't be saying anything new if I said that "8 1/2" is one of the most unique, fascinating, and personal pieces ever committed to film. It has consistently hailed as such, and its influence on film is far reaching and undeniable. It is certainly not one of the most entertaining movies of all time, and is actually quite long and difficult. But it is an incredible piece of filmmaking, and a gripping look at the difficulties of creating not just a movie, but art in general.

    Guido (Marcello Mastroianni) is a popular movie director who is working on his new film. Along the way, he struggles with his screenwriter, producer, wife, and mistress. Each presents a different problem and obstacle. More and more difficulties arise, not just in his attempts to complete the movie, but in his own mind.

    Guido, although flawed, is completely fleshed out, and draws sympathy from the audience. Yes, he is an adulterer, but he loves his wife. We see all of his personal desires and agony. We see how he suffers when he struggles with his desire to create the ultimate piece of art, one that offers something to everybody.

    The movie is technically wonderful. The movement of the camera, the lighting, and the direction in general is top notch. The movie mixes in dreams with reality to create a dreamlike world, and put us closer into Guido's own mind.

    Somebody who is looking for a movie as a two hour piece of entertainment will not enjoy this. But if you enjoy a movie that truly satisfies when it is finished, this is for you. It is quite long, and somewhat loose, but that is part of the interest. Moviemakers, or artists in general, will find that this film has a great deal to offer.
  • kintopf43218 February 2004
    10/10
    Impossible to discuss here
    Swirling, kaleidoscopic rumination from Fellini. The other user comments here (as well as many professional reviews) show how difficult it is to discuss this film briefly, so I don't think I'm going to try. I would only say that, like other films that push at the boundaries of cinematic greatness--`Citizen Kane,' `Nashville,' and `Brazil' are three others that come to mind--it isn't really possible to place `8 ½' in any simple category. It is a comedy and a tragedy, a satire and a celebration, a movie about love and about the lack of it, a movie about making art and a movie about living, an autobiography and the most challenging kind of fiction, a masterpiece of style and a movie that's really about something. It's not for everyone, but it should be, and it's quite possibly the single greatest movie I have ever seen. 11 out of 10.
  • Galina9 November 2005
    10/10
    Perhaps, one of the greatest films ever made
    First time I saw 8 1/2 over twenty years ago; I did not like it then and I did not care much for a confused director who did not know how to make his next movie or how to deal with all women in his life. This time it was different. I knew it from the opening scene, from the first sounds of Nino Rota's music. I wanted to know how Guido would balance the demands of his producers and the insecurities of his love life. I sometimes barely could tell the difference between the reality and Guido's surfing the waves of his memory or building the Utopias in his mind where things were exactly the way he wanted them to be – and I really did not want to tell the difference. I just was there, following Guido on his journey where Fellini sent us. Then, that scene came, "La Saraghina's" lurid dance on the beach. There was something in that scene that made me return to it over and over again. What was it? The dancing woman was not young, pretty or graceful. On the contrary, she was fat and ugly but there was something about her – that smile, resilience, the promise of joy that attracted eager schoolboys. It was a last time the young Guido felt happy without guilt and shame that inevitably came after the encounter and stayed with him forever; he learned that joy and punishment are inseparable…

    There have been fewer than a handful of films that affected me as profoundly as 8 ½ did:

    Tarkovsky's "Zerkalo" – when the master holds the mirror in front of you that reflects his soul and mind, open you eyes and heart, don't say a word, just watch closely.

    Tarkovsky's "Andrey Rublev" – What is talent? Is it a God's gift or Devil's curse? Is an Artist free in choosing what to do with that gift?

    Bergman's "Persona" – How far can one individual go in opening his soul to the other without losing identity and sanity?

    Fellini's –"Nights of Cabiria" – "Dum Spiro – Spero" - While there's life there's hope.

    In 8 ½, Fellini explored all these subjects and in the final he took the idea of life and hope ever further: after all the characters in his film disappear from the screen, all what left behind is "a little orchestra of Hope with Love as its conductor". The last that we hear is the magic music of Rota, bringing affirmation, hope and love.

    Simply wonderful. Perhaps, one of five greatest films ever made.
  • lstrawser7 February 2006
    10/10
    The Highest Point in Cinematic Art
    Warning: Spoilers
    Our tale begins on a congested road. Our Protagonist's car fills with gas. He desperately tries to escape. The camera gives us a claustrophobic sense and within the first few minutes I am on the edge of my seat. Needless to say our protagonist survives but the outcome of this scene reveals so much. Fellini's 8 1/2 is a brilliantly executed tale of a mans life crashing down around him. It is a semi autobiographical tale, Guido is a director who is in a bit of a creative slump. He is giving both the press and executives the run around in order to buy time--hoping to find inspiration. His marriage is shaky and his relationship with his mistress is complicated. Guido tries to escape by going to a spa but his escape is not so easy... This film portrays inner conflict through dream sequences and fantasies as opposed to Expressionism. It is these sequences that enlighten the viewer and add dimension to the tale. To me 8 1/2 is the greatest film in ever, eclipsing Citizen Kane (of course AFI's top 100 list is limited to American movies...) and proving to be enjoyable and insightful.
  • PiranianRose26 February 2005
    10/10
    A fresh cinematic miracle
    8 1/2 remains one of the most original and spellbinding films I know of. One of the beauties of cinema is to merge the artist's memory and fantasy; Fellini certainly utilized this magic to present his story and characters that embody both humanity and mystery. This film is an autobiographical piece (of Fellini himself) about a movie director named Guido, how his life is consumed by his increasing obsession with work. He avoids questions and problems as if they will go away somehow, only to experience more questions and problems. Ultimately, Guido realizes the only way to solve his problems is to face them rather than escaping, accepting himself instead of wishing he was someone else.

    The opening sequence--one of the most deftly crafted--is taken from Guido's movie (or his dream - can't remember for sure). The sequence brilliantly captures Guido's problems (which are dealt with in the rest of the picture) and exposes them metaphorically: him STUCK in traffic, TRAPPED in smoke, SUFFOCATING, wanting to escape, and pulled back down by his peers. Guido wants to make a movie about his (and Fellini's) MEMORIES: how once upon a time he learned about a chant that moves pictures, and the time he danced with the fat feminine prostitute figure. The other main component of his movie involves launching into space, a FANTASY that reflects Guido's (and Fellini's) desire to escape from worldly matters. In real life, Guido is having problems with everything from his wife to his movie. So he thinks a beautiful actress, whom he fantasizes but knows little to nothing about, will be the solution to all his problems. When Guido meets the actress, he realizes she can't solve his problems, only he himself has the choice. This realization leads to the film's closure, with Guido having learned what's important to him and the inevitability of taking responsibility.

    One of the film's powerful features is ambiguously blending Guido's world with his imaginations. Thus the audience is constantly deciphering the context of what's on the screen. This invitation to participate in the film is welcome, and if we think about it, a person like Guido who lives in his office might not be able to tell at times whether an event happened in his life or inside his mind.
  • Lechuguilla6 February 2005
    A Five Martini Cinematic Experience
    Intellectuals have written volumes on this strange film by Italian New Wave director, Federico Fellini. I am not an intellectual, so my review will be brief. At its most basic, "8 1/2" (a.k.a. "Otto e mezzo") concerns Guido, a film director (supposedly a surrogate for Fellini himself), who is having what amounts to a midlife crisis. Guido is frustrated in his film-making, and by his relations with other people in his life. But the film's story does not proceed in a traditional, linear fashion. Fellini more or less abandons logical narration, in favor of "open form" narration, wherein the story's causal chain of events is broken.

    Thus, trying to figure out what is going on in this film can be hard. Guido's fantasies, memories, dreams, and reality co-mingle in a kind of cinematic stew. Fellini presents viewers with a kaleidoscope of surreal B&W images of ordinary objects and eccentric, chattering characters which interact with Guido and with each other, in ways that defy logic, and give breathtaking meaning to the term symbolism. Followers of psychologist Carl Jung would have a field day. In style, the film is flamboyant. In substance, the film is maddeningly subliminal. And yet, even the most metallic cynic, Pauline Kael notwithstanding, must surely appreciate the rareness of Fellini's probing introspection.

    Given the bizarre, unstructured content of "8 1/2", I wonder about the issue of necessity. Suppose Fellini had added an extra ten minutes to the screenplay, or deleted ten minutes. Would that have made any difference? Apart from Guido, if this or that character had been deleted, how would that have changed the story's significance? And if, as some have suggested, the film is a mirror image of Fellini's own confused psyche, can the story be construed as an intuition of his future film-making?

    "Otto e mezzo" is not for everyone. Like a Zen koan, "8 1/2" invites frustration. It is above all else a celebration of ambiguity and abstraction, a cinematic experience to ponder, especially on the heels of four or five martinis ... or 8 1/2, if you really want to induce immense intellectual insight. Cheers.
  • T Y11 March 2008
    6/10
    worthy
    Warning: Spoilers
    I've never been in love with this from when I first saw it twenty years ago. It's not observant about life like Amarcord, which works with the same motifs (a hotel, a harem, a cinema, a beach, a whore). It's abstract and amorphous, and functions as an accumulation of moments that speak mostly about being a callous, privileged film-maker & sex-hound who instantly converts life into his next movie. It's not to be viewed casually or consumed meaninglessly like movies today. It's conspicuously non-linear "art." But one doesn't generally look at a piece of art for two hours straight.

    There isn't a frame of this that isn't beautiful. Whether it's a near-Islamic view of Guido's childhood home, a fantasy traffic jam, or finding sublime beauty in something as trivial and provisional as scaffolding. After watching it again, there are definitely aspects I find to be unqualified successes (cinematography, production method) but I admire it, more than I actually enjoy it, or get into it. Liking it seems to be beside the point. You're supposed to declare Fellini a genius and be done with it. But it sits very outside myself. I doubt I'll ever watch it in one sitting again, since it's merits seem entirely about gorgeous and fleeting moments. I can imagine a use for it as Rorshach content for your screen that can be popped into a DVD player for viewing bits of pure detached sensation now and then. But because nearly every scene functions as a short essay about maximalization and lost momentum, I find it exhausting.
  • Nazi_Fighter_David8 August 2005
    8/10
    "8 ½," is regarded as one of Fellini's best...
    Warning: Spoilers
    Federico Fellini continued to create bizarre, highly personal films that were lavishly produced and immensely entertaining…

    "8 ½," so named because he had previously made six films and parts of three others, is regarded as one of Fellini's best…

    The description of 8 ½'s plot is a flagrant exaggeration, but no summary could precisely reflect the complexity of the film… Obviously autobiographical, the 1963 film stars Marcello Mastroianni as a major movie director unable to complete his new film due to creative confusion and personal crisis... It is a voyage into an explicitly autobiographical world... Among the most vivid scenes are an orgy in a wine vat, an interview with a cardinal in subterranean steam bath, and a sequence in which the director pictures himself as the master of a harem, cracking a whip over all the various women who have been important in his life…

    The film is like a carousel in a circus, bringing scenes, dialog, and characters in and out of focus… The best way to appreciate this dazzling epic is to see it more than once… On the first viewing, simply leave with your impressions about plot and people… There is enough richness to suffice, yet future screenings will simply add to the joy through understanding…
  • nycritic7 February 2006
    10/10
    A Film About the Making of a Film Whose Director Can't Create
    Warning: Spoilers
    There are films that the viewer can assimilate and enjoy in one viewing. There are others that demand a second view, just to catch the missing clues or to re-live the story for the first time. Still, there are others, much better, who despite the plot revelations, despite knowing what will happen, produce the feeling of giddy anticipation taken to soaring heights.

    And then there are films by Directors -- monsters of film-making who even at their worst create compelling works of art that are the stuff of film theory. To see Federico Fellini's film 8 1/2 is to see such a creation. It is the gates of a Dalinian fun house where the past and the present and even the future converge into one intricate, tangled mess of a story -- but one that is beyond analysis, beyond interpretation, and exists in its own universe.

    8 1/2 is the story of a film director, Guido Anselmi (Marcello Mastroianni doubling for Fellini), who is unable to continue with the production of a science-fiction movie due to his lack of interest in it. A tightening noose of people who demand of him is beginning to take shape and suffocate him. There is his mistress Carla (Sandra Milo) who throws her earthy neediness on him. A barrage of producers, film critics, and his insecure French actress (Madeleine LeBeau) increase the pressure. His wife Luisa (a severe Anouk Aimee) is estranged from him. Gloria Morin (Barbara Steele) is Gothic-chic incarnate and only succeeds to annoy to hell out of her surroundings. The appearance of two nebulous women: the muse Claudia (Claudia Cardinale, luminous and ethereal) and the mysterious actress (Caterina Boratto) spark some mystery, but neither manage to do more than that -- throw a net of feminine mystique.

    Guido tries to throw himself into his own memories and see if he can come up with something: his sexual awakening as a boy to the songs and the overpowering carnality of La Saraghina (opera singer Eddra Gale), a Rabelasian woman who lived by the sea, the sanction of the priests, and a fantasy in which he lives in a household of all of the women in his life who are at his feet ready to serve him with abandon. Despite all this it becomes clear that the film in itself will not be made -- more so when his muse appears in the flesh and tells him he "does not know how to love." Her statement becomes evident when he is given the chance to reconcile with Luisa but remains the Director -- a control freak -- even when he himself has lost all control.

    8 1/2 is one of those films that can be seen in multiple ways. An extended conscious dream fusing itself with reality, Fellini plunges everything he can into a sensory overload where one event which happens in reality becomes framed with another which is a part of a memory or a fantasy. Many characters from his own reality are mirrored in other minor ones. Carla and la Saraghina both reflect themselves in the flesh-and-blood Claudia who tells Guido he does not know how to love, Luisa sees herself in an actress on-stage and recoils but she also shares a lot with Rossella (Rossella Falk), Guido's conscience, Claudia the muse and the Mysterious Lady are two and one, and on and on. They themselves are harbingers of a vicious relationship cycle where Guido finds himself at Stage One and unable to act or give in. This is a film that is not easy to review because it would require an in-depth analysis which would take pages upon pages to write, but in short, it's the slow evolution of a film creating itself when its own director/creator is on autopilot and a whirlwind of activity follows him like a swarm of bees. A masterpiece of film-making, a study of obsessions and unexpurgated demons, a collage of memories past and present, and a wicked roller-coaster ride: this is what 8 1/2 stands for and is, alongside CITIZEN KANE, a flawless black and white film and the womb for all other "Proustian" films which have come out, most notable being Woody Allen's STARDUST MEMORIES. From its standout opening sequence in which suffocating traffic is the catalyst for Guido's escape into the skies (only to be pulled back down by himself), to the glorious moment when Jacqueline the showgirl and Saraghina initiate a revolt against his misogynistic behavior to the moving final sequence where Guido as a boy orchestrates the descent of every person in his adult life and reveals them dancing, together, in harmony, in a conga-line, 8 1/2 is an unforgettable experience of iconoclastic cinema.
  • gbrumburgh19 April 2001
    2/10
    Artsy-schmartsy, pseudo-intellectual Fellini is one big yawn.
    Fellini's abstract, artful, surrealistic masterpieces certainly deserve their place in cinematic history, but "8 1/2" should not be among them. I know it's not posh to put down Italy's genius (I seldom see any critics having the balls to do so), but I cannot applaud a respected artist's piece of work simply on name value when, for me, it is meritless as entertainment, does little to stimulate the mind other than to numb it, or further the appreciation of film making. Mind-altering drugs should not be an option for getting through a difficult movie. As a result, all "8 1/2" did for me was induce drowsiness. Overlong, laborious, ostentatious, and utterly self-indulgent, this is the kind of movie to see if you are a chronic insomniac. Folks, put away those expensive and dangerous tablets and pills...try "8 1/2"..for a nice, safe and restful sleep.

    Supposedly, this is one of Fellini's most intensely personal projects. Big deal. Marcello Mastroianni portrays an obsessed Fellini-like filmmaker in the midst of undertaking a new project, enslaved by weird, warped, surreal visions and concepts that serve as motivators. A number of foreign beauties (Claudia Cardinale, Anouk Aimee) are entrapped in subplots that go virtually nowhere. I remember "Fellini Satyricon" as being an equally difficult, visually-arresting piece, but at least the director had the sense to make it forbiddenly erotic with its bizarre assortment of characters prancing about in panoramic perversity.

    Self-analytical, psychological mumbo-jumbo goes just so far. You remember those inane "Saturday Night Live" skits with Gilda Radner that spoofed these heady, overblown Italian movies? They were pointing their finger at this baby, not "La Dolce Vita," a far better film.

    If ambiguous, esoteric, highly pretentious art is your thing...go for it. If not, but you feel you'd like to fit in and hold your own in a Fellini(esque) conversation, may I suggest his more plot-friendly "masterpieces" -- "Nights of Cabiria," "La Strada" or even the slim but delightful "Ginger and Fred," all showcasing the extraordinary talents of Fellini's legendary wife Giulietta Masina.

    Come to think of it, perhaps SHE is what this film is missing!
  • bmmello7 March 2003
    10/10
    Masterpiece
    Federico Fellini's 8 1/2 is revolutionary.

    Marcello Mastroianni brilliantly plays the troubled film director Guido which gets mixed up in his own dreams and memories as he tries to find ideas for his next film, while getting constantly annoyed with his producers, crew, friends and his wife. This is told with stunning visuals and great narrative.

    8 1/2 can be seen as Fellini's own autobiographical story and is definitely one of the best films I have ever seen.

    My rating: 10/10
  • Doug Layne9 November 2011
    1/10
    A great film to say you loved
    I highly recommend this film to anyone who wants to say they've seen it. It's worth every excruciatingly boring minute of sitting through, so that you can pat yourself on the back while telling your pseudo-intellectual friends how brilliant it was. It's jam-packed with narcissism, misogyny, and masturbatory self-indulgence. Oh, and it's in Black and White! With subtitles! How cool and artsy is that?

    So go ahead and bite the bullet. It's totally worth the hollow satisfaction you'll get from proclaiming its brilliance, which will, in turn, make you seem like you're one of the intellectual elite, who decide what is brilliant for the masses.
  • faustian_jargon29 January 2005
    1/10
    The paint just never seems to dry
    A friend of mine considers himself quite the art-house buff and as such has taken it upon himself to convince me to watch all the a u t h o r i (s) ed masters like Fellinni. He even prep'd me for it by saying "It's like a beautiful painting, you just let it in" which I thought was totally valid and cool. Until I saw the film. What is it about film-makers that makes them so stupid. Is it the fact that their livelihood relies so directly upon winning approval and like the fashion industry the best way to do that is to appeal to people's basest most ignorant tendencies? Are they trying to make us feel comfortable like the awful abstract art that is kinda cool because is doesn't aim too high, cos "I could do that". It takes real courage and discipline to be honest, to be vulnerable and to be willing to let people into that and be open to the risks that involves. This film is shallow, hollow and amateur. It's no wonder that most film-makers start off with horror. They don't generally start with philosophical reasoning and idealism. I told my friend if this was a book no-one would bother with it, if it was music we'd laugh at it, but he told me it's film and you can't, but I beg to differ. We are far too lenient with film, we let it get away with anything.

    The most banal pathetic tripe is elevated to the level of art and the utter garbage of Hollywood is seen as serious and legitimate. This film is no different. It is safe, self-indulgent and two- dimensional. Even as a satire it doesn't work. Satire is difficult and requires intelligence and insight, hence the few truly respected comedians. In summary: obvious and amateur, packed with awful try-hard symbolism and silly jokes, terrible over-acting, I feel insulted and demeaned for having to put up with this poor excuse for a film, it did nothing for me. If you want satire get "Bob Roberts".
  • xxrotini8 January 2004
    10/10
    One of the greatest cinematic achievements
    Deeply personal and engaging, Fellini's story has an authenticity

    to it that is very unique. As we marvel at the method actors and old

    American films of the 50's & 60's, it is in the foreign films during

    this era where the most impressive and innovative work was

    being created (8 1/2 tops that list). I find films with stage-like acting, blatant morality, and little bits of

    exciting action (like the American cinema of the 50's and 60's) to

    be uncompelling. Personal stories are compelling. Personal

    stories that are well done and make the viewer feel what the

    filmmaker feels are even better. And 8 1/2 has two personal stories. One story is the dilemma the

    lead faces: should he make another flashy, "hollywood" type

    movie, or should he stay true to himself. The other personal story

    is from the director himself. He's claustrophobic, caught in a

    horrid web of making films that aren't true to what he FEELS is

    right. He must conform to producers' wishes; he must appease

    important people in the industry; he must make things flashy; he

    must give away what he KNOWS is truth to survive in this industry.

    It is in Fellini's 8 1/2 where he and the main character of the film

    say, "Stop!" This personal story resonated with me. It subtly (and I can not

    stress any more the subtle quality of this film) spoke to me,

    instructing me to not follow what THEY expect. Do what you feel

    you must do. Do what you feel that will fulfill your soul--not your

    pocketbook, your sexual desires, or other pleasures. You can read my writing and that's fine, but you must see the film

    because I am not doing Fellini's film any justice. It is in viewing

    the film (and the long period after seeing it) that you will feel the

    power of this film. As I am writing this review about 5 months after

    seeing it, it has taken some time to settle in my head. Finally after

    5 months, the revelations of the film have settled, and I can now

    finally fully appreciate what Fellini has done.
  • rooprect20 October 2005
    2/10
    A film whose sole purpose is to justify its own existence
    "I have nothing to say," the hero says at least 4 times in the course of this film. Nothing is more true of Fellini's masterpiece. But beginning with this notion, the director takes us on a 2.5 hour epic to justify why he must say it nonetheless. That itself is rather clever and original, but--aside from the autobiographical elements which some may find tedious--it comes across as simply a glorified self-validation.

    In this respect I equate Fellini to Salvador Dali (who is ironically my favourite painter). Neither artist had anything definitive to say, yet they did it in the most artistic way possible. Stylistically it's well crafted; images are stirring, masterful and expressive. But there is no backbone, no profound underlying message to tell the viewer except "I have nothing to say." Toward the second half of the film, this is voiced in a poignant monologue by one of the characters in the film (the film critic), and the hero's response is one of inarticulate exasperation. And so we see that, if anything, the point of this movie is to express Fellini's own purposelessness and ennui. This was the original "slacker film".

    This was my first Fellini film, and I'm afraid it was a disappointment. My second Fellini film was ROMA which was an utter disaster (even Fellini fans should avoid that one like the plague). I've been told that the ideal way to indoctrinate oneself to Fellini is to start with LA STRADA, then NIGHTS OF CABIRIA, then JULIET, followed by LA DOLCE VITA... and only if/after you've developed the taste for such things should you try 8 1/2.

    My advice to you newbies, should you decide to see this film anyway, is don't think too hard. Treat it as if you're watching an autobiography, complete with director's commentary reminding you why you're watching. This film is Seinfeld without the jokes... a show about nothing.
  • Deniz Ziya Toroslu2 February 2010
    1/10
    The purpose of art and the purpose of entertainment are missed
    Fellini is one of my all time favorite directors, my favorite Fellini film is La Strada, then And The Ship Sails On and Roma. Otto e Mezzo is not entertaining, yes this is obvious, I hadn't expected an entertainment movie, but besides being artistic, visually beautiful and stylish, The Ship Sails On is entertaining, Roma is the same, yes those films are also entertaining. A film does not have to be entertaining, artistic, stylish and has a strong ''cinema feeling'' at the same time, but at least it should has one of them. Otto e Mezzo has none of them. It is not artistic, because the story is extremely uninteresting except a two or three scenes like the scene which the fat woman dances for children on the beach or the director's dream about women and himself or the opening scene was interesting, impressive surrealism. It has not any other impressive or dramatic material. It seems that people don't use the term, cinema feeling, but as I know, there is such a term. Thus, Otto e Mezzo had not a (strong) cinema feeling. This is about a black and white life of a spiritually black and white man in a spiritually black and white world. Now, they have changed it, it is stylish, before the poster that you see now, there had been a black and white poster, the one which there is only the number 8 1/2 on. The film is like this poster. Direction was very tasteless. And The Ship Sails On has a taste, Roma has a taste, La Strada has a taste, but Otto e Mezzo had not. That's why I don't call Otto e Mezzo artistic. Because art (a work of art) gives you pleasure, it makes you impressed, it is beauty. This is the purpose of art, at least one of them. As I see, people interpret every single scene and find hundreds of meanings, sorry, but meanings do not make the work of art itself great or artistic. Thus, Otto e Mezzo is one of the hardest cinematic experiences of all time, so how can you call a torture-like film entertainment or art? The purpose of art, the purpose of entertainment are missed in Otto e Mezzo. At least Marcello Mastroianni's character might have been interesting, but Guido was a dull character. Honestly, after seeing Otto e Mezzo, I had taken a temporary dislike to cinema and I thought about it, how could I overcome this? Taking a break to watch movies or watching other movies to try to forget this experience? I chose the second. I watched a few films.
  • TBJCSKCNRRQTreviews5 October 2009
    10/10
    Wow
    This is the first Fellini piece I watch, and it most definitely will not be the last. A lot of people call this boring. Let me make two things clear right off the bat: This is *not* fast-paced, and it is also not for everyone. There are a lot of characters, and it is not easy to immediately distinguish between "reality" and fantasy in what we are presented with on the screen. Also, this is a piece of meta-fiction; Frederico, whilst suffering from writer's block, made a picture about a director attempting to, yes, put together a movie, while experiencing that very same condition. Not knowing much about the artist's personality and life, I can't tell how closely this depicts either, but given that there is at least a resemblance, this is, in effect, a film that the man behind it put some of himself directly into, and its subject is, indeed, that very same thing. The cinematography and editing are excellent. Every acting performance is spot-on. The surrealism is impeccable, and marvelously implemented. This has undoubtedly inspired countless people who work in the medium. I understand that this gets better(some say increasingly) with successive viewings, and that anyone should at the very least give it a second one. For now, I take their word for that. I certainly intend to delve further into this. The DVD comes with a trailer and a feature entitled L'ultimate sequenza, or The Lost Ending, which I will review on its individual page. I recommend this to those who find themselves interested by reading either this review, or any other information they learn about it. Just don't take that as a promise that you will enjoy it. 10/10
  • buster-crashtestdummy4 November 2005
    "I really have nothing to say, but I want to say it anyway".
    Fellini's films is one of the main reasons I came to love movies in the first place. I first saw 8 1/2 several years ago. I remember it quite clearly: I went to see it with a small group of fellow students at a friend's house. It was at the beginning of a now already long-since destroyed relationship. It was a cold day in early January. As the film started, a girl who was there, who happened to be a make-up artist and hairdresser by profession, remarked on the odd juxtaposition in the opening scenes of hair-styles and dresses from different eras, the 30's and the 60's. Surely, this was a strange anachrony?

    My friend calmly remarked: "Time doesn't exist."

    Heck, I won't pretend to know just what he meant by that, perhaps it wasn't as profound as it sounded. In any case, after that, no one spoke. For the next couple of hours, I certainly lost track of place and time, as I was hypnotized, mesmerized and amazed by the images on the screen. Since then, I've always kept a copy of it within reach (even though I am one of those people who can usually never hang on to my possessions for any length of time), and it has lost none of its power to continually amaze me. I've seen it more times than I can count, and yet, it must always be seen again. It's a movie about which everything seems to have been said, and yet, everything still remains to be said. Thanks to the wonders of DVDs and MPEG encoding, I can keep it one mouse-click away whenever I'm working on my computer. I must admit that by now, its already from the outset discontinuous and jumbled content has been spread all over the place for me. Unlike Woody Allen, I'm not anal. I've never had a compulsion to have to watch movies straight from beginning to end, without interruptions. Of course, that's how I watched 8 1/2 the first few times, but now it seems that I'm always chopping it up, skipping at will between my favorite sections, always moving around it and rearranging it in new and unexpected ways. I hope Fellini, in his Heaven, forgives me for it, because it seems to me that I'm in a way just continuing what he began. 8 1/2, even in its purest state, does of course blow the traditional temporal narrative, with a defined beginning, middle and end and a causal relationship between its parts, to complete smithereens, and in the jumbled landscape that is left behind, nothing can ever be as it was before, as what we are left with is a completely new world, of new possibilities and new kinds of beauty. It's a story of dream-logic, held together by different kinds of connections that transcend temporal sequence and causal relationships. It's a film that never begins, and still has always been there.

    It's a movie about the most glorious success that can only be brought around through complete failure. It's about how we can only find ourselves when we let go of ourselves - and discover that the only place we can fall is into ourselves, our true selves. It's the ultimate self-referential masterpiece, and the ultimate piece of self-reference, as it is, of course, about nothing except itself.

    It really is, in my opinion, the best movie in the world, and by now I can't even imagine a world without it. That's really all I want to say.
  • riteshshergill5 September 2014
    1/10
    Boring.. boring boring
    Warning: Spoilers
    I have no idea why people would believe that this movie should belong in IMDb's top 250 and it should be rated so high. Its a surreal take on Fellini's so called Director's block. The movie moves between scenes where the main character of the movie, the director - Guido fantasies about the women in his life and how things should be instead of how they are. It is an abstract movie and requires shear patience to get through the 2 hours playing time. I fail to understand why movies like this are elevated to cult status. Its just silly.

    Avoid it like the plague..

    Doesn't belong in IMDb top 250 but would definitely make it to IMDb's top 100 art movies.
  • Miguel E. Rodriguez15 June 2005
    7/10
    Random Thoughts on "8 1/2"
    This is one of those movies where, intellectually, I know it's a great film. Here's a film about a director with a creative block who retreats into his memories and imagination to escape the harried world of movie-making...directed by a director who had a creative block and decided to make a movie about it. It coils back on itself like the screenplay for "Adaptation." However, at an emotional level, my gut reaction on watching this film the first time was one of near-boredom. I thought it was a little pretentious and self-serving, but I loved some of the visuals. Especially the opening dream sequence in the smoke-filled car. And yet I was still not captivated by it. Perhaps this movie was not designed to wholly captivate someone, the way a movie like, say, "E.T." or "Harry Potter" is said to captivate the viewer. Perhaps this movie is like an entertaining research paper, discussing an esoteric subject in layman's terms so anybody can watch. Entertaining? Sort of. I had to watch it a few more times before completely understanding how self-reflexive the movie was, and how revealing it was about Fellini himself. For that it gets a seven. But it's not something to just pop in to pass the time. The movie demands attention, and without it, you're just looking at pretty pictures waiting for the closing credits.
  • lllinggg15 January 2004
    5/10
    Playful and Manipulative
    This heretical extravaganza by Italian master Federico Fellini is cinematically inferior to La Dolce Vita -and arguably even Amacord- yet it remains Fellini's most authentic autobiographical testimony. Haunted by a creative block, director Guido Anselmi (Marcello Mastroianni), escapes to an Italian resort, where he is aggressively pursued by his film crew and his rogue conscience. As in all of Fellini's works, the acting is subordinate to his direction, and the script is used simply as a medium for articulating his unsurpassed visual sensibilities. The film's slow-paced tediousness and Fellini's self-indulgence (the whole film is about him) will undoubtedly irritate many viewers, as will his unashamed chauvinist womanizing. Fellini, however, welcomes our outrage, carefully manipulating our emotions to a degree that few other filmmakers are capable of reaching. Overall, the film is a must-see for the genuine film devotee, but one must be in the right mood to enjoy it. Five 1/2 stars out of ten (one star solely dedicated to Claudia Cardinale's ethereal presence).
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