This weekend I finally saw Federico Fellini's masterpiece, "8 1/2" - a viewing that was long overdue. Another one of his pieces, La Dolce Vita, is a movie I can watch almost anytime or just have in the background for atmosphere. I really liked it the first time I watched it, and appreciate it a little more after each additional viewing. I think this is how 8 1/2 will for me as well. The first time I was just taking it all in, but I can't wait to watch it many more times.
Previously, I'd seen pieces of the film and knew the main premise of the storyline so I knew enough to understand what was going on. Also, just last month we watched the 2009 movie Nine which was a remake of the broadway play of the same name, which were both based on 8 1/2. Even though I see why it was an award-winner, I definitely don't think it comes anywhere near 8 1/2 and the merits it gained came almost entirely from piggybacking on the brilliance of Fellini. (Plus, *sidenote* I don't really like musicals, so the painful forced songs in Nine took away from the storyline in my opinion.)
Basically 8 1/2 is a film about a film. Guido, a director, is trying to make his next big film, but can't come up with an idea as the deadline for shooting draws near so he ends up making a film about his life making films. Which is exactly what was happening in real life with the real director, Fellini...and in genius form, film-maker Fellini ended up making a film about a film-maker making a film about making a film.
...I'll give you a few minutes to grab some aspirin...
It's pretty amazing actually. And every scene is so well thought out in the sense of the viewer's perspective flowing in and out of the real director's view through the camera to the view of the actor's view who was just playing the part of the director. And the aesthetic sense of visuals in almost every single frame is fascinating. I really think it's a test of a black & white film, if color would actually take away from the film...and I completely believe it would in this movie.
From the bizarre opening dream sequence to many of Guido's flashbacks and fantasies, Fellini shows his mastery of the weird, modern, and sometimes strangely grotesque. Sometimes it's hard for me to grasp today the gravity of a piece of past work of art that had so much weight in its own time. This is true for music, paintings, movies, etc - because so many of the "masterpieces" are just that because they crossed new limits, or changed the current thought. And, naturally, experiencing a piece after it's own time puts me, the viewer, in a place where many other pieces followed this "masterpiece's" example, so I can't fully grasp the entire magnitude of the impression it held when it was first presented.
...This, however, wasn't the case for me and 8 1/2. I can still see and appreciate today the boundaries this film broke, and the modern ideas it presented in how we view art vs. life. And I can't wait to watch it again...
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