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(pronounced Otto e mezzo in Italian) is a film directed by Italian director Federico Fellini. Co-scripted by Fellini, Tullio Pinelli, Ennio Flaiano, and Brunello Rondi, it stars Marcello Mastroianni as Guido Anselmi, a famous Italian film director. Shot in black-and-white by cinematographer Gianni di Venanzo, the film features a soundtrack by Nino Rota with costume and set designs by Piero Gherardi.

The film's title refers to 8½ being Fellini's eighth and a half film as a director. His previous directorial work consisted of six features, two short segments, and a collaboration with another director, Alberto Lattuada, the latter three productions accounting for a "half" film each.

won two Academy Awards for Best Foreign Language Film and Best Costume Design (black-and-white). Acknowledged as a highly influential classic, it was ranked 3rd best film of all time in a 2002 poll of film directors conducted by the British Film Institute.

Plot

Guido Anselmi, a famous Italian film director, is suffering from "director's block". Stalled on his new science fiction film that includes veiled autobiographical references, he has lost interest amid artistic and marital difficulties. As Guido struggles half-heartedly to work on the film, a series of flashbacks and dreams delve into his memories and fantasies; they are frequently interwoven with reality.

Cast

  • Marcello Mastroianni as Guido Anselmi, a film director
  • Anouk Aimée as Luisa Anselmi, Guido's wife
  • Rossella Falk as Rossella, Luisa's best friend
  • Sandra Milo as Carla, Guido's mistress
  • Claudia Cardinale as Claudia, a mystic lady who has purity
  • Guido Alberti as Pace, a film producer
  • Mario Conocchia as Mario Conocchia, a production designer
  • Bruno Agostini as Bruno Agostini, a staff of film production
  • Cesarino Miceli Picardi as Cesarino
  • Jean Rougeul as Carini Daumier, a film critic
  • Mario Pisu as Mario Mezzabotta, Guido's friend
  • Barbara Steele as Gloria Morin, Mr. Mezzabotta's new young wife
  • Madeleine LeBeau as Madeleine, a French actress
  • Caterina Boratto as a mysterious lady in the hotel
  • Eddra Gale as La Saraghina, a prostitute


Production

When shooting began on 9 May 1962, Eugene Walter recalled Fellini taking "a little piece of brown paper tape" and sticking it near the viewfinder of the camera. Written on it was Ricordati che è un film comico ("Remember, this is a comedy"). was filmed in the spherical cinematographic process, using 35-millimeter film, and exhibited with an aspect ratio of 1.78:1.

As with most Italian films of this period, the sound was entirely dubbed in afterwards; following a technique dear to Fellini many lines of the dialogue were written only during post production, while the actors on the set mouthed random lines. This film marks the first time actress Claudia Cardinale was allowed to dub her own dialogue — previously her voice was thought to be too throaty and, coupled with her Tunisianmarker accent, was considered undesirable.

Reception

Italy and France

First released in Italy on February 14, 1963, Otto e mezzo received virtually unanimous acclaim with reviewers hailing Fellini as "a genius possessed of a magic touch, a prodigious style". Italian novelist and critic Alberto Moravia described the film's protagonist, Guido Anselmi, as "obsessed by eroticism, a sadist, a masochist, a self-mythologizer, an adulterer, a clown, a liar and a cheat. He's afraid of life and wants to return to his mother's womb... In some respects he resembles Leopold Bloom, the hero of James Joyce’s Ulysses, and we have the impression that Fellini has read and contemplated this book. The film is introverted, a sort of private monologue interspersed with glimpses of reality… Fellini’s dreams are always surprising and, in a figurative sense, original, but his memories are pervaded by a deeper, more delicate sentiment. This is why the two episodes concerning the hero’s childhood at the old country house in Romagnamarker and his meeting with the woman on the beach in Rimini are the best of the film, and among the best of all Fellini’s works to date".

Reviewing for Corriere della Sera, Giovanni Grazzini underlined that "the beauty of the film lies in its ‘confusion’… a mixture of error and truth, reality and dream, stylistic and human values, and in the complete harmony between Fellini’s cinematographic language and Guido’s rambling imagination. It is impossible to distinguish Fellini from his fictional director and so Fellini’s faults coincide with Guido’s spiritual doubts. The osmosis between art and life is amazing. It will be difficult to repeat this achievement… Fellini's genius shines in everything here, as it has rarely shone in the movies. There isn't a set, a character or a situation that doesn't have a precise meaning on the great stage that is ". Mario Verdone of Bianco e Nero insisted the film was "like a brilliant improvisation... The film became the most difficult feat the director ever tried to pull off. It is like a series of acrobats that a tight-rope walker tries to execute high above the crowd... always on the verge of falling and being smashed on the ground. But at just the right moment, the acrobat knows how to perform the right somersault: with a push he straightens up, saves himself and wins".

screened at the Cannes Film Festivalmarker in April 1963 to "almost universal acclaim" although no prize was awarded. Shown out of competition due to festival rules demanding exclusivity, the film was Italy's official entry in the later Moscow Film Festival. French film director François Truffaut wrote: "Fellini's film is complete, simple, beautiful, honest, like the one Guido wants to make in ". Premier Plan critics André Bouissy and Raymond Borde argued that the film "has the importance, magnitude, and technical mastery of Citizen Kane. It has aged twenty years of the avant-garde in one fell swoop because it both integrates and surpasses all the discoveries of experimental cinema". Pierre Kast of Les Cahiers du Cinéma explained that "my admiration for Fellini is not without limits. For instance, I did not enjoy La strada but I did I vitelloni. But I think we must all admit that , leaving aside for the moment all prejudice and reserve, is prodigious. Fantastic liberality, a total absence of precaution and hypocrisy, absolute dispassionate sincerity, artistic and financial courage - these are the characteristics of this incredible undertaking".

United States

Released in America on June 25, 1963 by Joseph E. Levine who had bought the rights sight unseen, the film was screened at the Festival Theatre in New York in the presence of Fellini and Marcello Mastroianni. The acclaim was unanimous with the exception of reviews by Judith Crist, Pauline Kael, and John Simon. Crist "didn't think the film touched the heart or moved the spirit". Kael derided the film as a "structural disaster" while Simon considered it "a disheartening fiasco". Newsweek defended the film as "beyond doubt, a work of art of the first magnitude". Bosley Crowther praised it in the New York Times as "a piece of entertainment that will really make you sit up straight and think, a movie endowed with the challenge of a fascinating intellectual game... If Mr. Fellini has not produced another masterpiece - another all-powerful exposure of Italy's ironic sweet life - he has made a stimulating contemplation of what might be called, with equal irony, a sweet guy". Archer Winsten of The New York Post interpreted the film as "a kind of review and summary of Fellini's picture-making" but doubted that it would appeal as directly to the American public as La dolce vita had three years earlier: "This is a subtler, more imaginative, less sensational piece of work. There will be more people here who consider it confused and confusing. And when they do understand what it is about - the simultaneous creation of a work of art, a philosophy of living together in happiness, and the imposition of each upon the other, they will not be as pleased as if they had attended the exposition of an international scandal". Audiences, however, loved it to such an extent that a company attempted to obtain the rights to mass-produce Guido Anselmi's black director's hat.

Fellini biographer Hollis Alpert noted that in the months following its release, critical commentary on proliferated as the film "became an intellectual cud to chew on". Philosopher and social critic Dwight Macdonald, for example, insisted it was "the most brilliant, varied, and entertaining movie since Citizen Kane". In 1987, a group of thirty European intellectuals and filmmakers voted Otto e mezzo the most important European film ever made. It came number three on the 2002 Sight & Sound Director's Poll beaten only by Citizen Kane and The Godfather (Parts 1 and 2). is a fixture on the prestigious Sight & Sound critics' and directors' polls of the top ten films ever made. It ranks number three on the magazine's 2002 Directors' Top Ten Poll and number nine on the Critics' Top Ten Poll. It is ranked as the 4th Best Foreign Language film of all time by the Screen Directory.In 1993, reviewer Roger Ebert wrote that "despite the efforts of several other filmmakers to make their own versions of the same story, it remains the definitive film about director's block".

Themes

is about the struggles involved in the creative process, both technical and personal, and the problems artists face when expected to deliver something personal and profound with intense public scrutiny, on a constricted schedule, while simultaneously having to deal with their own personal relationships. It is, in a larger sense, about finding true personal happiness in a difficult, fragmented life. Like several Italian films of the period (most evident in the films of Fellini's contemporary, Michelangelo Antonioni), also is about the alienating effects of modernization.

is highly autobiographical: Fellini made the film because he himself was suffering from director's block; the character of Guido (played by Mastroianni, whom Fellini often used to mirror himself in his films) is a representation of himself and many of Guido's memories are based on Fellini's own. Because of this, is a recursive film: a film about the creation of itself as well as a metafilm.

The title is in keeping with Fellini's self-reflexive theme - the making of his eighth-and-a-half film. His previous six feature films included Lo sceicco bianco (1952), I vitelloni (1953), La strada in (1954), Il bidone (1955), Le notti di Cabiria (1957), and La dolce vita (1960). With Alberto Lattuada, he co-directed Luci del varietà (Variety Lights) in 1950. His two short segments included Un Agenzia Matrimoniale (A Marriage Agency) in the 1953 omnibus film L'amore in città (Love in the City) and Le Tentazioni del Dottor Antonio from the 1962 omnibus film Boccaccio '70. The working title for was La bella confusione (The Beautiful Confusion) proposed by co-screenwriter, Ennio Flaiano, but Fellini then "had the simpler idea (which proved entirely wrong) to call it Comedy".

Influence

Later in the year of the film's 1963 release, a group of young Italian writers founded Gruppo '63, a literary collective of the neoavanguardia composed of novelists, reviewers, critics, and poets inspired by and Umberto Eco's seminal essay, Opera aperta (Open Work).

"Imitations of pile up by directors all over the world", wrote Fellini biographer Tullio Kezich. The following is Kezich's short-list of the films it has inspired: Mickey One (Arthur Penn, 1965), Alex in Wonderland (Paul Mazursky, 1970), Beware of a Holy Whore (Rainer Werner Fassbinder, 1971), Day for Night (François Truffaut, 1973), All That Jazz (Bob Fosse, 1979), Stardust Memories (Woody Allen, 1980), Sogni d'oro (Nanni Moretti, 1981), Parad Planet (Vadim Abdrashitov, 1984), La Pelicula del rey (Carlos Sorin, 1986), Living in Oblivion (Tom DiCillo, 1995) , 8 1/2 Women (Peter Greenaway, 1999), along with the successful Broadwaymarker musical, Nine ( Maury Yeston and Mario Fratti, 1982; revived 2003; film 2009 directed by Rob Marshall). Other films include Takeshis' (Takeshi Kitano, 2005) and the black-and-white pieces of I'm Not There (Todd Haynes).

Awards

won two Academy Awards for Best Foreign Language Film and Best Costume Design (black-and-white) while garnering three other nominations for Best Director, Best Original Screenplay, and Best Art Direction (black-and-white). The New York Film Critics Circle also named best foreign language film. The Italian National Syndicate of Film Journalists awarded the movie all seven prizes for director, producer, original story, screenplay, music, cinematography, and best supporting actress (Sandra Milo).

At the Saint Vincent Film Festival, it was awarded Grand Prize over Luchino Visconti's Il gattopardo (The Leopard). The film screened in April at the 1963 Cannes Film Festival to "almost universal acclaim but no prize was awarded because it was shown outside the competition. Cannes rules demanded exclusivity in competition entries, and was already earmarked as Italy's official entry in the later Moscowmarker festival". Presented on July 18, 1963 to an audience of 8,000 in the Kremlin's conference hall, won the prestigious Grand Prize at the Moscow Film Festival to acclaim that, according to Fellini biographer Tullio Kezich, worried the Soviet festival authorities: the applause was "a cry for freedom". Jury members included Stanley Kramer, Jean Marais, Satyajit Ray, and screenwriter Sergio Amidei.

References

Notes

  1. BBC - Films - review - Fellini 8½
  2. Film scholar Charles Affron writes that "the status of as a 'classic' text can be recognized in the homage of its imitations and versions." Cf. Affron, 5. Fellini scholar Peter Bondanella concurs: "As might be expected from the work's important place in the history of the cinema, the criticism on is voluminous." Cf. Bondanella, The Cinema of Federico Fellini, 163
  3. Eugene Walter, "Dinner with Fellini", The Transatlantic Review, Autumn 1964. Quoted in Affron, 267
  4. , Criterion Collection DVD, featured commentary track.
  5. Kezich, 245
  6. Moravia’s review first published in L’Espresso (Rome) on 17 February 1963. Quoted in Fava and Vigano, 115-116
  7. Grazzini’s review first published in Corriere della Sera (Milan) on 16 February 1963. Quoted in Fava and Vigano, 116
  8. This translation of Grazzini's review quoted in Affron, 255
  9. Affron, 255
  10. Alpert, 180
  11. Truffaut's review first published in Lui (Paris), 1 July 1963. Affron, 257
  12. First published in Premier Plan (Paris), 30 November 1963. Affron, 257
  13. First published in Les Cahiers du Cinéma (Paris), July 1963. Fava and Vigano, 116
  14. Kezich, 247
  15. John Simon considered the film's originality was compromised "because the 'dance of life' at the end was suggested by Bergman's dance of death in The Seventh Seal (which Fellini had not seen)". Quoted in Alpert, 181
  16. First published in the NYT, 26 June 1963. Fava and Vigano, 118
  17. First published in The New York Post, 26 June 1963. Fava and Vigano, 118.
  18. Alpert, 181
  19. Bondanella, The Films of Federico Fellini, 93.
  20. Ebert, "Fellini's ", Chicago Sun-Times (7 May 1993). Retrieved on 2008-12-21.
  21. Bondanella, The Cinema of Federico Fellini, 175
  22. Quoted in Kezich, 234
  23. Kezich, 246
  24. Kezich, 249
  25. Kezich, 249-250
  26. Alpert, 180.
  27. Kezich, 248


Bibliography

  • Affron, Charles. 8½: Federico Fellini, Director. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 1989.
  • Alpert, Hollis. Fellini: A Life. New York: Paragon House, 1988.
  • Bondanella, Peter. The Cinema of Federico Fellini. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1992.
  • Bondanella, Peter. The Films of Federico Fellini. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002.
  • Fava, Claudio and Aldo Vigano. The Films of Federico Fellini. New York: Citadel Press, 1990.
  • Kezich, Tullio. Federico Fellini: His Life and Work. New York: Faber and Faber, 2006.


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