Skip to main content

Movie Critic Review: 8½ (1963)

How To Concieve The Make believe         

"All the confusion of my life... has been a reflection of myself! Myself as I am, not as I'd like to be." Guido

"Memories show so little respect" Guido at the Cardinal's

Dreams, childhood memories and fantasy complicated by abundance of visual unfamiliarities. These are the constitutuents of what is deemed one of Federico Fellini's most influential cinematic achievements, the art movie (8½) Eight And A Half which ranks among the best films made in a hundred years of cinema. Some of the most acclaimed films in cinema history are Fellini's.
Also a brilliant script-writer, Fellini has influenced many of the world class filmmakers and is one of the 50 most important movie directors.
Employing the technique of 'Stream of Consciousness' imported from literary narration, Fellini weaves events with their emotional equivalents and designs his imagery to reflect the real and the surreal with equal splendor. He counts heavily on sensual bodily language and the extravagance of dress, costumes and makeup.
Claudia Cardinale
Fellini studied his own dreams. He even wrote a book of illustrations of dreams and researched into the work of psychologist Carl Jung. It is Fellini not his protagonist Guido who suffered from the 'Writer's Block' syndrome but, ironically, he made a beautiful movie out of it and created (when he was supposed not to be able to) Guido his mirror image.
Some cinematographic works are hard to fully discern in terms of the various components and trends in them. The viewer may give up objective analyzing and submit to the beauty of the images created by the film-maker in delivering his themes, trends and ideas. But not without a certain level of inciting confusion. Of going into a baffling experience under the lead of an auteur who mastered his tools and is ready to grant you the intellectual power to break the barriers of limited thinking and hit a new high in assimilating the enormity of artistic creation.
When you begin an actual 'reading' of any of his acclaimed and historically accomplished art movies you will find that Fellini has transcended such classifications as realism and neo-realism to become a great craftsman able to combine more than one style of art in laying out his themes wrapped in dense and creative intellectual rendition. A spirit trembles through his dancing characters opening a wide door to shining new melodramatic visions tainted with a trace of black comedy and in correspondence with glimpses of surreal absurdity that hurls the viewer into ecstatic surrender.All the events, memories and innovations merge together in this powerfully-structured movie with a scenario that is heavy with detail and accurate in meanings. It's about a movie director who is mentally confused and unable to proceed with his new movie because he simply does not know what it is about.
Fashion and costumes account for the movie's aesthetic prestige considerably and the filming in black and white is striking and very attractive.The imagery is so good you can watch the movie without understanding it. Just the joy of images and costumes.
The film is somewhat introverted into successive worlds. A kind of monologue born of glimpses and packed with trends of metaphor. The real beauty of the film lies in the distortions and in the mix of truths with fallacies. Realities with dreams. All in consensus between Fellini's camera and Guido's imagination. It is difficult to tell Fellini apart from his protagonist film director Guido as they are mirror images of each other.

The opening scene of (8½) constitutes a major theme executed with a baffling editorial mastery.
A nightmare!
Surreal images of a man trapped inside his car in a traffic congestion as he chokes and scratches the window glass for help from the people around him who seem to know him but do nothing other than look at him.
Thus introduces Fellini his protagonist Guido (Marcello Mastroianni), the smothered movie director to us as a man suffocated by his co-workers, his crew and the world that revolves passively around him as if they were projections of all the difficulties battling inside him. Of all the lust and fame. Of all the responsibility and of the advancing age.

Guido manages to leave the car and leap into the cloudy sky, hovering happily afar from those characters,  free from constraints that restrict him and make him captive to and struggling with his illusions and with worlds that revolve around him. But suddenly he realizes that he is bound to a rope to the ground and that down there one of his friends is holding the rope and pulling him back to the inferno of reality.
The theme of childhood memories and Guido's early encounters with Catholicism is full of artistic brilliance.
Guido goes to talk to the cardinal about his film project under pressure from his counterparts.
The few shots preceding the ones with the seated Cardinal are breath-taking in the beauty of how the camera is mobilized and follows the hurried conversation of the walking men. In fact, as noted by filmmaker Martin Scorsese in one interview, Fellini never gives his camera a break. The camera is always on the move.
In the midst of the supposedly serious talk with the Cardinal about the harmful effects of Catholic upbringing on youth, Guido sees a peasant lady walking down the hill with her dress pulled above her knees. This evokes in him the memories of a prostitute they used to pay to dance sensual dances for them (him and the other little kids). Guido murmurs upon seeing the woman: Memories have so little respect!
And we are taken back to that time to see this woman Saraghina (Eddra Gale), see video clip at the bottom of the post.

But this shift is not done as a flashback. Nothing prepares the viewer for a flashback! 
Continuity of editing is strictly followed here!
After the dance of Saraghina, Guido, the kid, is chased by the priests of the church school in a scence which Fellini meant to ridicule them by fast-speeding their movement to give it a comic sense. It is also evident that Saraghina draws a sharp contrast with the priests. While she lives openly by the beach and dances freely, the priests are confined in the church and inside their black robes.
Guido is then brought to  the trial.
In this sequence we see Guido lead through a corridor with portraits of serious-looking
priests hung on the wall. Guido walks by these dreadful men but we realize that the last one
is not a portrait. It is a live person. The priest who will try him for not knowing that Saraghina
is the devil. He looks and feels like a preserved.
During the trial, we notice that the editing of the scene is meant to be distorted. The background for the frame is not preserved! Continuity of editing is strictly not followed here!
You might want to see for yourself and guess why!
Another theme well elaborated by Fellini is Guido's internal conflict which reveals 
the paradox between two characters: his wife Luisa (Anouk Amee) and his mistress 
Carla (Sandra Milo).
The modernist man is so sensual he can not be self-sufficient. Although his wife is beautiful, elegant and learned, this intellectual film-maker is only aroused by heavily made-up whore-like women. And he asks her to pretend that she lost her way to his room. What a.....!!!

The Harem Bath: A cinematic extravaganza to be revisited!

The Harem Bath
Marcello Mastroiani
Federico Fellini
(1963) 138 min Black and White
Director: Federico Fellini
Writer: Federico Fellini and others
Music: Nino Rora
Cast: Marcello Mastroianni (as Guido Anselmi)
Claudia Cardinale (as Claudia)
Anouk Amee (as Luisa Anselmi)
Sandra Milo (as Carla)
Eddra Gale (as Saraghina)
Eddra Gale Rumba La Saraghina

Amazon Links:


  1. Although this is a great film, I just do not feel it bears "Legendary" or "Classic" status, yet. In my opinion, Charlie Kaufman's "Synecdoche, New York" is a more powerful film bearing the same context.


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

MovieGlobe: Japan's Version of Romeo and Juliet

Romeo and Juliet (2007) JapanOriginal Article by: Fateh Mirghani-Japan

I have just finished watching the masterpiece of Shakespeare” Romeo and Juliet “in its Japanese version.
The quality of the movie is great and the soundtrack, injected with a little Japanese folklore music, has given it a sensational dimension and Eastern fascination!
Basically, the theme of the movie remains the same as the original play, and that has been a particular Japanese notion in dealing with other nations’ cultural products. Part of the reason may lay in Japan's sensitivity to other nations’cultural products- given the long standing historical disputes with its neighbours, and part of it may lay in a fierce sense of homogeneity that has come to characterize Japan as an island nation-state since time immemorial. Thus the Japanese, unlike the Americans, don’t seem to have the temerity to ‘Japanize’ others’ cultural stuff. The movie “Renaissance man”  can be cited as an example of American boldness. The …

Thursday Evening

Short Story by Ali Elmak* Translated by MM
Getting off the tram, he slipped. Was it the right or the left foot that skidded? It did not matter!  All that mattered really, all that he cared for at that hour, at that moment, was that he fell and soiled his pants. those characteristically beautiful white pants which he had preserved for Thursday evenings; for the soiree gatherings which started by hanging around in the market; loitering for short or long periods; then to the cinema house; any film and peace be upon him. Then, was this bad luck or what? Did he really need to take the tram for such a short distance? “That was a fair reward for your laziness” he said to himself. As for those pants, they were turned into a dusty colored thing. The more he shook those tiny particles off, the closer they became attached to the pants. Oh what a gloomy evening for you!  "Is this what concerned you?" thought he.

The posters of Alan Ladd and Van Heflin still stood their, at the cinema entrance.…

Movie Critic Review: Zorba The Greek (1964)

" All right, we go outside where God can see us better." Alexis Zorba "God has a very big heart but there is one sin he will not forgive; [slaps table] if a woman calls a man to her bed and he will not go. I know because a very wise old Turk told me." Alexis Zorba

Zorba (Anthony Quinn) with a lascivious look lays the gentle order, 'Two beds Madam. Without bugs!' Mme Hortense defiantly tilts her head and answers proudly, 'Mme has not THE bugs!'

The bookish intellectual Basil  (Alan Bates) who has appeared unaffected by the collective vertigo experienced on the boat taking them to Crete, did not seem interested in this outward and stimulated first-time exchange between his newly-found companion, a robust natural philosopher named Alexis Zorbas and this old lady who rushed  to offer them her hospitality services in her own (Marriot) of a dilapidated house on this island of pathos and the poor. Mme Hortense then treats the c…