Film brings life to director's struggle

By Doug Cummings

Arizona Daily Wildcat

Filmmaker Federico Fellini may have died last year, but his work remains as inspired and alive as ever. This week, the Loft Cinemas is showing "8 1/2," Fellini's 1963 film that was voted in an international poll of directors in 1992 as their second favorite movie of all time.

The movie originally opened to an adoring Italian public and international acclaim. It tells the story of Guido Anselmi (Marcello Mastroianni), a famous film director who reaches a creative impass when he tries to make his next movie, a science fiction extravaganza. Guido struggles with his critical writer, his manipulative producers and nagging actors, as well as his condemning wife and selfish lover. In the course of his confusion, he realizes his professional failings mirror his personal ones.

The movie uses startling editing to intercut Guido's present reality with his childhood memories and present fantasies. Fellini cuts from one to the other without fanfare and a first viewing can produce a state of confusion in the viewer. But part of the film's appeal lies in its visual expression of Guido's thoughts, without pandering to traditional notions of plot and scene transition. The movie's chaotic structure illustrates Guido's mental confusion and creative unease while letting Fellini challenge his audiences with his own brand of authorial indulgence.

"8 1/2" marks Fellini's transition from the more "realistic" films of Italy's postwar neo-realist cinema. The Italians were famous for their documentary-like "poetic realism" in movies like "Open City"

and "Bicycle Thieves." Fellini's "8 1/2" deviates from realism and foreshadows his future indulgences in fantastical and grotesque imagery. Many scenes in "8 1/2," like when Guido is trapped in a car and suffocating or when he imagines having his own harem of female admirers, present fantasy in a deceptively tangible manner.

The movie is largely autobiographical in its depiction of a filmmaker's personal struggles. Guido could easily be seen as Fellini's alter ego and the movie mirrors Guido's uncertainty by not having an actual title. Fellini had previously made six movies and three shorts, making this movie his "8 1/2"th film. The title is only an enigmatic number in a filmmaker's oeuvre.

In 1980, Woody Allen paid a tribute to "8 1/2" with his film "Stardust Memories." In it, he plays a frustrated director of comedies who wants to make serious films, but his loud and enraged fans won't let him. To many filmmakers, Fellini's "8 1/2" has similarly towered through the years as a sublime representation of the creative process.

"8 1/2" is showing at the Loft Cinemas, 795-7777.

Read Next Article