8 1/2 (1963)
How does one begin to talk about 8 1/2? Every frame in this film could be put in a frame and hung on a wall. But it is not just the most brilliantly vivid visual film I've seen, it is indeed brilliantly conceived from beginning to end as well.
Guido is a film director who is struggling with his latest film. He's dealing with inner conflict - how to make a film with complex ideas come across simplistically so anybody can understand it - but also conflict with just about everyone else who is involved in the film, from actors to producers to professional Catholic consultants. On top of all of this, his wife knows that he's unfaithful and their relationship is ready to implode (or explode).
The plot is simple. The execution is complex, as director Federico Fellini shifts freely between the real and surreal, mixing and matching the outer world of Guido with the inner, in order to draw the viewer into the madness that is filmmaking.
I won't pretend to have understood everything that happened in the movie, and I'm not sure I would still pick up on everything after five or ten viewings, but I think the film works as an experience that doesn't necessarily need to make complete sense. In fact, it probably works better if some things don't make any sense at all.
8 1/2 gets a recommendation to anybody with any interest in film. It is an entirely unconventional way to tell a story that would be conventional in the hands of a lesser filmmaker. Fellini is known as one of the great directors for a reason.
February 1, 2005