Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Pose Reviews A Movie. #34: 8 1/2 (1963)

Like most movies I end up enjoying, I went into Federico Fellini's 1963 classic, 8 1/2 without knowing anything about it.

The film, which I now know is about a film director named Guido Anselmi who is trying to make a film despite a severe case of "director's block," and frequent interference from the chaos of his personal life, is certainly a classic for a reason.

However, this "classic" status makes me feel a tad philistine admitting that I found it a little tough to follow in parts, and indeed rather slow-moving at times.

The key to enjoying 8 1/2, I think, is to realize that the film exists simultaneously in the director's real life, in his fantasies and dreams, and in his childhood past. (As much as I try to avoid knowing what to expect when I see a film, sometimes garnering this kind of contextual background is a gift rather than a curse.)

So when I finally figured this out around the 1-hour mark, I started to really enjoy Fellini's film. I adored the parallels between Guido's life and the film he is trying to make, and I found the finale to be both beautiful and poetic.

I also liked 8 1/2 because I could see the way it influenced some of my favourite films. Specifically, I thought of Charlie Kaufman--both his directorial debut, Synecdoche, New York and his screenplay for Spike Jonze's Adaptation.

These films are also self-reflexive tales of artists struggling with their art, and I am certain that 8 1/2 was a major influence for both.

Thinking of 8 1/2 in this way, I feel like it's the cinematic equivalent of 1980's brit-rockers The Stone Roses. Whether you like them, dislike them, or have never even heard of them, there's no way you can doubt their influence on the music that came after.

Therefore, I feel confident recommending 8 1/2 to fans of postmodern, self-reflexive narratives like the Charlie Kaufman films mentioned earlier, since it's a deep and rich example of the genre, and sports a truly exemplary instance of a film-within-a-film.

Unfortunately, 8 1/2 has finished its run on the big screen at the Princess Cinema, but you can still rent it from the Criterion section at Generation X! Happy watching!!

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