Directed by Federico Fellini 1963
81/2 is the most renowned of this influential Italian filmmakers works. (Rome, La Dolce Vita, Satyricon, City of Women.) Scooping several major awards at the time of its release, including two Academy Awards, and remaining one of the 10 best films ever made on all cinema institute and academy listings, 81/2 must simply be experienced as part of any film buffs canon.
Fellinis cinema is operatic in scale both in its luxurious visuals and its eccentric characters. It is the cinema of visually expressed emotions and fantasies rather than following a plot line of intellectual or narrative rigour. Fellini would never get green lighted in todays box office obsessed industry, as would not many of his contemporaries, such as Bergman, Antonioni and Godard. So thankfully this era of film making allowed the visions of these illuminated film artists to find an audience that would continue to view them as the measuring stick of film ingenuity ever since.
81/2 is largely autobiographical. It is a metafilm a metaphor about the production of the film itself. Its central character is Guido, played by the sublime Marcello Mastroianni. He is a successful director with everything in place to make another hit, but with no actual story to tell (as with Fellini after the success of La Dolce Vita). Guidos directors block forces procrastination and avoidance as he retreats into his messy private life with his wife and mistress, delves into memories of his childhood, falls into ill health, fantasises of an obliging harem and is hounded to death by producers and a hostile press. These scenes are interwoven and confused with reality, so that the audience is left swimming in the directors incurably romantic head. Guido cannot let go of his past, yet cannot pass anything new up, leaving him with an unachievable notion for life and an unachievable premise to make his film. The central thesis for comedy is that Guido draws on his own life for subject matter and it is exactly that which must be rejected as divinely implausible! Guido never makes his film, whereas Fellini did and 81/2 is sincere to the point of being indecent.
The film was masterfully shot in black and white by influential cinematographer Gianni di Venanzo, and features a highly orchestrated soundtrack by Nino Rota whose combined talents with Fellini give the film a feeling of being loosely choreographed, as much as directed.