A list of great movies would not be complete without a film from Federico Fellini. While this was the first of his films that I have seen, I have often heard his name tossed around by film lovers and never really knew what all the fuss was about. “8 1/2” is widely regarded as one of the most influential films of all time perhaps because elements of it have so oft been imitated in other films. It was also very well received when it was released in 1963. The film was nominated for five Academy Awards (including Best Director) and picked up two wins in the categories of “Foreign Language Film” and “Costume Design.” It also received a good bit of recognition from film festivals. So how does such a highly influential and well received film fare in the highly subjective opinion of this reviewer? Read on…
Should this film be considered a classic? This is definitely a filmmaker’s film. It puts on screen images of expectations, director’s block, stress, and the relationships surrounding the production of a film like no other piece of cinema. I watched this movie with a friend who is a filmmaker and also a big film buff and it was very obvious that he identified with what was taking place on screen in a way that people who are not involved with film would be hard pressed to understand. The film is beautifully shot with incredibly evocative imagery that reveals many layers of meaning beyond just the words being spoken by the actors. Also, the film’s wide ranging influence through the years is enough for many films to gain the “classic” badge. I have to also note that due to my background in psychology, this film seems like it would be a great study to anyone interested in Freudian psychology. Whether Fellini intended it or not, “8 1/2” definitely seems to have picked up on the interest in psychology that many movies from the era delved into (Hitchcock was especially known for the Freudian elements in his films). So, yes, this film should be considered a classic. It takes the viewer to a very interesting place and one that most might never venture without a film like this. It takes the viewer into the world and mind of a film director. All we see is the finished product but this film lets us see a little bit of the physical and mental stress that goes in to bringing a picture to the screen.
Would I own this film? No, I would not. This is one of those films that I can deeply appreciate on an artistic level but which I also found quite boring. Fellini’s style and storytelling, while incredibly rich and multi-layered, often really feels like it gets bogged down under the weight of its own importance. This is a 138 minute movie and I felt every one of those minutes. Now, if you love film you must see this movie. That said, just because there are people who absolutely love this movie you shouldn’t feel bad if you don’t. It’s a wonderful piece of cinema that is definitely deserving of all the praise it has received, but it is simply not the kind of movie that I see myself revisiting.
I absolutely love the opening dream sequence in the film. It is one of the best opening sequences I have ever seen and basically tells the entire story of the movie in less than three minutes.