Federico Fellini’s 8 1/2 is one of the early landmarks of postmodernism. (Bondanella, 93-116) If the myth is to be believed, Fellini had signed with producer Angelo Rizzoli to direct something like a sequel to his enormously successful La Dolce Vita. Actors were hired.
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The crew was ready. And a large set had been built: a rocket launching pad. But where was the story? In early drafts of the scenario, Guido Anselmi (Marcello Mastroianni) had been a writer. Only when Fellini turned the character into a film director did the elements fall into place. This would be a film about director’s block: about not being able to make a film. About what the scholars call ‘the creative process.’ Weaving together fantasy, flashback, fear, and celebration all orchestrated, as usual, by Nino Rota he achieved an overwhelming international success. (Bondanella, 93-116) 8 1/2 remains the key Fellini movie because it is freer from the tyranny of narrative than anything that came before or since. In the Fifties Fellini had been a storyteller in the neorealist tradition. But that wasn’t his real calling. The meandering plot of La Dolce Vita had given him a more accommodating framework for his collection of gorgeous images, extreme characters, and musical set pieces. In 8 1/2 he is free entirely to organize these quintessentially cinematic tropes in a way that fits the curious logic of cinema (not the demands of narrative.) The film is more like a night at the opera than an afternoon at the movies. (Bondanella, 93-116) Today, national cinema is on the top. It is producing more and more films based on socio-political circumstances. It’s not the quotes from Rossini and Wagner; its Nino Rota and Fellini. To me, Rota has always been Fellini’s co-auteur. There’s a powerful interplay between Rota’s evocative music and Fellini’s musical images. Both of them use their images and themes over and over, reworking variations in interesting ways. 8 1/2 gives Rota more room to elaborate on Fellini’s visuals than he had had in earlier films. Industrial and economic factors are highlighting major issues in modern films like 8 1/2. Apart from other international standards, the musical nature of 8 1/2 makes it a perfect candidate for DVD. This is one film, like music, that you want to play again and again. About the only feature missing from this Criterion edition is a random player that would allow you to run through the twenty-six chapters in arbitrary order! I’m not joking: restructuring 8 1/2 would reveal a lot about Fellini’s art. You can see from the DVD’s chapters that the maestro’s unit of thought was the sequence, not the narrative. You could make four smaller films from the material the women, the dreams, the production, the spa. You could reverse the first and last sequences (Guido trapped in the traffic jam,
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