Friday, October 3, 2008

8 1/2 (Rhoades)

“8 1/2” Scores a 10

Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades

Sure, the great surrealist artist Salvador Dali was involved in a few films: He helped Bruñuel with “Un Chien Andalu” (“The Andalusian Dog”). He designed the dream sequence in Hitchcock’s “Spellbound.” He collaborated with Disney on a short animation titled “Distino.” He came up with the drunken fantasy in the old film noir “Moontide.” He was even set to co-star in Alejandro Jodorowsky’s version of “Dune.”
Quite the cinemaphile, that Dali!

I’m a big Dali fan. I have an extensive collection of signed Dali etchings and lithographs on my walls here in Key West.

But for all that, my favorite surrealist filmmaker by far is Frederico Fellini, the Italian director who gave us such masterpieces as “La Strada” and “La Dolce Vita.”

His surrealist classics are, of course, “Juliet of the Spirits” and “8 1/2.”

Turns out, “8 1/2” is showing this Monday night at the Tropic, the latest entry in Mary Sparacio’s series of movies we want to remember.

Like many Fellini films, “8 1/2” is semi-autobiographical. The great Marcello Mastroianni fills Fellini’s shoes, dressed in sunglass and black hat, traditional props associated with the director.

However, Fellini’s friends recount how he often manufactured his own memories “simply for the pleasure of narrating them in his films.” That said, his youthful experiences do play an important role in such films as “I Vitelloni,” “Amarcord,” and “8 1/2.”

The title of “8 1/2” is a reference to this being the 8 1/2 film that Fellini had directed (short films and collaborations rating 1/2 point each).

The plot centers on a Fellini-esque movie director who is suffering from “director’s block,” having trouble finishing an autobiographical film due to burnout and a crumbling marriage. Much of the film consists of flashbacks and dreams that are intertwined with reality. These images take on a baroque quality – worthy of a Sigmund Freud trying to analyze a Dali. Throughout the film we encounter a bizarre parade of dwarfs and ballerinas, old ladies and an angry producer.

Because Fellini himself was suffering from a creative block during the production, “8 1/2” becomes a metafilm, where the story is about the film itself and the audience is privy to an insider’s viewpoint. Other cinematic examples of a metafilm are François Truffaut’s “Day for Night,” Michael Powell’s “Peeping Tom,” and Spike Jonze’s “Adaptation.”

“8 1/2” won two Academy Awards and is usually ranked in the top echelons of best-film-ever polls.

Despite the serious nature of the storyline (a creative crisis of a film director), Frederico Fellini is said to have taped a note to himself below the viewfinder on the camera that said, “Remember, this is a comedy.”

[from Solares Hill]

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