When Paolo Sorrentino’s The Great Beauty was released back in 2013, critics gushed over Tony Servillo’s turn as a jaded writer unable to channel his chaotic life into a new novel. The film was rightly praised for its originality, but Servillo’s character is no stranger to Italian cinema. Viewers with a sense of history were immediately reminded of Federico Fellini’s 8½(1963), another exuberant film about a world-weary artist suffering from a creative block.
Who is Federico Fellini?
Perhaps more than any other work of cinema, 8½ is a film about its director. The meta touches start with the title: with six features, two shorts and one collaboration behind him (the last three each counting as half a film), Fellini considered this his eighth-and-a-half work.
8½ film plot:
The protagonist is not a writer but a film director (Marcelo Mastroianni), the famous Guido Anselmi, who carries the weight of public expectation on his slumped shoulders. Currently half-way through shooting an absurd sci-fi epic he’s lost all interest in, Guido retreats into his imagination, and the film continuously weaves between his free fantasies and stifling reality.
Director Federico Fellini: Films
As with The Great Beauty, the irony is that this film bears the stamp of an artist at the peak of his creative powers. Fellini established himself with incisive realist dramas like La Strada (1954), and ended his career with bizarre experiments in Freudian and Christian symbolism.
'Remember that this is a comedy.'
8½, which came somewhere in the middle, has the best of both tendencies: it is freeform, surreal and replete with dazzling images, yet tightly structured. It’s also a hoot – after all, during the shoot Fellini taped a note to his camera that read: 'Remember that this is a comedy.'
Federico Fellini's legacy
Time has not been entirely kind to the film. Its wink-wink self-reflexivity and oneiric imagery have been mimicked so many times (by Woody Allen among others) that they can seem dated, and the hive mind of critical opinion seems to have decided that La Strada and La Dolce Vita (1960) are better. No matter. 8½ is that rare thing: a film that is both riotously entertaining and deeply sincere, and we welcome its re-release.
Fellini's 8½ UK release date:
The BFI will re-release Fellini's 8½ in selected cinemas from 1 May.
|What||Fellini's 8½, 1963 re-release|
|Where||BFI Southbank, Belvedere Road, Southbank, London, SE1 8XT | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Waterloo (underground)|
01 May 15 – 30 Jun 15, 10:00 AM – 12:00 AM
|Website||Click here to go to the BFI website for more information.|