I’m late to the party. This cinephile has no excuse. And I am a bit embarrassed to address my cultural faux pas. OK, I might as well get it out on the table. I just watched Federico Fellini’s 8 ½ for the very first time. Nope, I didn’t say twentieth time—first time. Can you believe it? I know, I really can’t either. But I must embrace this truth and get on with it. Better late than never? In this case, yes, yes, yes!
Where do I begin? Where do I finish? Ah, I will never finish discussing this film. Its bounty is endless. The cinematography is a feast for the eyes. Eccentric characters fill the screen wearing fanciful fashions. Strolling musicians delight and dancers energize spaces. The lighting both illuminates faces and objects and casts shadows on walls, making one never wish for a second that a film be made in color.
A solo bass drum beat is heard at the opening scene—like a heartbeat. Thump, thump, thump. Fellini’s alter ego Guido’s heart is beating. We join him in his head, in his dream—his nightmare. His breathing quickens and intensifies. The sound is of one having an orgasm? No. It’s an anxiety attack. The steam and movement in the car is not Guido in the throws of a sexual encounter but rather of him trying to escape. He’s trapped inside the vehicle—a metaphor for his life. Relief comes. Guido is free. He rises above the traffic congestion and then floats above an open sea. But then we notice that Guido is not free at all. He is tied to a string. He’s a kite being flown by his movie producers who are standing on the beach below—puppet masters directing the movement of the director. Suddenly, the string is cut and Guido falls to earth. He wakes. His nightmare ends but our journey has now just begun. This scene is so iconic. I could easily name it as a favorite. OK, it’s a favorite. But there are so many. This movie never dulls or disappoints the senses. It’s a fun filled, wondrously charming circus for adults.
If you haven’t seen this film, you must do so as soon as possible, because you will want to watch it again and again. And you will need time to do so. Forget spending ten bucks to see a mediocre movie like John Carter at the theater. Buy a copy of Fellini’s 8 ½ instead. You will be rewarded generously for years to come.
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