With Marcello Mastroianni, Anouk Aimée, Claudia Cardinale.
Italy/France, 1963, 35mm, black & white, 138 min.
Italian, French, English and German with English subtitles.
Print source: HFA
Arguably the most famous case of a director’s career zenith emerging out of a stultifying creative block, Fellini’s 8 ½ was very nearly another film entirely. Through much of the film’s stop-and-start preproduction stage, the protagonist was imagined as a novelist, but when Antonioni’s La notte (1961) debuted with a hero in the same creative vocation (and played by the eventual star of 8 ½), Fellini had to drop the idea. In that void grew Guido Anselmi (Marcello Mastroianni), a successful middle-aged filmmaker who resembles Fellini himself in all but name. Ravaged by an existential crisis that takes shape in the form of extramarital affairs, depression and uncertainty about what to do with his next creative endeavor, Guido takes refuge in his fantasies and memories, all of which are gracefully interwoven with reality in a manner that leaves the viewer unsure of where any state begins or ends. A groundbreaking model for the self-reflexive artist-in-crisis movie, 8 ½ is a bouquet of spectacular set pieces, each metamorphosing into the next by way of Fellini’s fluid use of a moving camera and his startling coordination of foreground and background activity.