Review: 8 1/2

A few months ago, I started reviewing classic movies and albums for a friend’s Web site. I’ve decided to bring the feature over here. It might happen every week, on Fridays. It might not. The only rules: these are all movies/albums I’ve never seen/heard before now, and no mocking of my cultural blindness will be allowed.

8 1/2

I fell asleep not once, but thrice, while attempting to watch “8 1/2,” the Italian movie all your film major friends raved about it. Roger Ebert called it the “best film ever made about filmmaking.” As of the forthcoming sentence, I will have referred to it as “not the best film to watch after midnight when you are tired.”

That said, the movie does hold charms for those of us barely competent with a Flip cam. For starters, there’s Marcello Mastroianni, who plays the Fellini doppelganger, Guido Anselmi. The descriptor “leading man” does little justice; nor do the adjectives suave and dashing. Today’s stars could do well to take lessons in smiling, brooding, silence, and head-scratching (literal) from this performance. Critics wiser than I have noted that images trump ideas in the film – that Fellini is more filmmaker than artist. They mean this to suggest a flaw; I found it rather delightful. Shots of empty backgrounds turn into close-ups as characters waltz lovingly on-camera. The movie moves silkily from spa-side shots to shadow-covered bedrooms: the subtitles and, thus, the plot, become superfluous.

Admittedly, this is mercifully so. The story itself is mildly self-indulgent and just a bit confusing: I loved a dream sequence in Guido’s fictional harem, but desperately hoped the final spaceship-adjacent soiree would end. It’s all rather dreamy, and in this case, that’s enough.

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