Directed by Federico Fellini.
Starring Marcello Mastroianni, Claudia Cardinale, Anouk Aimee and Sandra Milo.
Guido (Mastroianni), a tired movie director, begins to fantasize about past occurrences in his life.
8½ reaches its 50th birthday this year, celebrated with a splendid restored DVD and Blu-ray. In its golden year, there isn’t much to be said about Fellini’s classic that hasn’t already been said. One of the major dilemmas possibly hounding its new release, however, is whether it still holds up. With the aesthetic and style of the 60s rejuvenated thanks to the likes of Mad Men, 8½ now, perhaps more than ever, appears all kinds of cool. The fact that the film relies heavily on fantasy moments – psychologically timeless – also means the content defies aging. It comes to us again as immaculate and crisp as Guido’s suits.
The film is one deserving of multiple viewings (for those that enjoy it the first time round albeit), and this new edition certainly helps in that regard. The quality of the restoration is incredible, and even though the check disc this review refers to was only a DVD you cannot negate the great work put into the re-release. The first scene, peppered with surrealist imagery, is startling and attention-grabbing – deserving of an unscathed projection. There is not a scratch or jerk to be seen in the 138 minutes, a smooth cut all round.
Perhaps it is the enhanced restoration but 8½ looks bafflingly new. Odd moments of dialogue and designs are unquestionably aged, though it’s nothing too jarring. For a 21st Century audience, there isn’t much to alienate you during viewing. Arguably, some moments are lacklustre, and the film’s tempo is quite jittery at points. However, overall, the artistic quality to Fellini’s semi-autobiographical is exceptional. You can never tell sometimes whether it’s the director’s pen, his soundtrack or his eye that leads the narrative; what would be deemed low-grade filmmaking in some circles, works to Fellini’s advantage here. It’s easy to watch Guido’s choppy daily life, and his eccentric imagination, with Fellini’s paradoxical grace and giddiness.
Marcello Mastroianni in the lead is charismatic beyond belief, the definition of Italian style. As he wanders through his celebrity routine or his wild memories, you can’t help but fall in love with him. Guido is, of course, Fellini, and the appreciation you feel for the protagonist links to that felt for the director/writer. 8½ is a film-lovers film; whether that’s a filmmaker looking at it for inspiration, a film fan taking in a piece of film history, it works to invigorate your passion for cinema.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★
Piers McCarthy – Follow me on Twitter.