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January 12, 2011

8 1/2 — THE CRITERION COLLECTION

COLE SMITHEY

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Fellini had mastered narrative drama and wanted to challenge himself as a filmmaker. But he went to his modernist destiny confused, kicking and dancing the whole way, just as his simplified alter-ego Marcelo Mastroianni does as Guido Anselmi. Guido is a hugely popular filmmaker with whom everyone wants to be associated.

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Producers, mistresses, crew members, actors, family members, and friends all want to possess Guido or at least to snatch a piece of his talent. The best way for them to do so is to be associated with the film he is currently making. Indeed, the movie is as much about them as it is about Fellini's own obsessions.

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The enigmatic director's thematic goal is to mirror on a grand scale every aspect of his own soul that he can touch or project. Guido engages in a journey of self that necessarily includes his splintered fantasy visions of female archetypes that he will use and discard as his whims dictate.

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Filmed almost entirely on artificial sets, "8 1/2" is a pure look inside the mind of a director's cinematic exploration during a midlife crisis. Its title expresses the film's position as an in-between movie made on the way to Fellini's ninth feature "Juliet of the Spirits." The original title was "La Bella Confusione" ("The Beautiful Confusion").

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Fellini strikes at a hotter brand of bewilderment with a title that led some would-be audiences to think it represented pornography. It is rather a dynamic celebration of Fellini's miraculous methods of creating cinematic magic from the fabric of his personal dreams, desires, experiences, and relationship to Italian culture. This is a movie you can return to again and again, and still discover new meanings and messages.

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Not Rated. 138 mins.

5 Stars

Cozy Cole

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