8 ½ (1963)

“I thought my ideas were so clear. I wanted to make an honest film. No lies whatsoever. I thought I had something so simple to say. Something useful to everybody. A film that could help bury forever all those dead things we carry within ourselves. Instead, I’m the one without the courage to bury anything at all. When did I go wrong? I really have nothing to say, but I want to say it all the same.”

Federico Fellini’s ‘8 ½’ made in 1963 is the story of a director’s worst nightmare: being hounded by producers, script-writers and actors on the set of a movie of which he can’t remember the subject or the point. It’s a comedy, filled with music and dancing and absurd, farcical situations. One stand out moment is a dream sequence in which the director, Guido, dreams he lives in a harem, controlling all the women in his life with a whip – but somehow, even though this is his fantasy, he still ends up being smothered and subjugated. You can see early Michael Caine films in both the fashion and imagery of this movie, but also in its treatment of masculinity. Guido is one of those Bill Clinton-like figures who have gained power but use that power to collect women, and then find that power threatened by their womanising. It’s stylishly, perfectly shot. The dream sequences are striking and, because they blend almost seamlessly into the non-dream sequences, it creates an overall phantasmagorical feel to the movie. Having watched all these films in such a short time, it occurs to me that this is one defining feature of many of them from ‘Russian Ark’, through ‘Persona’, ‘The 400 Blows’ and ‘Nostalgia’. Watching these movies leaves you uncertain whether you’re awake or asleep. Roger Ebert suggested that great movies should be like day-dreaming – I can understand why.

Would I recommend it? Yes – it’s one of the greatest movies ever made.


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