Thursday, December 10, 2009

8 ½ (Italian) (1963)

“Happiness is being able to tell the truth without ever making anybody suffer.”

A car- rows and rows of cars on road- traffic jam- Everything is paused and still- cars, men inside them, their facial expressions everything- A man trying to move inside one car- we can’t see his face- it becomes hard for him to breath as he’s surrounded with fume inside the car- he tries to open the windows, doors but its almost jammed, locked- he’s feeling suffocated- a magic happens- he suddenly came out of car and starts floating up in the sky surpassing everything- somebody pulls the rope tied to his leg- the man falls in the vast sea- The surreal image dissolves into reality and a director wakes up from a dream.

Anybody who sees this first scene gets into altogether different world of magic realism where fantasy constantly blends with reality. It’s indeed a brilliant opening of this highly layered and complex film. Without doubt 8 ½ is ‘the best film ever made on film’. It won’t teach anybody how to make cinema but rather opposite. Fellini’s this unique groundbreaking masterpiece deconstructs the making of cinema and that’s why we often see it’s entry in critics and directors favorite film lists. Those who expect great plot, fine narrative story simple to digest with positive humanitarian ending will surely disappoint. Please don’t watch it because it’s film beyond all this. It’s film which I like to compare with ‘Art for Art’s Sake’. Here Art has nothing to prove or strive to achieve. I would like to suggest you to read ‘the preface’ of Oscar Wilde’s one and only novel written in his career- ‘The Picture of Dorian Gray’ (my all-time favorite novel) and you’ll know exactly what I mean by these words.

Guido is a successful film director and he doesn’t have remotest idea what his next film is going to be about. Producer has burned millions of money on sets and actors. Guido is stuck amid the ghost of his past life, the women of his life and his messy private life divided between his wife and mistress. He starts losing his grip on reality and the boundaries between his imagination, memory and reality dissolves into a single entity.

Camera speaks everything here. Scenes and visuals which are full of iconic, aesthetic, original, surreal, allegorical and memorable images that demand your unflinching attention if you have a heart of artist. One of the most elegant scene is that ‘Magician and Maya act’ where a trickster entertains the boring and read people’s minds with the help of that blindfolded old lady. He grabs Guido and the lady wrote ‘Asa Nisi Masa’ on blackboard. But what does that mean? CUT …and image transformed into the past childhood of Guido. It would be futile exercise to capture the essence of Fellini’s frames into words; they are insufficient to explain something so sublime and abstract.

It would be dishonest review if I don’t mention the alter ego of Fellini in the film- the one and only Marcello Mastroianni. 8 ½ is not possible without him because he’s the soul of Fellini’s this most private and autobiographical film of his career. His condition as film director Guido is more reflected by the characters surrounded to him. If you pay your ears to the voice of script writer, you’ll notice that Fellini had deconstructed the whole structure of his own film by using the script writer of Guido’s film as the voice of his critics. The script writer said Guido in one of the scene- “Your film is like series of complete senseless episodes…doesn’t have advantage of the avant-garde films, although it has all of the drawbacks…you are trying to solve a problem for which there’s no solution.” Guido hates him but in the climax we get some brilliant lines from same scriptwriter. Here’s the best one- “This life is full of confusion already that there’s no need to add chaos to chaos.”

I also love Luisa’s character (Guido’s wife) and she’s the strongest real women he faced in his entire life full of ladies. She’s real smart women and the only lady who knows Guido more than anyone. But Guido’s chaos lies in his preoccupation with all other ladies. Especially Claudia, who’s like mirage of salvation for him and whom we often see in those angelic close ups. What a heavenly face!!!

Fellini’s 8 ½ is arresting visual classic open to infinite interpretations in all possible senses. I watched it two times back to back since last three days since its not easy film to grasp fully in single viewing. Fellini is smart artist and he deconstructed his own filmmaking here and set a new grammar of filmmaking. It’s a film for anyone who wants to redefine his/her film watching experience. I’m changing the order of my favorite Top Ten after this experience. He’s like Shakespeare’s those wise idiots who claims that they know nothing and proves exactly opposite. He made a film on nothing (the director’s block) and turned out as so many things (masterpiece).
Only genius can do this.

PS- I’m no good at editing and too confused like Guido what to keep and what to remove from this mountain post on readers' disposal. By the way this review is a gesture of my tribute to great Fellini. Read it or discard it at your own pleasure…


abhishek said...

and u said, that u
doubt that how many people read ur review!!! man, i read the 1st paragraph, and i was kind of sucked into ur review. havent seen the movie though, so didnt read the full review, but man, i can say that it is ur best review till date. jus see, hw many peole see this movie in the comm after reading this review. they may not acknowledge u, but this will be the last push for them, and also me, a self acclaimed surreal-phobic!!!
may be u havent noticed, but u have earned a lot of fans in the comm, who eagerly wait for ur reviews!!!

HIREN DAVE said...

well thanks for a way be a part of this community open up new vistas of my film watching experience and i'm indebted to many community freinds -athiradee, you, Gogo, Suddha, Jitesh and many more...two things propel me to write such a long review- one is offcourse fellini and his art of film making and second is your comment that i read abt-Battleship Potemkin...somehow i wanted to come with out of the box experience and Fellini just blow my mind...i watched it two times back to back and my sister told me that you r real menatal case!!!
But at the end of the day your comment make my day...thx and do catch it for sure...