8 1/2

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(1963, directed by Federico Fellini)

- inducted 2014 –

"Federico Fellini’s is one of those films that is so monumental and so influential that it’s hard to say anything new about it. Like Citizen Kane, it’s been so canonized that perhaps new viewers can’t help but be disappointed as they go in with the peak of expectations. For others, perhaps is like an ubiquitous classic rock song that they wish would go away to make room for others. Personally though, I find amazingly fresh each time I revisit it.

"It’s not a difficult art film, but for such a popular work, it’s not an easy film either. It lacks explicit narrative goals and it indulgences in potentially confusing dream sequences. The story involves forty-three year old self-absorbed filmmaker Guido Anselmi (Marcello Mastroianni) at a spa suffering from writer's block though his highly-budgeted next film is deep into preproduction. His producer, production manager, a critic, and numerous acting candidates torment him ceaselessly over story, theme, and character for the movie, and he spends most of his time avoiding answers. The rest of the time, Guido entertains his flighty mistress, Carla (Sandra Milo), even as other ravishing women appear in copious numbers to tempt him. His wife Luisa (Anouk Aimée) arrives and instantly senses he has been cheating on her, but he stonewalls her like he has everyone else. Guido's various encounters stir forth memories of his childhood as well as daydreams of his fears and desires.

"In Guido’s most famous reverie, Fellini captures everything there is to say about heterosexual male fantasy. Guido dreams up his harem of past and present women, has a tinge of conscience that takes its form in a revolt by the women, and then procures power and control once more with a lashing whip. Guido's film project fails, but it suddenly dawns upon him that it was all for the best, that often the willingness to abandon work (and ego) is as important as creating it. This observation might sound banal, but Fellini’s artistry in presenting it is anything but. Still, this observation for Fellini, who had turned his frustrations of making his next film into 8½, is also among the least interesting in the film.

"'s real impact comes from Fellini's naked display of personal struggle – with love, lust, art, fame, and religion – and Fellini could not have found a better emissary for this than his favorite actor, Mastroianni. Mastroianni's performance is so wonderfully subtle that he simultaneously emanates suave ego and utter blindness to his character's faults without ever inspiring full disdain or pity. More than deplorable scoundrel or haute artist, Guido is ultimately a deeply flawed human being like everyone else. Abetting Mastroianni is Aimée, whose scathing intensity is frightening; Claudia Cardinale is at her most luminous as the actress Guido believes to be his angel of salvation; and Eddra Gale makes a lasting iconic impression as Saraghina, Guido's childhood embodiment of Catholic repression.

"Abandoning the neorealist style of his early films entirely now, Fellini's flowing camera and widescreen compositions are film directing at its most sumptuous and stunning. In all aspects, Fellini was aided immeasurably by his amazing crew. Along with cinematographer Gianni Di Venanzo, there is editor Leo Cattozzo, who weaves in and out of Guido's fantasies before you know you're in them; production designer Piero Gherardi, responsible for contraptions like the spacecraft whose monstrous skeleton is a monument to incompletion; and the ever-reliable composer Nino Rota, who adds a score of circus-like mirth mixed in with all the Wagner, Rossini, and Chopin. The conclusion finds Guido taming the circus of life in art. He could not do it in life, but perhaps art is enough."

~ George Wu

Principal cast: Marcello Mastroianni, Claudio Cardinale, Anouk Aimée, Sandra Milo, Rossella Falk, Barbara Steele, Madeleine Lebeau, Caterina Boratto, Edra Gale,Guido Alberti, Mario Conocchia, Bruno Agustini
Screenplay by Ennio Flaiano & Tullio Pinelli & Federico Fellini & Brunello Rondi
Story by Federico Fellini & Ennio Flaiano
Produced by Angelo Rizzoli
Director of photography: Gianni di Venanzo
Production design by Piero Gherardi
Costume design by Piero Gherardi
Film editing by Leo Catozzo
Original music by Nino Rota
Makeup by Otello Fava
Hair stylist: Renata Magnanti
Sound by Angelo Bartolomei and Mario Faraoni
Camera operator: Pasqualino De Santis

Duration: 138 minutes
Languages: Italian, English, French, German
Filmed in black and white
Sound mix: Mono
Aspect ratio: 1.85:1

Produced by Cineriz and Francinex
Released in USA by Embassy Pictures Corporation
Premiered in Italy on 14 February 1963
USA release date: 25 June 1963

Awards and honors:
- Selected as one of Roger Ebert’s “Great Movies,” 28 March 2000
- Academy Awards (USA), 1963: Best Foreign Language Film (won)
- Academy Awards (USA), 1963: Best Costume Design, Black and White (won)
- NYFCC Award, New York Film Critics Circle, 1963: Best Foreign Language Film (won)
- National Board of Review, 1963: Best Foreign Language Film (won)
- Academy Awards (USA), 1963: Best Director, Federico Fellini (nominated)
- Academy Awards (USA), 1963: Best Writing, Story and Screenplay – Written Directly For the Screen (nominated)
- Academy Awards (USA), 1963: Best Art Direction-Set Decoration, Black and White (nominated)
- BAFTA Awards, 1963: Best Film From Any Source (nominated)
- DGA Awards, Directors Guild of America, 1963: Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Motion Pictures, Federico Fellini (nominated)
- National Board of Review: one of the Top Foreign films of 1963