I genuinely don’t know what to make of this, so this is just a rant.
Release date: February 14, 1963
Director: Federico Fellini
Who should watch this movie: Everyone or no one.
When should you watch this movie: Frankly, whenever.
The sell: Being told a movie is genius before you see it has the potential to bias one’s viewing experience dramatically. Then again, we can’t all go into every movie blind, or with absolutely no expectations. That of course, would defeat the purpose of this blog. So let’s decide for now that a reputation alone does not – at least universally – detract from the experience of a film. This movie has a towering reputation. It’s on almost every famous director’s “favorite movie” list. Needless to say, I had high expectations going in. Yet, somehow, I came away unsure of whether it was one of the best films I had ever seen, or completely and entirely forgettable. In 81⁄2 , Fellini undoubtedly demonstrates a virtuosic command of the craft, and there are scenes and moments which are now indelibly marked in my conscience. However, the narrative and thematic content is bafflingly chauvinistic and I genuinely cannot tell if it’s on purpose. My reading is that, yes, some of it is very intentional. The main character, a loose stand-in for Fellini himself, a once successful but now washed up director, is tormented by a cabaret of women from his life, both past and present. His relationship with these women, untethered from time, seems inextricably linked to his current mental breakdown as well as his latest (and hopeless) creative pursuit. But this connection is at best poorly defined, and for much of the film exists in abstract hand-wavy impressions. Listen, I love abstract, conceptual filmmaking, I really do. I love when a film makes me feel something without asking me directly. I enjoy being free to interpret color, sound, and movement, even when it appears nonsensical or absurd. But, this movie feels like someone is trying to tell you something underwater. They scream the words at you but it is muddled and unintelligible. By the third or fourth attempt, you just barely manage to make out something along the lines of “women are both the muses and the downfall of every creative man. A man who, without these women, would be an unencumbered genius, free to grace the world with masterpiece after masterpiece. But alas, the pussy is just too sweet and also too bitter.”