I am back from my internship with a quick Summer Film Challenge 2012 review, and boy was it a doozy! Somewhere between my fits of overworked semi-sleep during the crazy 12 to 14 hour days on set, I carved out the time (and appropriate sanity) to take in what is widely considered to be one of the greatest films ever made. Roger Ebert calls it the the “best film ever made about filmmaking” and countless others credit it similarly. Personally, I was excited to finally see this critically lauded movie and I can say that it provided on so many levels. Thus, without further ado, my review of Federico Fellini’s surreal masterpiece: 8 1/2. Instantly upon watching this film, I realized that if nothing else it had validated my longstanding practice for processing films. Typically, I don’t like to speak about a film immediately after seeing it. To do so, I feel, is to launch into serious discussion and debate unprepared. More importantly, I feel that one does a disservice to the filmmakers if they assume to be able to understand the film instantly without any internal reflection. Of course I recognize the purpose and value of discovering new thoughts and further understanding the film via conversing about it afterwards. I just prefer to work through it personally and organize my thoughts before I attempt to break it down communally. 8 1/2 is precisely the film to justify this practice. I defy anyone to claim full comprehension of it after just one viewing, particularly just after the credits have finished rolling. Unlike Malick’s Tree of Life which hit me very viscerally, Fellini’s autobiographical fantasy is almost purely intellectual. Practically like reading Socrates or St. Augustine, 8 1/2 is a beautifully self-reflexive film examining the role of the artist in society, the pressures and privileges therein, and what it means to be the voice of Wisdom or Truth to society. I kept thinking throughout the film that this must have impacted Sondheim in his creation of Company. It is entirely about the nature of the thing it portrays – the one, filmmaking, and the other, relationships. What makes the film so brilliant is that, through the fantasy of one film director’s visions, the thing by which we see this story is examined. One of my favorite scenes in the film is one in which the Critic has just given his notes to Guido and then the director speaks to his old friend. The scene transitions to him sitting at the train station reading those notes which critique the scene we the audience have just witnessed. Hilarious and poignant, it purposefully pulls the audience out of the movie to call attention to the fact that we are indeed watching a film.
Fellini does a masterful job of calling our attention to the plight of the artist. Of course this sounds pithy to some, but it is far more complicated than it seems. As an artist, one is expected by nearly everyone to produce high quality content that both entertains the audience and intellectually or ethically challenges them. There is an amount of profundity required of the artist that is not demanded of most others. Audiences intent on taking the medium seriously laud those filmmakers who are able to expand their understandings of society and self, and Fellini clearly earns that exultation rightly with his film.
Wonderfully bizarre in the writing and masterfully crafted to make full use of the cinematic medium, Fellini fully encapuslates what a proper film should be – enigmatic yet interesting, visual and deeply stimulating, with every bit the poignancy desired by anyone working in the arts. 8 1/2 is an excellent film and one which I will be returning to periodically to remind myself that what I do is difficult and not for the faint of heart, but also that it is entirely worth it to bring light to certain joys and concepts which need to be examined further. If you have not yet partaken of this cinematic masterpiece, please do so! It very well could change your perspective on the movies, art, and life in general.
With that, I am 27 films deep into the Criterion Collection, but only 3 out of 16 for the Summer Film Challenge 2012: Apocalypse Edition. I am hoping that since my internship is over now, I will be able to do some catching up on the SFC12 because I intend to make this last year of existence the first year I actually complete the challenge on time. So, stay tuned for more reviews coming up soon from that list. As always, check out the podcast Ryan and I did below, in which we critique this film and one I gave him – Howl’s Moving Castle:
The Bioshock review is still in the works and I think it might take longer than expected, but rest assured that it will be released eventually and it might even have some supplementary notes from the Senior Thesis Dissertation I am currently writing. But more on that later….
For now, thanks for sticking with me, please let me know what you thought of Fellini’s masterpiece film 8 1/2, and I will see you back here very soon for my next Summer Film Challenge 2012 Review!