Federico Fellini’s surreal self portrait, a triumph of art and imagination, is one of the indisputable cornerstones of a collection of great cinema. It has been studied, acclaimed and loved all over the world, it is a motion picture that can never grow old. 8½ is Fellini’s soul, a magnificently textured film that mingles dreams, reality and fantasy with a riot of visual imagery; a comic extravaganza of overwhelming brilliance. 8½ is complex, challenging, cathartic and fearless, and it all begins so simply. . .
. . . Guido Anselmi, a film director, finds himself creatively barren at the peak of his career. His next production is ready to shoot, but his crisis of self confidence leaves him unable to cope. Urged by his doctors to rest, Anselmi heads for a luxurious resort, where he hopes thermal baths will help cure his exhaustion.
While Guido (brilliantly played by Marcello Mastroianni) attempts to rest, a sorry group gathers. His producer, staff, and actors, hoping to be cast in his opus, set up an office in the hotel and begin erecting an elaborate set on a nearby beach. Guido’s bitter wife, his mistress, his relatives arrive, the throng of idlers grows, each one begging him to get on with the show.
In retreat from their dependency, he fantasizes, creating a harem of all the women he has known; and in his dreams, he recalls his childhood in a sequence in which a fat prostitute entertains for the pleasure of schoolboys. Guido snaps to reality, joining his entourage to watch screen tests in a local theater, but drifts into a fantasy of a film critic being hanged from the balcony. Dreams and fantasies weave through his days until, at last, Guido is badgered to the brink at a press conference and commits symbolic suicide — a catharsis that creates a confirmation of life and love and his work in the cinema.
The rich detail of Guido’s imagination, the character’s fanciful exhumation of his own ghosts, the affirmation of life that he achieves are wonderfully played out, with faultless performances by the large cast, against extraordinary settings. Fellini’s exquisite attention to every detail has produced a superb example of the best of cinema art, an entertainment for always.
By Variety Staff, January 1, 1963
“With 8½ Federico Fellini tops even his trendsetting La Dolce Vita in artistry. And he confirms himself one of the few undisputed masters of the visual-dramatic medium. For here is the author-director picture par excellence, an exciting stimulating, monumental creation which is likely to unleash almost as many controversies and discussions as “Dolce Vita” did some time back.”
The New York Times
By Bosley Crowther, June 26, 1963
“Here is a piece of entertainment that will really make you sit up straight and think, a movie endowed with the challenge of a fascinating intellectual game… it bounces around on several levels of consciousness, dreams, and memories as it details a man’s rather casual psychoanalysis of himself. But it sets up a labyrinthine ego for the daring and thoughtful to explore, and it harbors some elegant treasures of wit and satire along the way.”
FESTIVALS & AWARDS
- New York Film Critics Circle Award: BEST FOREIGN FILM
- 1963 Academy Awards: BEST FOREIGN FILM
- 1963 Academy Awards: BEST COSTUME DESIGN