8 1/2 Revisited

A superb postmodern screenplay and performances in a rare directorial handling of the material combining emotional and intellectual intelligence. The photography, editing, sound and music, art direction (film after all is a combination of all these), the way Fellini dealt the cards in a largely ‘uneventful story’, critiquing the making of it in the story of making it is mesmerizing.

We love hate admire despise and ultimately accept and ignore the protagonist simultaneously. The greatest dramatic artists understood the utterly useless side to main characters, that a protagonist can ultimately be plagued by so many paralysing weaknesses that they sit like tubs of glue at centre of their stories – Achilles, Hamlet, Lear, Bloom.

The train of imagery is as staggering as it is effortless, in a brilliant use of lighting and camera with the spaces and movement of players. No one handled a crowd like Fellini, a director, filmmaker who understood that altogether simple theatrical relationship of foreground to mid-ground to background. The transparency of tones at times in the B/W photography, the use of natural and artificial light in concert, all makes this film a visual and dramatic masterpiece for me, probably the greatest film made in my years at least, that began consciously in 1963. It just so happens 8 1/2 came out early that year as well.

I won’t compare it to other fine films – comparisons to me are meaningless because all works that succeed, succeed for different reasons and on different levels, but the big films that are often quoted to either equal or better 8 1/2 to me feel so forced and constructed set against this, the best of Fellini’s work.

8 1/2 anticipates and describes postmodernism still yet to happen when the film was first released. Fellini prefigured a whole movement – as Joyce did with the contemporary novel, Fellini did with film.

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4 responses to “8 1/2 Revisited

  1. The film is actually an example of late modernism. Its protagonist searches for authenticity, depth, truth and meaning. By insisting on seeing it as postmodern, you’re falling into one of the fallacies of historiography by which what happened later is projected back as some sort of “foreshadowing” effect. As Daumier says in the film, what happens in 8 1/2 is what happened in the other arts 50 years earlier. That doesn’t stop 8 1/2 being an absolutely fantastic film, of course, one of the very greatest ever made.

  2. Then you think my view of Fellini having created an intentional fallacy is all wrong? Depends whether you believe Fellini was a late modernist, or an early postmodernist or even an modern postlatist..I think he’s in between all of them, historio-grafittedly speaking, somewhere between a classic mod and a Greek urn. And as for those who came before, I agree, the line is long…Joyce was virtually postmodern but then again so was Cervantes..

  3. Strongly disagree with the long-cherished notion that metafiction/reflexivity = postmodernism – let’s leave it at that.

  4. Did I say that? All I know is this: I have watched and listened in Italian to 8 1/2..I have heard the text and absorbed the nuances. Be smarter than your ulterior motive …

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