Posted on 3/25/13 03:45 AM
First of all, I must admit the film is probably too avant-gardistic at this point of my cinephile life. I'm pretty sure further rewatches will elevate this thing to my personal cinematic heaven - it has almost everything I love about the movies, just at this point of my life in a strange and convoluted style.
The two things that stood out the most, are the fascinating performance of Marcello Mastroianni (this is the first film that I've seen from him), which instantly made me understand why he's one of the highest praised actors of the past century and the wonderful and detailed sets and costumes (I'd love to see this in colour...). Add the soundtrack (sometimes it fits the scenes just perfectly, sometimes it helps to set this particular mood of overexcitement that Guido seems constantly trapped in) and the imaginative capabilities of the director and you got a winner.
Fellini works with a lot of dream sequences/flashbacks (you never quite know...) that appear without any premonition (which leads to some seemingly surrealistic moments but is it surrealistic if it happens in a dream?). I had quite a hard time to integrate the dream motives into the context of the "actual" plot but I have the feeling I'm not the only one with this problem.
The whole atmosphere of the film is outstanding. The unnerving life of Guido is in stark contrast to the rather restful backdrop of the spa setting. He tries to get away from his work and his women, but instead is pressed by his producer, actors, journalists and even calls his wife to accompany him. A quite schizophrenic world in which he lives, and not surprising that he's worn out.
Fellini however, puts a lot of comedy in his film too (most notably Guido as a kind of Indiana Jones within his harem of women). This way, he creates another contrast in which the viewer gets dragged in. A sense of urgency subliminally underscores the whole movie.
Extravaganza meets austerity, comedy meets tragedy, the volumptous costumes and sets in reality and the comparatively sober design of the dream sequences.
8 1/2 gets some bonus points for ambition and creativity and barely passes the 80% mark. I'm sure though, as I said, that it'll get a more favorable review in the future.