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4.1 out of 5 stars
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on 13 July 2001
8 ½ is often hailed as a masterpiece of cinema and in my opinion is THE best film ever made. In 1963 it was awarded an Academy Award for Best Foreign Film. This mind-blowing and inspirational film is about a film director who doesn't know what to make a film about. It is partly an autobiographical film taken from his own experiences - he ran away with the circus for a week and it's easy to see this in his films - just look at La Strada! What is so encapsulating about this film is that you are never able to anticipate what will happen next. Right from the opening sequence I realised I was in for a surreal and haunting experience. It was a journey into the unknown where anything can happen. It is like being thrown into some unknown bizarre world. Some dream sequences are combined with eerie music that create atmosphere and make the whole experience of watching this film more involving.
Marcello Mastrioani (Guido) acts as Fellini who is uncaring and unsympathetic to the world that surrounds him. He does this with professional perfection, in my view better than in La Dolce Vita. Every muscle in his face works to add to his stunning performance.
It raises so many questions about artistic creativity and integrity. This leaves you able to watch it time and time again as new questions are raised in each viewing. I have seen it innumerable times and am glad I can now watch it as many times as I want. If you like cinema as art you will love this - pure cinema!
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on 1 July 2001
A wonderful montage of dream, memory and fantasy, Fellini's '8 1/2' is a cinephile's dream. As the troubled director 'Guido Anselmi' Mastroianni is again Fellini's screen persona and he turns in a performance worthy of the auteur himself. The film asks us to look in detail at the art of making a film. This self- reflexivity favours character emotion over narrative continuity. The film is the antithesis of contemporary Hollywood production values- if you have seen one explosion or heard one cheesy line too many- then watching this crisp DVD of Fellini's '8 1/2' will remind you what cinema should be about.
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There are several different issues of Fellini's 8½ available, but the quality varies wildly. As others have noted, Nouveaux's PAL disc has almost illegible subtitles and offers a poor presentation: on the other end of the scale, Criterion's remastered 2-disc NTSC edition is quite outstanding (though be careful not to confuse it with their earlier single-disc edition).

The film itself is not to all tastes, and sadly not quite to mine. For the most part 8½ left me cold, one of those films where you get what is being done but it's just not on your wavelength. It's pointless to complain about it being hit-and-miss or confused, since erratic confusion is the nature of the beast as Fellini becomes possibly the first man to film his own nervous breakdown (or at very least his crisis of creativity). In many ways the turning point in Fellini's career where fantasy and grotesquery would become an increasing part of increasingly disjointed phantasmagorias with a design style as cluttered as a tart's dressing table, there are moments that strike home and the latter scenes with his wife and with Claudia work because there's a sense of self-awareness of Fellini's limitations not just as an artist but as a human being. But overall I was just left with the feeling that I'd got on the wrong train by mistake.

(Incidentally, to strike a timely note, it's amusing to note that the producer's brainless bimbo girlfriend is the spitting image of Paris Hilton!)

It's a shame Criterion's otherwise excellent 2-disc DVD couldn't locate the deleted sequences, although they are well represented in the excellent stills galleries. Alongside the 50-minute 'Director's Notebook' documentary TV special by Fellini, the 45-minute German Nino Rota documentary is interesting and has a wonderful moment where the composer accepts a proffered cigarette only to turn down a light because he doesn't smoke!
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on 11 January 2005
Bravo Guido! Welcome to the wacky world of 8 and a half! Fellini goes less overboard than in his stranger works (Satyricon) and yet harder to decrypt than the more famous La Dolce Vita. Guido, a loveless and forlorn, yet suave and sophisticated film maker, played with amiable genius by Marcello Mastroianni, is surrounded by adoring females, desperate for a word, a part in his movies, some acceptance or completion for their longing. He in turn is stuck with an unmakeable film, against a ravishing backdrop of 1960's health-spa Italia, his wife Luisa (Anouk Aimée) joining him half-way along to add yet more casual Italian high-chic and designer angst, and more jealousy and pathos. Is this great and memorable film really about making movies? Or something more profound? We are treated to ravishing entertainments, a bewildering montage of images, including the extraordinarily cynical and mournful demolition of the Catholic Clergy and their role - yet the movie remains for all that strangely elusive. Perhaps it's about Italy, about modernity and the struggle for meaning. Perhaps it's about childhood and it's effect on the adult. Guido is obsessed with memories of the kindness he had from the women who looked after him in a pre-war orphange - but then he's also obviously untroubled and cheerful. Every now and then, the characters break out of their misery and do a little dance to themselves - look out for one of the sexiest moments in cinema when Aimee does this - yet the music track, full of circus and decadence, suggests decay and despair more than light and lively. The real problem with this, as with other Fellini movies, is the lack of guidance. Guido cannot guide us as to meaning, because he does not know himself; and we are supposed to just sit back and absorb the cinematic experience. But we cannot, because like all cinema audiences, we need something more, some revealed truth, which is more than the moment-by-moment shifting sands of Fellini's complex dances with meaning. Magnificent stuff, but ultimately deeply flawed.
The DVD is not particularly great, quality is about the same as taped versions and there are no special features. The subtitles are still sometimes annoyingly invisible against Fellini's startling white backgrounds.
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on 9 March 2005
"Fellini's 8½" is an autobiography of the creative consciousness, an exploration of mind and memory, and a cautionary tale for the would be film-maker, writer, or artist. Made when he had completed eight feature films and was half way into his ninth, "8½" is a confessional work. Marcello Mastroianni plays the part of Guido, film director and superstar, a man everyone wants to know, a man everyone wants to impress ... a role Fellini knew only too well.
Guido is trapped. Everyone expects his next film to be even greater than his last, but the director is experiencing a crisis of creativity. This is writer's block, delivered to the big screen in black and white, the blank page filled with the moving images of angst. An intensely personal experience, the director's pain is ruthlessly exposed to public view.
"8½" explores creativity and its interplay with dream, memory, consciousness, and the magical, unconscious process by which ideas germinate and flower. The film drifts harvests allusions to earlier Fellini works - characters and settings reappear or are caricatured, making ironic reference to their earlier successes. (The film opens with Guido trapped in a traffic jam, escaping to float away above the scene like the opening shot of Christ flying over Rome in 'La Dolce Vita'.)
Guido is haunted by his previous experiences - the women who have filled his life and the ghosts of his earlier creations. Fellini explores the workings of the human mind. We all try to make sense of our thoughts, to create a logical narrative which will order our lives and give it recognisable shape. In our mind, life follows a straightforward narrative, a chronological path - it has pattern, it has direction, it has coherence.
But life isn't really like that. Fellini repeatedly presents us with images of roads, queues, corridors, life moving along predictable straight lines. But, though film passes in a straight line through the projector, image after image, one frame at a time, it is not bound by its two dimensional format. The film maker can jump from time to time, place to place, creating disorder and surreal juxtapositioning of the narrative.
Life, too, can be random, disorganised, chaotic. Our experiences are mediated by our memories and thoughts; we impose a logical order on life, rather than experience it. Life is a constant menu of choice as we struggle to make sense of the unpredictable and fit it within the logic of our own narrative architecture. If life is chaos, how can we understand creativity, how can we predict it, how can we tap into it with certainty?
Writer's block is not ultimately about a creative drought - it is about a sudden failure in self-confidence, a fear that your next idea won't work, that you will go to the well and find it dry. And Fellini's imagery in "8½" repeatedly returns to the spaceship he is building as the centrepiece of his latest film. Will it get off the ground, will it fly? Characters complain about the costs, predict that it won't work, echo the voices of criticism the creative artist hears whether awake or asleep.
"8½" is stream of consciousness, part personal nightmare, part nostalgia, part flashback, part an on-screen grappling to comprehend the place of vision in the face of self-doubt and disillusionment with the whole circus of celebrity. There are images of decay, of growing old, of loss of vitality. Here we have the director, a man who comments on life, who is constantly being asked his opinions about life and art, a man who watches and tries to understand ... but a man who is oppressed by his own celebrity, by his exposure to the observation of others, by their failure to understand that he simply wants some peace and quiet.
The theme constantly returns - experience triggers memories, memories define our interpretation of experience. Life is a narrative, but there can never be a satisfactory narrative explanation of life. The story is never scripted, it never follows a robust screenplay. The past we can order ... the future is beyond imagination ... but the present is a doorway in which we are trapped, never entirely sure how to proceed. It is a doorway which opens onto a vista of a decaying future, of time running out, of mortality. We live life in snapshots ... then have to try to make a feature film of it!
To some extent, this is pure self-indulgence. But life is self-indulgence. We make characters of the people we meet, we fit them into our own narrative of life. Here Fellini makes people out of the characters he has created, then reduces them to ephemera, to characters again, given fleeting moments on the stage. There is no democracy in our memories or in art - we are the dictator, and we can remember or forget people.
And Fellini throws all his characters and memories into the ring and watches them interact. Ultimately, "8½" is a joyous film, optimistically celebrating the human carnival and the creative process. It's a film which overflows with vigour, courage, and humour. An astonishingly wonderful film which you can watch again and again and still see aspects and details you missed before. Utterly stunning!
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It always amazes me how a film ranked as the 10th best ever made (an acknowledged masterpiece) can be so royally screwed when it comes to a new format like BLU RAY.

There's two BLU RAY versions of Fellini's 1963 movie "8 ½" - the best is the Criterion Edition which was issued Stateside in 2010 - but it's REGION-A LOCKED and requires a MULTI-REGION BLU RAY player which few have. And (as of February 2014) they still cost real money to buy (unlike their multi-region DVD counterparts).

The UK/EURO issue is on Cinema Classics and although it boasts a great print - it suffers from intrusive subtitles on screen permanently that you can't get rid of.

One day someone will do it right. But for UK and Euro film fans - you may have to wait a little while yet...
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on 29 January 2007
I love this film, but gave up watching this DVD 20 minutes in. The annoyingly large subtitles take up the bottom third of the screen at times blocking much of the picture. Worse, they are also frequently unreadable because of the white backgrounds in many scenes. Extremely frustrating.
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on 24 February 2015
I rented this Cinema Classics Blu-ray from Lovefilm to check out the quality prior to purchasing it. To try and clear up the subtitle issue: I found that the subtitles were removable and not embedded as stated by another reviewer. My Panasonic machine enabled me to remove them or re-position them. I suspect that this is a machine based issue along with other problems that crop up particularly on the Blu-ray front. The subs are quite diminutive and therefore certainly not obtrusive. Looking at screen captures of the Criterion Blu-ray on DVD Beaver, this region A locked release certainly looks better in terms of the picture quality (detail, grain etc.). I'm going to wait until I purchase a code free machine before I invest in this film yet again! I should say that the Cinema Classics Blu-ray is a huge improvement on the Nouveaux Pictures DVD release which should be avoided at all costs.
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on 17 June 2007
I saw this on TV a few months ago and thought it would be great to own on DVD. But, like another reviewer on this site, I gave up after 20 mins as the subtitles are - for the most part - unreadable: white subtitles on white backgrounds. The box proudly boasts "Digitally remastered from restored print" yet this is irrelevant if you've no idea what's going on. Didn't anyone from Nouveau Pictures look at a copy before pressing, think "oh, you can't read the subtitles" and change them? This level of incompetence is quite incredible. Avoid at all costs (unless, of course, you speak Italian).
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 7 September 2012
We come into this world and are free to pick our moments for finally getting around to the great works of art and culture. When did you see Eight & A Half? When did you, at last, see it? Had someone built the thing up like a tower so that inevitably it was a crashing disappointment? I guess, not likely with this film.

The world of Guido, director at the eye of the storm. Everyone wants him. Everyone assails him. His mental abstractions, timid escapes, flights of fantasy, boyhood. All of this carried forward with a dervish-like momentum. The world of the artist, the dream and the reality, indivisible; subjective and self-deluding.

For myself, I spent most of the movie wondering if Woody Allen hadn't ripped the entire thing for his follow-up to Manhattan, Stardust Memories [DVD]. I guess he must have said so. Allen's film is funnier and more self-conscious than Fellini's; more user friendly. Allen's predicament was similar to Fellini's, but as a fan paying tribute to the Italian master his film adds another layer of intertextual meaning. Fellini's film does have its humorous moments, the best one being the harem sequence, but I'm not convinced I'll hurry to see it again. Maybe as a double-bill, for friends, so they can compare.
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