8 ½

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One of the greatest films about film ever made, Fellini’s wild, phantasmagoric 8 ½ turns one man’s artistic crisis into a grand epic of the cinema. The great Marcello Mastroianni delivers a mesmerizing performance as the Fellini-like director Guido Anselmi, an increasingly harried filmmaker overwhelmed by the large-scale production he has undertaken. Trying to escape the self-made chaos of his artistic and personal lives at an Italian health spa, he finds himself pursued by demanding producers, harangued by jealous mistresses and plagued by surreal fantasies of his own past, present and future as he struggles to find the inspiration to finish his film. Fellini brilliantly jumbles narrative logic by freely cutting from flashbacks to dream sequences to the present until it becomes impossible to pry them apart, creating both a psychological portrait of Guido’s interior world and the surrealistic, circus-like exterior world that came to be known as “Fellini-esque” (small wonder that an early working title for the film was The Beautiful Confusion). A shimmering dream of a film, 8 ½ won an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film, as well as the grand prize at the Moscow Film Festival, and was one of the most influential and commercially successful European art films of the 1960s, inspiring such later films as Bob Fosse’s All That Jazz (1979), Woody Allen’s Stardust Memories (1980), and even Lucio Fulci’s Italian splatter film Un Gatto nel Cervello (1990). (Dir. Federico Fellini, 1963, Italy, in Italian with subtitles, 138 mins., Not Rated) Digital