With 8 1/2 Federico Fellini tops even his trendsetting La Dolce Vita in artistry. Here is the author-director picture par excellence, an exciting, stimulating, monumental creation.
Basically, it is the story [by Fellini and Ennio Flaiano] of a 43-year-old director’s crucial visit to a health resort to cure an undetermined illness. At the spa, he is confronted with a series of crises of a personal as well as professional nature. He is about to start a major film production, but totally lacks inspiration for it.
At the same time, he is worried about his physical condition, is becoming bored by the voluptuous mistress he has brought along with him, and disappointed by his wife’s continued inability to understand him. All the while, he is hounded by production managers, would-be stars, scriptswriters.
Flashbacks to his youth and flash-forwards in the form of daydreams illustrate the director’s inner qualms and worries, resolved at the finale by his realization that, after all: ‘life is a feast; let’s live it together,’ taking the good with the bad.
8 1/2 defies telling or description. It is a 140-minute seance on the psychiatrist’s couch, in which the author turns himself inside out, confessing his innermost thoughts and problems, and finally reaching his apt conclusions.
Once again, Fellini gets top assistance from his large and colorful cast. Marcello Mastroianni is excellent as the middle-aged director, often deliberately bearing an uncanny resemblance to Fellini himself. Sandra Milo and Anouk Aimee fight it out for second honors, respectively as mistress and wife. Claudia Cardinale makes several strikingly effective appearances as Mastroianni’s symbol of pure creation. Nino Rota has penned a haunting score for the picture.
1963: Best Foreign Language Film