Sep 15, 2009

20th Sept2009; Fellini's 81/2

8 ½

A film by Fderico Fellini
Country : Italy
Year : 1963
Italian with English subtitles
Run time : 138 min
20th Sept 2009; 5.45 pm
Ashwin Hospital Auditorium
Call:94430 39630

Followed by video commentaries on 8 ½
1. Terry Gilliam’s (Brazil) introduction
2. Comments on cinematography of 8 ½
by legendary Vittorio Storaro

Federico Fellini's manic, larger-than-life 8 1/2 rules as the king of all Italian movies. 8 1/2 weaves fluidly through the visually intoxicating landscape of Federico Fellini's subconscious, seemingly to seek inspiration and validation for his life and work. In an opening scene that symbolizes much of Fellini's films, a suffocating man, trapped inside his car, inexplicably begins to float into the skies, only to be abruptly tugged back to the ground. But it is also an indelible image that shatters any preconceived illusion of "typical" elements in a Fellini film.

Fellini made better films earlier in his career, but no other film so perfectly outlines his thought process, and captures his evolution from a realist to a spectacle-maker."8 1/2" is the best film ever made about filmmaking. It is told from the director's point of view, and its hero, Guido (Marcello Mastroianni), is clearly intended to represent Fellini.
It begins with a nightmare of asphyxiation, and a memorable image in which Guido floats off into the sky, only to be yanked back to earth by a rope pulled by his associates, who are hectoring him to organize his plans for his next movie. Much of the film takes place at a spa near Rome, and at the enormous set Guido has constructed nearby for his next film, a science fiction epic he has lost all interest in.
The film weaves in and out of reality and fantasy. Sometimes the alternate worlds are pure invention, as in the famous harem scene where Guido rules a house occupied by all of the women in his life--his wife, his mistresses, and even those he has only wanted to sleep with. In other cases, we see real memories that are skewed by imagination. When little Guido joins his schoolmates at the beach to ogle the prostitute Saraghina, she is seen as the towering, overpowering, carnal figure a young adolescent would remember. When he is punished by his priests of his Catholic school, one entire wall is occupied by a giant portrait of Dominic Savio, a symbol of purity in that time and place; the portrait, too large to be real, reflects Guido's guilt that he lacks the young saint's resolve.
All of the images (real, remembered, invented) come together into one of the most tightly structured films Fellini made. The screenplay is meticulous in its construction--and yet, because the story is about a confused director who has no idea what he wants to do next, "8 1/2" itself is often described as the flailings of a filmmaker without a plan. Fellini's camera is endlessly delighting. His actors often seem to be dancing rather than simply walking. Fellini is a magician who discusses, reveals, explains and deconstructs his tricks, while still fooling us with them. He claims he doesn't know what he wants or how to achieve it, and the film proves he knows exactly, and rejoices in his knowledge.

Federico Fellini

Federico Fellini, a canonical name of personal expression and artistic fantasy in the cinema, had no formal technical training in his profession. Born in the seaside town of Rimini in Italy in 1920, he quit the provinces for Rome at age 18. Enrolled in law school, he abandoned the degree. He never considered attending Rome's Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia, whose graduates he would later collaborate with. And unlike his contemporaries, he never frequented the cinema clubs that screened the best Italian directors' films and international titles from France, Germany and Russia. When pressed for his influences, Fellini preferred Chaplin, Buster Keaton, Laurel and Hardy, the Marx brothers, Pietro Germi, and Buñuel (with his black humor) to "cine-club" names such as Dreyer, Griffith and Eisenstein. Young Fellini supported himself as a wandering caricaturist until hired by Marc'Aurelio in 1939. The famed humor bi-weekly served as an unofficial training ground for scriptwriters and directors of the postwar period.

Fellini's formative influences can be traced back to the popular Italian culture of the period, and not primarily the cinema. The cartoons, caricature sketches, and radio comedy that were his popular art métier brought him to the cinema as a gagman and scriptwriter. Novelist Italo Calvino diagnosed the influence of mass culture on Fellini's later sophisticated cinematic language as a "forcing of the photographic image in a direction that carries it from an image of caricature toward that of the visionary." Fellini trained for a professional life as a visionary with over ten years of scriptwriting and on-the-set apprenticeship.
For the postwar Left, a film's critical value was based on whether it depicted Italy's social problems and offered a Marxist remedy. Directors who followed their own imperatives were labeled conservative or reactionary. As a veteran of the scripting team responsible for two exemplars of Italian neorealism, Roma città aperta and Paisà (both Roberto Rossellini, 1945 and '46), Fellini was interested in moving toward a "cinema of Reconstruction." After Paisà, he redefined his artistic credo to "looking at reality with an honest eye - but any kind of reality; not just social reality, but also spiritual reality, metaphysical reality, anything man has inside him."

His career compresses the comparable progress in literature from 19th century realism to the reflexive post-modernity of compatriots Italo Calvino and Luigi Pirandello. Exposing the means of fiction, playwrighting, or filmmaking in Fellini's case (in contrast to the neorealist posture of delivering an unmediated story with newsreel aesthetics), all these authors uncover the "ploy" of authorship. It's as if Fellini critiqued realism as an impossible notion by pointing up its fabrication and adding the suppressed element of the fantastic. In his own words, "I make a film in the same manner in which I live a dream..
(Thanks to Senses Of Cinema )


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Arth said...

The 15th Kolkata Film Festival starting this Nov 10 upto 17th..will be dedicated to the priceless works of this great Italian Film maker...Waiting too eagerly for it to kick off soon