8 1/2 (Otto e mezzo)
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Filmmaker Guido Anselmi is meant to go into production with his next project – an elaborate science-fiction feature – shortly, but he is suffering from director’s block as a result of intense pressure and issues with his health and marriage. He retreats to a health spa in the hopes of sorting everything out.
From this rather slight premise, master director Federico Fellini coaxes a truly brilliant film that has been ensconced in the Western canon since the moment of its release in 1963. A sort of comical and bittersweet tour of the mind of a conflicted artist, the film is made up of Guido’s dreams, daydreams, imaginings of his upcoming film and his memories, as they all puncture, embellish or distract from his current reality.
Often, the film shifts from one of these five registers of consciousness to another with little or no warning, though at first they can be differentiated – memories are fondly sentimental, daydreams gently lyrical, dreams symbolically bizarre. But Guido’s mind is the film’s entire universe, and eventually it becomes virtually impossible to tell the real from the illusory. As the film nears its close, this crescendo of fluidity reaches its peak, resulting in a final sequence that is one of the great triumphs of pure cinema.