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Marcello Mastroianni plays Guido Anselmi, a director whose new project is collapsing around him, along with his life. One of the greatest films about film ever made, Federico Fellini's 8½ (Otto e mezzo) turns one man's artistic crisis into a grand epic of the cinema. An early working title for 8½ was The Beautiful Confusion, and Fellini's masterpiece is exactly that: a shimmering dream, a circus, and a magic act.
For more about 8½ and the 8½ Blu-ray release, see the 8½ Blu-ray Review published by Dr. Svet Atanasov on December 17, 2009 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.5 out of 5.
Starring: Marcello Mastroianni, Claudia Cardinale, Anouk Aimée, Sandra Milo, Rossella Falk, Madeleine Le Beau
Director: Federico Fellini
» See full cast & crew
8½ Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Dr. Svet Atanasov, December 17, 2009
One of the greatest films ever made, Federico Fellini's "8 ½ " (1963) arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Criterion. Amongst the supplemental features on the disc are: an introduction by director Terry Gilliam; interviews with Lina Wertmuller, cinematographer Vittorio Storaro, and actress Sandra Milo; the documentary "Fellini: A Director's notebook"; Vassili Silovic's film "Nino Rota: Between Cinema and Concert"; an audio commentary with with Fellini friend and documentarian Gideon Bachmann and NYU film professor Antonio Monda; and more. A fully illustrated 30-page booklet has been included as well. With optional English subtitles. Region-A "locked".
8 ½ is undoubtedly Federico Fellini's most personal film. It is about a well known Italian director, Guido Anselmi (Marcello Mastroainni, La Dolce Vita), who arrives at a fashionable sanatorium where he hopes to regain his physical strength and creative powers. His next film is due very soon, and producers, actors and technical staff are already asking questions for which the director has no answers.
The more Guido attempts to hide the fact that he does not know what his film would look like, however, the more he begins to realize that perhaps the recovery he hopes for would never happen; what he experiences isn't a temporary crisis, but the end - he has shown the world everything he ever wanted to, everything he could.
Of course, everyone around Guido thinks that he is just an eccentric man whose vague answers to their questions are natural. They know that very soon he will shoot a brilliant film, one that would be praised and remembered for years to come. It is just a matter of time before he reveals what this brilliant film would be about…is it not, maestro?
It is a well documented fact that when Fellini began working on 8 ½ he really did not know what his film would be about. Initially, Guido Anselmi was to be a famous writer, not a film director, but Fellini changed his mind, and became his film's main protagonist.
Like most every other Fellini film, 8 ½ welcomes its audience into a world where fantasy and reality are closely intertwined. Alongside the serious, the bizarre, hilarious and shocking are everywhere. It is true that the tone of 8 ½ is not as direct as that of some of Fellini's earlier films, but it is still infused with the same intensity that ultimately forces one to remember his work. Fellini's films, whether one fully comprehends them or not, are unforgettable.
In an interview offered on this Blu-ray disc, Lina Wertmuller -- the famous Italian writer and director, whom Fellini invited to assist him on 8 ½ -- talks about the important role women had in Fellini's life. She explains why he treated them as objects in his films, as well as why he feared and at the same time admired them – his dreams were inspired by them, and so were his films.
Unsurprisingly, in 8 ½ Guido fantasizes about the moment when the mysterious actress Claudia (Claudia Cardinale, Girl with a Suitcase) would arrive and help him overcome his creative problems. She is the key to all of his struggles, not the two women that already share his life - his wife Luisa (Anouk Aimée, A Man and a Woman) and mistress Carla (Sandra Milo, The Visit).
There is an old proverb, "The first step towards greatness is to be honest". During the years, there have been many directors who have claimed that their works are honest, capturing their feelings, thoughts and emotions. Few, however, if any, have been as honest as Fellini in his 8 ½ - this is the personal confession of a director who has realized that the finest story he could ever tell is his own.
In 1964, 8 ½ won an Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film. During the same year, the film also won seven Silver Ribbon Awards, including Best Director and Best Cinematography (Gianni Di Venanzo), granted by the Italian National Syndicate of Film Journalists.
8½ Blu-ray, Video Quality
Presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1, encoded with MPEG-4 AVC and granted a 1080p transfer, Federico Fellini's 8 ½ arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Criterion.
In the booklet provided with this Blu-ray release, Criterion state the following: "This new high-definition transfer was created on a Spirit Datacine from a restored 35mm fine-grain master positive made from the original negative. Thousands of instances of dirt, debris, scratches, splices, warps, jitter, and flicker were manually removed using MTI's DRS system and Pixel Farm's PFClean system, while Digital Vision's DVNR system was used for small dirt, grain, and noise reduction."
Fine object detail, contrast and clarity have all benefited tremendously from the upgrade to 1080p. Many of the close-ups throughout the film are substantially better looking when compared to Criterion's DVD release of Fellini's film. The color-scheme is also notably stronger; the blacks are rich and well saturated while the whites look natural. Generally speaking, the film's grain structure is intact; some mild noise corrections, however, have been applied. Aside from a few unstable frame transitions, there are no serious stability issues to report in this review. Finally, large scratches, debris, splices, or dirt are not visible (I noticed only one cut that appeared very early into the film, right before Marcello gets out of his car and then exits the tunnel - however, I assume, that it must have been impossible to remove it completely). (Note: This is a Region-A "locked" Blu-ray disc. Therefore, you must have a native Region-A or Region-Free player in order to access its content).
8½ Blu-ray, Audio Quality
There is only one audio track on this Blu-ray disc: Italian LPCM 1.0. For the record, Criterion have provided optional English subtitles for the main feature.
According to the booklet provided with this Blu-ray disc, the uncompressed soundtrack was remastered at 24-bit from various 35mm optical positives and negatives. Nevertheless, I think that it is very well balanced - the dialog is exceptionally easy to follow and Nino Rota's lovely score surprisingly crisp. Those of you who have never seen Fellini's 8 ½ before will probably notice that occasionally there are some minor lip-sync issues, but this is something that was common for Italian films that were made at the time. Finally, I did not hear any overly disturbing pops, cracks, or hissings to report in this review.
8½ Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Commentary - this is the same audio commentary that was included on Criterion's DVD release of Fellini's 8 ½ . It combines an audio essay, read by actress Tanya Zaicon, and interviews with Fellini friend and documentarian Gideon Bachmann and NYU film professor Antonio Monda. It was recorded in New York and Berlin in 2001.
Introduction - director Terry Gilliam quickly explains what makes Fellini's 8 ½ such an important film as well as the type of impact the film had on his career. (8 min, 1080i).
Fellini: A Director's notebook - the Italian director made this hour-long "documentary" for producer Peter Goldfrab and NBC in 1969. A meditation on his films - including those he had abandoned and those he had not yet made - it follows the path laid out by 8 ½ and leading to such later self-reflexive films as Fellini's Roma and Orchestra Rehearsal. (52 min, 1080p). Also included is a letter Fellini sent to producer Peter Goldfrab, in which he outlined his plans for Fellini: A Director's Notebook. (In text format).
The Last Sequence - Federico Fellini originally intended for 8 ½ to end with a surreal sequence in a train car - sets were built and footage was shot, but all that remains are still photographs. From this starting point, Mario Sesti's fifty-two-minute documentary details the story of the original ending how it came to be replaced. (51 min, 1080i).
Nino Rota: Between Cinema and Concert - this is the same documentary by Vassili Silovic that was included on Criterion DVD release of 8 ½ . It focuses on Maestro Rota's work and his collaborations with Fellini. In German, with optional English subtitles. (48 min, 1080i).
Sandra Milo - the Italian actress talks about her first encounter with Fellini, the shooting of 8 ½ , etc. In Italian, with optional English subtitles. (27 min, 1080i).
Lina Wertmuller - in this video interview, the Italian director recalls her collaboration with Fellini on 8 ½, and explains how Fellini helped her direct her first film. Mrs. Wertmuller also discusses the important role women had in Fellini's life. In Italian, with optional English subtitles. (18 min, 1080i).
Vittorio Storaro - the famous cinematographer discusses Gianni Di Venanzo's unique use of light, his work with Fellini on 8 1/2, etc. In English. (18 min, 1080i).
Trailer - (3 min, 1080i).
Photographs by Gideon Bachmann -
Stills Gallery -
Booklet - a 30-page illustrated booklet featuring an excerpt from I, Fellini; a series of interviews with the Italian director by Charlotte Chandler; Tullio Kezich's essay "When He Became I"; Alexander Sesonske's essay "A Film with Itself As Its Subject"; and "I, Fellini (reprise)".
8½ Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
As expected, Criterion's treatment of Federico Fellini's 8 ½ does not disappoint. In fact, this epic film has never looked this good. Let's hope that in 2010 Criterion would delight us with even more classic Italian films on Blu-ray. Perhaps some of Michelangelo Antonioni, Pietro Germi, Ettore Scola, Luciano Salce, Valerio Zurlini's films? VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
8½ Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Fellini, Soderbergh, Wenders from Criterion in January - October 16, 2009
The Criterion Collection has announced its Blu-ray slate for January 2010: Federico Fellini's '8½', Steven Soderbergh's 'Che', and Wim Wenders' 'Paris, Texas' are set respectively for January 12, 19 and 26. 'Che' and 'Paris, Texas' will both feature director-approved ...
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