Two of the legendary Italian film director Federico Fellini's films, OTTO E MEZZO, also known as 8 ½, which was filmed in 1963; AND THE SHIP SAILS ON, which was filmed in 1983, demonstrate significantly different aspects of this great director's cinematic talent. Separated in time by two decades, created in distinctly different social and cultural environments, and products of very different stages in Federico Fellini's career, the two films reflect contrast much more than they feature similarity. One is very good, and the other is not. In the early nineteen-sixties Federico Fellini was at the height of his creative power and genius. LA DOLCE VITA in 1961 and OTTO E MEZZO in 1963 were in my opinion his best films. By the time he filmed AND THE SHIP SAILS ON in 1983, Fellini had lost much of his inspirational and innovative talent, and but for a few lingering moments of inspiration now and again in the later films of his career, he was but a shadow of his former self. His last notable success was in 1974, and his decline was well evident by 1983 in AND THE SHIP SAILS ON. Focusing our attention at this point upon specific elements of the first film up for discussion, Federico Fellini's 1963 film OTTO E MEZZO, or 8 ½, is considered by some cinematic historians to be one of the best films ever made. It is largely a product of the revolutionary, exciting, and dynamic nineteen-sixties, for in every camera shot in the entire film the bodies of women, the eyes of the characters, the shadows of old men's faces, and the bright whiteness of childhood memories threaten to trigger sensory overload in the audience. Every new image and line of dialogue in the film either brings a smile or a new, startling revelation. (Burke 78) In addition to its vigorous and energetic visual style, OTTO E MEZZO is also characterized by the labyrinthine quality of its plot lines. For example, the protagonist wanders about, seemingly without any direction or purpose, through seemingly endless bizarre episodes in which the crowd of secondary characters comes and goes, sometimes with much fuss and fanfare, sometimes without a sound. The protagonist's detached, bemused expression is a perfect reflection of the camera's own attitude toward each scene, for it observes, but does not engage; it is ready to be amused and fascinated, but never really involved. In essence, the film centers around the fact that the protagonist Guido, like Fellini himself with LA DOLCE VITA, has just had a big movie hit and now seeks to recover from it at a health spa. Unfortunately, he is hounded there and everywhere by all of the people who depend on him for their happiness or livelihoods, such as his producer, his writer, his mistress, and the actors and actresses who want to be the stars of his next film. Furthermore, the producer has spent a fortune to build a gigantic set of a rocket ship, but Guido has a troubling and potentially catastrophic secrethe doesn't have the slightest idea of what his next movie will be about. (Chandler 148) The movie proceeds as a series of encounters between Guido and his conscience. He remembers his childhood, his strict parents, his youthful fascination with a tawdry woman who lived down by the beach. His mistress follows him to the spa, and then his chain-smoking, intellectual wife follows, and soon becomes enraged at him, as much for his bad taste in women as for his infidelity. Then follows one of the most famous sequences in all of modern cinema. In his daydreams, Guido occupies a house with all of the women he has been involved with in his life, both past and present. Intriguingly and improbably, they all love him and forgive him, and love one another as well. But then comes the inevitable revolt, forcing Guido to establish his authority in an effort to tame them. He fails of course, for it is impossible. In essence, OTTO E MEZZO is the portrait of a man desperately trying to weld...
Bibliography: Alfieri, Carlos. Federico Fellini. New York: Mestas, 2000.
Burke, Frank. Fellini 's Films: From Postwar to Postmodern. New York: Simon
and Schuster, 1996.
Chandler, Charlotte. I, Fellini. New York: Random House, 1995.
Harris, Mason. The Films of Federico Fellini. New York: Citadel Press, 1988.
Strahan, Miles. Federico Fellini. Online. Available: http://www.filmref. com/directors/dirpages/fellini.html. 5 April 2001.
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