Since the dawn of cinema, there have been numerous film directors who have garnered the reputation of innovator, auteur, even genius of the medium. Only three directors, however, have created such unmistakably identifiable styles as to warrant film terminologies based on their very names. Alfred Hitchcock, with his unparalleled techniques of suspense and intrigue gave birth to the term Hitchcockian. In recent years, the phrase Spielbergian has found its way into the film-language lexicon, referring to Steven Spielberg's ability to weave stirring, emotional themes into massive-budget, blockbuster films. Perhaps the most-coined phrase taken from a filmmaker's name, however, is Felliniesque; based on the work of Italian director Federico Fellini. Felliniesque applies to the way Fellini masterfully blends fantasy and reality in many of his films; most notably in his revolutionary Otto e mezzo (1963). Upon its release, Otto e mezzo, which translates to 8 ½, garnered massive critical acclaim and won numerous prestigious awards, including the Academy Award for Best Foreign Film. Acclaim for the film has only grown over the years, and Otto e mezzo has, today, become routinely known as one of the greatest films ever made. While Federico Fellini's career is full of landmark films, Otto e mezzo, stands out as one of his most undeniably intriguing films, as well as his first and clearest foray into the style that would later lead to the term Felliniesque. That Otto e mezzo would, in part, lead to such an often-coined phrase in film terminology is ironic, as the film itself is, among other things, the single greatest movie ever made about making a movie.
[...] As in real life, the fantasies and memories Guido escapes to in Otto e mezzo are not random; they are all connected to current crisis and fears he is facing. This Felliniesque quality is one of the most revolutionary aspects of the film; it shows the audience that reality and fantasy cannot only be blended seamlessly in the world of Cinema, but that they exist hand in hand in the real world as well. In what is perhaps the film's most somber daydream sequence, Guido imagines having a conversation with his dead father. [...]
[...] Otto e mezzo is as much about a filmmaker bursting at the seams with inspiration as it is about a filmmaker lacking inspiration. Where Guido is at a creative standstill, the very fact that Federico Fellini was able to make such an intricate, transcendent film proves that his creative process was not slowing down. The final segments of Otto e mezzo involve a daydream in which Guido is moved to suicide by the incessant pressures placed on him by Pace, and a large group of reporters at a press conference. [...]
[...] The Harem sequence daydream takes place about three quarters of the way into Otto e mezzo, and, among other things, shows that Guido is making progress. He is able to successfully piece together fragments of memory and fantasy from earlier daydreams into an interesting narrative piece; albeit, all in his own mind. Stubbs adds; “before our eyes, he has put together a scene he could use. As we have seen, most of the materials, such as the characters, the set, and the props, were available to him earlier, but in his reverie he builds a tale with these materials” (Stubbs 124). [...]
[...] Whether or not these specific similarities are factual—Fellini himself was quite fond of exaggeration, often referring to himself as an “honest liar”—Guido's artistic journey in Otto e mezzo is an unmistakable parallel to Fellini's during the making of the film. After the success of La Dolce Vita, Federico Fellini was at an artistic and commercial crossroads. Producers were, in fact, pressuring him to repeat the success of La Dolce Vita and Fellini did not know what kind of film he wanted to make. [...]
[...] The way Fellini presents the artistic process of an unsure film director is one of the reasons Otto e mezzo is regarded as the greatest film ever made about filmmaking. It is said that, originally, Guido's character was written to be a screenwriter. Concerning the change of Guido's profession, Fellini himself has remarked: “It's difficult to portray a writer on the screen, doing what he does in an interesting way. There isn't much action to show in writing. The world of the film director is opened up to limitless possibilities” (Stubbs 116). [...]
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