8½ on DVD and Blu-ray

Thursday, 14 November 2013 19:53

8 And A Half - On DVD and Blu-rayFederico Fellini's “8½” is a dizzying piece about Guido Anselmi, a famous movie maker who is rendered creatively impotent during the production of his latest film thanks to director's block. Guido (Marcello Mastroianni – “La Dolce Vita”, “City of Women”) is sent to a luxurious health spa by his doctor to help him regain his muse, but on his arrival Guido discovers that what seems like the entire Italian version of Hollywood has also decamped there.

The stifled director is surrounded by vain, egotistical actors desperate for a role, studio executives panicking about the financial risks associated with the director's latest opus, not to mention his own wife who (rightly) suspects him of infidelity. In these desperate circumstances, Guido finds himself reminiscing about key events in his life, in a dream-like state where the past and the present start to blend into one.

“8½” is regarded as Fellini's best work, and as a relative newcomer to his films I can see why. The striking black and white cinematography and sweeping, waltz-like camera movements astound the eye and suck the audience into Guido's dreadfully vapid world. Everywhere he turns, beautiful but surface-deep actresses flutter their eyelashes, and everyone obsesses about the spa's life-prolonging treatments without giving a thought to how they might lead a more fulfilling existence with the time they have left.

Mastroianni is excellent in the starring role (looking like a more handsome version of ex-PM John Major), commanding respect from everyone around him but helpless to act under the immense pressure. Anouk Aimée (“Lola”, “A Man and a Woman”) plays Guido's frostily elegant and neglected wife Luisa, and the vivacious Claudia Cardinale (“Once Upon a Time in the West”) is an actress Guido selects as his ideal woman, one apparently yet to be tainted by the life of a movie star.

The primary health spa location is just one of many striking and memorable sets; others include a colossal tower of scaffolding in the middle of a wasteland that represents a spaceship in Guido's new film, a suffocating traffic jam in the opening that the director imagines himself floating up and away from, and a beach scene where a child incarnation of Guido encounters a huge, demonic woman (Eddra Gale – “What's New Pussycat”) who dances the Rumba to great comic effect.

Ultimately, the movie is quite difficult to pin down and is an experience every film buff worth their salt should see, knowing that it will be quite unlike anything they have ever witnessed before.

Special features include:

  • ‘Lost Sequence - Fellini on Fellini’: exclusive 50-minute documentary where Fellini talks about life, love and making 8½, as well as that film’s famously lost alternative ending
  • Interview with Lina Wertmuller (the first woman ever to be nominated for an Oscar for Best Director); she started as Fellini’s Assistant Director on “8½”. They caught up with her in Rome, where she invites us into her home to reminisce about her friend – Federico
  • Tribute to Fellini’s speech on receiving his Life Achievement Academy Award
  • Theatrical Trailers

I watched the DVD version and was really impressed with its clear and relatively clean picture quality. The contrast is good and nothing is lost in the shadows.

“8 ½” (1963) is out now on DVD and Blu-ray, courtesy of Argent Films. The main feature has a running time of 138 minutes approx, carries a ‘15’ certificate and retails for £19.99 on DVD and £24.99 on Blu-ray, or less from www.culttvstore.com

 

Last modified on Friday, 15 November 2013 06:17

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