8 ½ Among Others

Thirty years after Federico Fellini’s death, numerous initiatives will be organized to celebrate a personality who has always remained at the forefront of the seventh art.
Enzo Vignoli

Next October 31 will mark 30 years since the death of Federico Fellini. In all likelihood, we will see numerous initiatives being organized throughout the year to celebrate a personality who, in fact, has no need for commemorations as he has always remained at the forefront of the seventh art. The films he directed make him one of the central figures in the history of twentieth-century cinema and culture. The releases of his films in festivals will enable younger generations to learn to know and love his personality. Among such events, I would like to point out FELLINI, Cinema is a Dream, running at the Magnani Rocca Foundation in Mamiano di Traversetolo (Pr) from March 18 to July 2. Drawings, photographs, playbills and costumes worn by the actors featured in the Rimini director’s phantasmagorias can be seen there. The film 8 1/2, Federico Fellini’s eighth film and a half (the half dates back to his beginnings in Variety Lights directed in 1951 together with Alberto Lattuada) appears to be his final will.


8 1/2 is not only the film of a director in crisis afraid of disappointment and of being let down, of not living up to himself after the resounding success of La dolce vita. It is an impulsion, like those that Frescobaldi or Paganini composed, it is the confession of one’s life made not to a priest or to God, but from Fellini to Fellini, trying not to hide, not to lie. It is a great saraband, an endless caravan, it is the story of the man who hides in order to live, who can live only by hiding and who has the right to do so because what we see is the story of that hiding. The act of hiding becomes the object in a film in which the director bares his soul. 

Poster of the film "8 1/2"

Federico Fellini, Guido Anselmi, Marcello Mastroianni, me, all sultans, narcissistic, self-absorbed, useless and stupid, unless redeemed by the creative fact, an identity dignity. Fellini, who, according to those close to him, was constantly lying stops hiding in his films (is this not a necessary and widely shared human condition?). Fellini is sincere when he lies, because this is his nature, and he does not try at all to hide it. He is not ashamed of this nature and wants to get it across. He would be lying if he asserted otherwise, if he wanted to impose a flattering, politically correct, committed, sanctimonious and self-righteous self-image. When in Rome a student hopes that the director does not want to put forward the usual image of a loud and conspicuous city and instead dwells on the analysis of the capital’s problems. Fellini responds, without controversy and without raising his voice, that everyone must do what is befitting. 

Poster of the film "I Vitelloni"

In the juxtaposition of recent past and present, when he switches from the stornellate, sweaty, greasy smell of outdoor trattorias or other meat for sale in the malodorous casini of the Fascist era to the chaos that levels life in a continuous, dulling noise that one ends up no longer noticing in road traffic — or in that antiquity-modernity when the city’s underground paves our way to the subway and the contact with the air causes the disappearance of the frescoes that are barely coming to light — Fellini does not make a denunciation, but implicitly declares his nostalgia for a glimpsed and already dead past that can never coexist with the present.

Considering together his three films that I love most — I Vitelloni, La dolce vita, 8 1/2 — there seems to be a single value, beyond what has been said so far, in a coherent existential chronological flow, whereby I Vitelloni reflects the late adolescent arc of the director’s life. Fellini turns to the world without knowing exactly what to ask of it and what it can offer him. La dolce vita is the next passage, in which the man Fellini is enveloped in the whirlwind of existence. He wants to live, needs to live, and fends off as best he can the assaults of those (his girlfriend above all) who would like to deny that need for freedom. 

Poster of the film "La dolce vita"

Fortunately for us, Fellini could not put his head on straight, and 8 1/2 is the testament of one who has lived, but still and always claims life. It is a confession, but also a claim to status, the assertion of a right. Fellini confronts the judgment of the intellectual over whom he takes the upper hand and from whom he distances himself, making a monument to disengagement, with an iron anti-logic that obeys only the flow of dreams, of memories, of the right or the duty to claim one’s vocation to male chauvinism, which never sounds like a deliberate desire to overpower women, but like a need to be free of inhibitions and the honesty to acknowledge it. We should express eternal gratitude to Giulietta Masina. When in 8 1/2 Guido asks his wife to walk that road with him because it is the only one he knows; when Marcello in La dolce vita shouts to his fiancée that the life she would like him to lead is that of an earthworm, bloodless and soulless, it is Federico Fellini speaking to Giulietta Masina. His wife may be the reason and the first destination of his films.

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