|Anouk Aimee as Louisa, the Fellini character's wife/tormentor.|
8 1/2 (1963)
d. Federico Fellini
Criterion Collection #140
One of the peculiarities of watching the Criterion Collection is that you are more likely to see the minor and/or early works of particular canonical director. Minor and early works are more often available and less often have a prior DVD edition, allowing Criterion to essentially introduce the film to their audience. Minor and early works are also more likely to show up on the Criterion Collection Hulu Plus channel, which is why the sudden appearance of 8 1/2 in mid May of this year was such a surprise.
Getting a handle on Fellini without 8 1/2 under your belt is nearly impossible. It's also one of the quintessential "movies about making movies" that seem to substantially define the mindset behind the "art film" as a genre. In it, Marcello Mastroanni plays Guido Anselmi AKA Federico Fellini. The plot concerns Anselmi/Mastroanni/Fellini's trials and tribulations immediately prior to the principle photography portion of a movie he is supposedly making. The movie remains un named and undescribed, but it appears to be a grand, complicated affair.
Anselmi's musings are nearly universal and concern the struggle about whether the creation of art is worth the effort. The role of naysayer is tellingly played by Anouk Aimee as Luisa Anselmi, the wife of the director. She inserts herself into a cozy weekend getaway for the director and his mistress, and it isn't long before she is talking about the lies he creates with his films, and how his art is ultimately self-serving, masturbatory and useless. Ultimately, Anselmi abandons the film, though a cryptic/surreal ending hints that maybe his decision is subject to a later reversal.
Through and through a masterpiece, 8 1/2 is a must if you have Hulu Plus- it was just uploaded, so don't delay in watching it lest they take it down before you get a chance to watch.