Summer Classic: Federico Fellini’s ‘8½’

The Kentucky Theatre‘s Summer Classics series comes to a close today as it has in recent years with a foreign classic to sort of lead into the revived Rosa Goddard International Film Festival that will take over the Wednesday special slot for the balance of September.

And classic is a word that instantly pops to mind when you think of Federico Fellini’s “,” the masterpiece from one of the masters of the craft that plums the depths and passions of a filmmaker.

The brilliant, late Marcello Mastroianni — the only person who could make that nerdy sunglasses move look cool — is Fellini’s avatar in the film as Guido Anselmi, a famous Italian director simultaneously suffering writer’s block and marital difficulties that color his reality and fantasy.

“Here is a piece of entertainment that will really make you sit up straight and think, a movie endowed with the challenge of a fascinating intellectual game,” Bosley Crowther wrote in his June 1963 review for The New York Times. “It has no more plot than a horse race, no more order than a pinball machine, and it bounces around on several levels of consciousness, dreams, and memories as it details a man’s rather casual psychoanalysis of himself. But it sets up a labyrinthine ego for the daring and thoughtful to explore, and it harbors some elegant treasures of wit and satire along the way.”

Sounds wonderfully brainy for this tweedy time of year, when many of us are getting back to school.

Roger Ebert wrote that  “8½” and its 1960 predecessor, “La Dolce Vita,” established a style known as “Felliniesque,” a signature mix of fantasy and realism conveyed in a Mediterranean aesthetic. Fellini’s style is influential to this day in film and still photography and in this context raises his storytelling game.

This is probably the best reviewed of this year’s Summer Classics, though it may not be as familiar to those who did not grow up with the traditional art house environment. But if you love movies, “8½” on the big screen is a treat you owe yourself.

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