In conjunction with its exhibition “Fellini's Book of Dreams” – which is definitely worth a visit – the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will present a special screening of Federico Fellini's Academy Award-winning 1963 extravaganza 8½ on Friday, April 17, at 7:30 p.m. at the Samuel Goldwyn Theater in Beverly Hills. The evening will be hosted by Robert Rosen, dean of the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television.
There have been homages and imitations ever since (Bob Fosse's All That Jazz comes to mind), but no self-analytical film that I've seen gets even close to what Fellini accomplished in 8½, while very few films about the art of moviemaking have been nearly as artful or movieish.
In 8½, Marcello Mastroianni stars as Fellini's alter-ego, Guido Anselmi, a renowned film director struggling to find inspiration for his next project. Overwhelmed by the world around him – the lights, the cameras, the biz, the wife, the mistress – Anselmi immerses himself in a semi-dreamlike state in which past and present, fantasy and reality become inextricably intertwined. According to Fellini himself, 8½ is the story of “a film director who is trying to put together the pieces of his life … and to make sense of them, to understand what they mean.”
I'm not sure if Fellini achieved what he wanted, but whether or not it's all clear at the end is all but irrelevant. What truly matters is the hallucinogenic ride getting there. And I probably should add that the first time I saw 8½ (on television) I found it a big bore; the second time around (on the big screen) – even without the help of drugs – it was pure magic.
Also in the 8½ cast: Anouk Aimée (as Anselmi's wife, though Aimée had nothing in common with Giulietta Masina), Claudia Cardinale, Barbara Steele (right), Sandra Milo, and Rossella Falk. Nino Rota composed the film's brilliant score. Gianni Di Venanzo provided the dreamy black-and-white cinematography.
8½ was nominated in only three more categories: Best Directing (Fellini), Writing - Story and screenplay written directly for the screen (Fellini, Ennio Flaiano, the recently deceased Tullio Pinelli, Brunello Rondi) and Black-and-White Art Direction (Gherardi).
Fellini's exploration of his own dreams can be experienced in the exhibition “Fellini's Book of Dreams,” on display through April 19 in the Academy's Grand Lobby Gallery. On April 17, the Academy will host special evening exhibition viewing hours from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. and immediately following the screening.
Tickets for 8½ are $5 for the general public and $3 for Academy members and students with a valid ID, and may be purchased online at www.oscars.org, in person at the Academy box office or by mail. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. The Samuel Goldwyn Theater is located at 8949 Wilshire Boulevard in Beverly Hills. All seating is unreserved. For more information, call (310) 247-3600.
Photos: Courtesy of the Margaret Herrick Library