Federico Fellini triumphantly conjured himself out of a bad case of creative block with this autobiographical magnum opus about a film director experiencing creative block.
“The poetic fantasy of Fellini’s earlier films culminated in the baroque exuberance of 8½, in which the image is freed from reality to pursue the phantasms of the imagination, fancy and memory.”
Pierre Leprohon, The Italian Cinema, 1966
After the popular and critical success of his state-of-the-nation paparazzi drama La dolce vita (1960), Federico Fellini found himself at an artistic impasse. The fog lifted when he turned to his own situation for inspiration, casting Marcello Mastroianni as his alter ego, famous Italian director Guido Anselmi.
Taking its title from the number of films Fellini had completed up to this point (including some short segments for anthology films), 8½ features Guido being besieged by sycophants and collaborators as he struggles to get started on an unwieldy science-fiction epic. Frequently digressing into surreal and erotic dream sequences, Fellini’s self-reflexive movie about movie-making climaxes with an exuberant parade in which Guido directs the colourful cast of characters who have played supporting roles in his life.
A favourite film among film directors, Fellini’s film was the model for several subsequent films about filmmaking, notably Woody Allen’s Stardust Memories (1980).