8½ - Blu-ray Review

'At its very best when exploring Fellini's fascination with story. Guido is building his own, but how do we tell our autobiographies? Gross exaggeration, hyperbole, half remembered truths'

Accepted as Fellini's masterpiece, it's a pleasant and welcome surprise to find on my first watch of the film that not only is more accessible than much of the director's other work I've come across recently, but it's also more entertaining, better drawn and better realised. Lead Marcello Mastroianni is comparatively sprightly and full of life when compared to elsewhere and scenes zip along at a surprising rate, slightly bizarre flights of fancy: not optional.

The reason you come to though, surely, is not to be whisked away by a mainstream-like Thriller. The new blu-ray from Argent Films does not promise easy-watching entertainment, it promises a 'masterpiece'; ideas, themes and visual realisation.

Certainly in the latter of those, it is difficult to see anything wrong with Argent's issue of the film, nor with Fellini's occasional beauty, nor cinematographer Gianni Di Venanzo's clear and crisp shooting, allied to his mastery of lighting. The blu-ray looked, to me, pretty much as perfect as any I've seen from this period of cinema and the sound - unlike even some contemporary discs - had few faults.

As gross understatement goes, it is fair to say Fellini is not lacking in the ideas department. This is, primarily, a film about the male psyche; not just about how it can take over occasionally but about how it rules all, there to distract and command as it sees fit. Guido (Mastroianni) isn't just here occasionally drifting off to a world where all of the women he has bedded exist to serve him (though this is revealed as an ultimate fantasy, near to the end), he is here trying to make a film about that very thing. Brief day dreams are no longer that: they are the thoughts that rule his life. When he invites his lover and his wife to be in the same place at the same time, it isn't because the thinks it is a good idea, it is because he has completely given in to his interior desires.

That film on its own though could risk being a quite flippant look at man in all his rampant 'glory'. works as it does because there is more than this going on, both in Guido's head and on our screen. Libido distracted accordingly, Guido cannot help considering religion, as something that has shaped him and, whether we want to admit it or not, all of us to some degree or another. Guido seeks the advice of Church figures, most notably a near messianic Cardinal, and, whilst he can see the benefit of their advice, ultimately ignores it; such is, perhaps, the modern world.

The real success though, outside of the look at man, is in Fellini's fascination with story. Guido is building his own, but how do we tell our autobiographies? Gross exaggeration, hyperbole, half remembered truths and things we wished happened. Is it surprising that Guido can remember a fling with a show girl, clearly when they were both young? He searches for his tale amongst people telling him to remember it differently, to question the facts and reign himself in. This isn't just a meditation on film-making but on storytelling in general, on the storytelling we do everyday, on remembering our own lives. Something sometimes not as easy as those on the outside might imagine it to be.

8½ is out on new DVD and Blu-ray in the UK from Monday 11th November.

By Sam Turner. Sam is editor of Film Intel, and can usually be found behind a keyboard with a cup of tea. He likes entertaining films and dislikes the other kind. He's on , Twitter and several places even he doesn't yet know about.

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