Archive for 1963

8 1/2 :: FOREIGN :: 016

Posted in Foreign with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on 11/11/2009 by joycereview

8bear8 and a half - FelliniThe off-the-wall irony is, might you guess, that I’d actually rate this picture 8 and 1/2.

It’s a shame though, that The Joyce Review is prejudiced against fractions.  Their bourgeois nature offends me and so, we’ll round it off at a solid and majestic 8.

Hailed by Roger Ebert as “the best film ever made about filmmaking” 8 1/2 features Guido (Marcello Mastroianni) as a famed director working on his latest masterpiece.  It is to be an epic picture, part science fiction and part commentary on Catholicism.  [Damn you fractions!]  The worst part is that he has completely lost his artistic vision and is constantly pestered by producers, writers and would-be actors to make the needed directorial decisions. He shirks and flees to the realms of memory, dream and fantasy to search for answers.

Just like the story’s hero (Guido), Fellini was riding the high-wave of success from his previous film, La Dolce Vita (1961), when he is thrown into a common artistic conundrum of  how to top the last.  In a Seinfeld-esque move (“I’ve got an idea for a show.” What’s the show about? says the other person. “Nothing!”), Fellini takes his actual feelings towards the artistic struggle and places it on the head of our hero, like a sacrificial goat, and sets him loose to create a picture that “Is what it is”… as aimless and scattered as reality but as cerebral and poignant as a dream.

8 1/2 is a highly visual picture that intends to evoke through the use of style and imagination.  It’s an inner-space odyssey in which the story begins with the main character (Guido) as he is trapped in traffic, becomes asphyxiated, and (in one of my favorite scenes of the film) floats into the clouds only to notice that he is not free; in fact, he is a human kite being reeled in by his peers at the shore.  They tug at his kite strings, he loses flight and plummets towards the surf.  He awakens suddenly to find himself in a spa in Rome.

With this strong opening scene, 8 1/2 begins a journey through the mind of the director (and of Fellini) and his interactions between his sultry and materialistic mistress (Sandra Milo) and his intellectual wife (Anouk Aimee); those that obnoxiously clamor for his attention (producers, writers & actors) and those whose attention he would give willingly.  It’s a battle between the primal and the spiritual and of desire and obligation.  At times, a beautiful muse appears (perhaps one of the loveliest faces I’ve seen on the silver screen, Claudia Cardinale) and in her delicately calm manner, tries to reassure him that all will be forgiven.

The Visionary is the only true Realist.

Federico Fellini

In one of the more famous scenes in cinema history, we encounter a dream in which Guido is surrounded by a harem of women from his past and present, and they all forgive and love him.  But the harem has rules, and one of these rules is that once you turn 26, you must move to the second floor.  As one lady pleads to stay, she slowly starts a revolution amongst the aging women.  Quick to keep them in line, our fedora-wearing hero pulls out a whip in a futile struggle to keep them obedient.

It had occurred to me that the creatively-minded duo Steven Spielberg and George Lucus must have taken ample notes in this harem scene to create the famous introduction of Harrison Ford in Indian Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark.  From the shadow image of our hero wielding a bull whip, wearing his sentimental fedora (iconic and important to his identity), to the darkened close up of the hero himself – Spielberg and Lucus reconstructed Guido’s daydream in dynamic and captivating fashion.

8 1/2 is a superb film that, although brilliantly artistic, can be tiresome for modern audiences.  An intellectual and mind-bending piece, I suggest that the viewer sit down and view this when he or she is best receptive to thinking.  Being slightly intelligent yourself is also a requisite.  If you’re a dum-dum, and need to start a bit lower on the totem pole, might I suggest Total Recall (a science fiction, dream/reality shifter) for the less cerebral.

Don’t feel that we are being judging…

The Joyce Review loves you… “Just as you are!”

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THE HAUNTING :: HORROR :: 004

Posted in Horror with tags , , , , , , on 10/21/2009 by joycereview

8bear
The Haunting dvdThis film, based on the novel “The Haunting of Hill House” by Shirley Jackson, was a bit chilling but not at all frightening.  However, in order to give it its fair shake, one must place it in its time, 1963… which requires a certain amount of leniency.  Simpletons beware, 1963 means no CGI.  It’s also in black and white.  But cheer up Charlie, because this is partly what makes this film so brilliant.  In order to judge this film fairly, we should compare it with the other horror films of its time like: Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho and The Birds and 5 years later (1968), Polanski’s Rosemary’s Baby and  Romero’s Night of the Living Dead and not films of a more effects-driven nature.

Although this film will not scare the modern, desensitized audience, we should pay it a great deal of respect.  First off, director Robert Wise did an amazing job and created an intelligent film that captures us the old-fashioned way, by invoking terror through what is unseen, unknown, and unsettling.  The camera-work was the next best thing… with the sudden and dramatic zoom… the erratic panning of the camera as if it were our own eyes, desperate, and searching for the cause of our fear.  With this, I made the instant connect that perhaps, Sam Raimi [director of the cult classics The Evil Dead Trilogy] got great inspiration from this film.  Anyone else make that connection?

The story is this:  Supernatural scientist Dr. John Markway (Richard Johnson) enlists the help of Eleanor “Nell” (Julie Harris), Theodora “Theo” (Claire Bloom) and Luke (Russ Tamblyn) to attract and research the paranormal activity of the supposedly haunted Hill House.  Once inside “the house that was born bad”, tensions mount, unexplainable occurrences arise, and we, as an audience are trapped by their side the entire time.

I may have scored this movie a bit harshly, but it’s at least a solid 7 claws.  Deductions were based on obstreperous Julie Harris (although she had her delightful moments) having left me wanting to run the vacuum cleaner to drown out her drivel.  But then, with the “solid 7” in mind, I returned to the realization that this character (“Nell”) is supposed to be a fuddy-duddy, inept in all areas of human relationship.  How else is she supposed to act?  Still… she can be a wrist-slasher, so beware.  It would have been unprofessional of me to make a deduction there.

The faults of the film, in my opinion, came from the end of the film.  I do my best not to give away any spoilers… so I will refrain from giving away too much.  What I will say is that there is a time inconsistency that I shake my head at.  If you don’t catch it yourself… forget about it! Next, Hill House’s full-on skeptic, Luke, is all-of-a-sudden “convinced” quite conveniently (I suppose to wrap the story up) by saying “It (Hill House) should be burned down, and the ground sown with salt”.  The story ends without much more.  I think many who watch this film will be left at the end, a little underwhelmed and a bit empty.  But nevertheless a classic and superior to its 1999 remake.