Wednesday 18 April 2018 4.13am
‘My Eight-And-A-Half Fellini Film’ 2018
So far I have watched Juliet of the Spirits, I vitelloni, La strada, La dolce vita, Casanova, Amarcord and half of Satyricon.
I watched half of Satyricon, some time ago, felt tired, pressed pause, went to bed, meant to come back to it, and never came back to it.
So, this is truly and coincidentally the eight-and-a-half movie by Fellini I’ve watched in the last twelve months which also happens to be called 8½. After my dislike of Casanova, yesterday, and my lukewarm response to Amarcord, tonight, and my strangely positive reaction to Juliet of the Spirits, previously, and my confusion regarding La dolce vita, I’d decided I was in the not-liking Fellini-films camp if it was that black and white. Tonight I felt the need to wave Fellini goodbye and do a double-bill, Amarcord and 8½, one after the other. I told Alison that I was going for the double-header. I had to clear Fellini out of my brain today and start catching up on the forty films from the Top 100 which I haven’t seen yet, with just seventy-four days to go.
I’ve added so many films from the sideline that I’ve neglected the plan to watch the top 100 when the top 100 became a fundamentally wrong way of approaching the greatest films ever made.
My dilemma was whether to cast my net wider or stick with the initial 100 or 125 – or the ever-expanding two-hundred.
I only needed to watch La strada (202/26), 8½ (10/4), La dolce vita (39/37) and Amarcord (117/30) but I pushed the boundaries and watched another 4½. Five wasted nights but I felt I needed to get into the heart of Fellini at the beginning, in the middle and the latter period.
James left at 11.20pm and I told my wife at 11.55pm that I was going to finish Fellini tonight. It was probably going to be King Bad or King Great. We left it at that and she went to bed and I started writing about Amarcord.
How strange for me to be now, at 4am, celebrating the greatness of 8½. It is a great great film with one of the best scripts ever written, improvised, spoken or delivered. It is a phenomenom. It is almost beyond description and to describe it would be to quote half (or more) of the lines the film delivers. It is truly one of the greatest films ever made (let alone conceived, even accidentally). Less than twenty-four hours after seeing (what I thought was) one of the worst films ever made (Fellini’s Casanova), I’m bewildered to have watched Amarcord (a pretty good film) and now had this response to 8½.
It’s equivalent to someone making the best film about poets, or the best film about musicals, or the best film about religion or the best film about silence. With one exception. It’s less about a subject and more about the universal act of creation, and the lies that human beings tell to the rank-and-file when they – the dictators – want to be people who can be the being that makes an act of creation. It’s a film about people who want to be in control of their life and (control or) direct the lives of others to deliver a product which is going to represent what they think of themselves, what they want others to think about – and believe about – them, giving an insight into the process of having an idea, making it real, and delivering it to the world, to convince them that what they’re watching is real or a close approximation.
This has become the week I expected but which wasn’t materialising. I thought it would be like Antonioni, Godard and Bergman, but it was fizzling out. Then La strada, then La dolce vita, and now, 8½. It has become like the act of giving myself over to Godard and Antonioni – in previous fortnights – except that the pinnacle of Fellini’s achievement is a film about the flaws in people who want to be God, the flaws in the mentality of people who want to be subject to someone who is great, and the flaws in the relationships of that person – who is naturally and obviously the greatest, most wonderful, most powerful person – with everyone with whom he comes into contact.