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To all Fellini denigrators

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xianjiro
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#2

Post by xianjiro »

Thanks. I've been thinking that I might need to rewatch some of Fellini's work that I detest -- 8 1/2 is probably the top of the list as I do find some value in La Dolce Vita for example. I know when I first watched most of his films, I hadn't yet become aware of what others call "personal filmmaking," what the author calls "indulgent egotism". Besides his and Bergman's films feeling the latter for me, it's really Fellini's obsession with sexuality that annoys me to tears. Sure, he worked in a space-time when heteronormative values were pervasive, but that doesn't mean I have to like them or works saturated in them. Then again, I'm usually much more concerned about narrative than mood and style. Will put 8 1/2 on right right after hitting Sumbit.
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#3

Post by cinewest »

xianjiro wrote: March 2nd, 2023, 6:43 pm Thanks. I've been thinking that I might need to rewatch some of Fellini's work that I detest -- 8 1/2 is probably the top of the list as I do find some value in La Dolce Vita for example. I know when I first watched most of his films, I hadn't yet become aware of what others call "personal filmmaking," what the author calls "indulgent egotism". Besides his and Bergman's films feeling the latter for me, it's really Fellini's obsession with sexuality that annoys me to tears. Sure, he worked in a space-time when heteronormative values were pervasive, but that doesn't mean I have to like them or works saturated in them. Then again, I'm usually much more concerned about narrative than mood and style. Will put 8 1/2 on right right after hitting Sumbit.
Thanks for your reply. I am truly interested in why so many cinephiles under 35 have soured on him, and I think what you describe might extend to others as well, though perhaps his style is also off-putting to some. And yet people continue to love Hitchcock, who was as misogynistic and weird about sexuality* as they come. And how can you watch some of Wes Anderson's films without being reminded of Fellini? Do they somehow escape the label of "Indulgent egotism?" Most auteur filmmakers can be accused of that, no?

*whereas Hitchcock's sexuality probably stems more from repression and fear, Fellini's is very rooted in Italian Catholicism, and though I can't really relate to either, I wasn't put off, if only because there is so much else to enjoy about their films.
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#4

Post by xianjiro »

cinewest wrote: March 2nd, 2023, 6:59 pm
xianjiro wrote: March 2nd, 2023, 6:43 pm Thanks. I've been thinking that I might need to rewatch some of Fellini's work that I detest -- 8 1/2 is probably the top of the list as I do find some value in La Dolce Vita for example. I know when I first watched most of his films, I hadn't yet become aware of what others call "personal filmmaking," what the author calls "indulgent egotism". Besides his and Bergman's films feeling the latter for me, it's really Fellini's obsession with sexuality that annoys me to tears. Sure, he worked in a space-time when heteronormative values were pervasive, but that doesn't mean I have to like them or works saturated in them. Then again, I'm usually much more concerned about narrative than mood and style. Will put 8 1/2 on right right after hitting Sumbit.
Thanks for your reply. I am truly interested in why so many cinephiles under 35 have soured on him, and I think what you describe might extend to others as well, though perhaps his style is also off-putting to some. And yet people continue to love Hitchcock, who was as misogynistic and weird about sexuality as they come. And how can you watch some of Wes Anderson's films without being reminded of Fellini? Do they somehow escape the label of "Indulgent egotism?" Most auteur filmmakers can be accused of that, no?
Will wait and comment on 8 1/2 after rewatching but it might be a couple weeks -- both BRDs are occupied at present.

Lest anyone misunderstand, I'm NOT a Hitchcock fan and have never been enthralled with his work though I see technical merit and thought Psycho most excellently crafted up until the big reveal. I'm also not gaga over Anderson either and can't say if he's indulgently egocentric or not at this stage. But yes, I think most auteurs probably could be accused of that and that's why I mentioned "personal filmmaking" which seems a bit less judgmental. Not implying there's much of a functional difference, however my understanding of this way of making movies changes my perspective a bit. I think I've also reacted less harshly to such auteurs more recently -- thus why the rewatch matters to me. (Have done this a tad with Bergman as well.)

I've never been much of a fan for many directors -- only Kurosawa and Almodovar come to mind after putting some thought into it. Oh, and then for strangeness, Waters. I think Almodovar can be accused of indulgent egotism at times, but as I think about it, it feels a tad more removed, less on the surface.

And for why they younger crowd doesn't dig Fellini, I'd have thought it had more do with the lack of superpowers and explosions, though, of course, statues fly. :P Seriously though, I wonder what some of the younger critics have to say about his work.
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#5

Post by xianjiro »

And talking of misogynists, Ford is at the top of my list
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#6

Post by Onderhond »

cinewest wrote: March 2nd, 2023, 6:59 pm And how can you watch some of Wes Anderson's films without being reminded of Fellini?
Anderson's style is way more precise and detailed compared to Fellini.
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#7

Post by cinewest »

Onderhond wrote: March 2nd, 2023, 9:57 pm
cinewest wrote: March 2nd, 2023, 6:59 pm And how can you watch some of Wes Anderson's films without being reminded of Fellini?
Anderson's style is way more precise and detailed compared to Fellini.
I’ll give you that, but Fellini’s films are more ambitious, richer in content, and definitely influential in various ways.
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#8

Post by cinewest »

@xianjiro,

Certainly, we don't all look forward to the same things. Personally, one of the things I appreciate about auteurs (in general) is their relative originality and interest in the medium as an expressive arts form with unique possibilities.

Like just about every movie watcher, I grew up on Hollywood genre films, but also became somewhat tired of their limitations and redundancies, which naturally led me to other kinds of films and filmmaking.

As for Almodovar, he is definitely indulgent, and egotistic (particularly his early work), and is another filmmaker who was definitely influenced by Fellini, or at least shares some of is qualities.

Kurosawa, on the other hand, is one of my very favorite genre filmmakers, who probably also tired of the limitations of commercial cinema, and began increasingly differentiating himself project by project.
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#9

Post by xianjiro »

So, I've suffered -- yes, suffered -- through 8½ another time. UGH. Where to begin?

Let's see, start off by casting one of the coolest, best looking, and great actors to play none other than oneself. Hmmmm. Imagine if Spielberg had cast whoever is the current teen equivalent of a Brad Pitt or Harrison Ford for The Fabelmans. Sorry, but I don't have access to a Disney channel nor its streaming service nor do I follow the Tik Tok equivalent of Teen Beat, so I've no idea who the tweens think is, what's today for "the cat's meow" or "to die for"?

Then there's Fellini's never-wavering misogyny. If there are four female archetypes in literature -- Madonna, mother, servant, and whore -- Fellini reduces them to just two: those to be conquered (Madonna and whore) and the matronly (mother and servant). None have anything relevant to say (notice the hideous dubbing when women speak while it appears men get to speak on camera? And even when female journalists are speaking, they are talked over. None has a question that matters, even when it's salient.) On the other hand, even men who he clearly despises are treated with respect. Men matter, women are there just to cater to him. When his wife threatens to leave, he only wants to keep her around because it would be too great an insult to his ego if she were to leave him. If I were to make a film, I'd bring Fellini in front of a panel of powerful women (say the likes of Gertrude Stein, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Gloria Steinem, Jane Goodall) and have him defend himself, his œuvre, and why he shouldn't be condemned as a great misogynist (though certainly not the greatest). Even Ford seemed to respect Maureen O'Hara on some level (because she never challenged him?) and clearly Bergman cared what women thought and had to say. No, it's clear just how much Fellini despises women though even the one he most venerates in 8½ (Claudia Cardinale) isn't an equal, just the next conquest.

Yes, there are moments when the image is dripping with 'cool' - to reference the link in the OP. The final sequence, on the sand, with the great scaffold structure is absolutely 'cool' on the level of La Dolce Vita cool. Also, there are some parts in the first act, the masses queued up to take the waters and some of the costuming, that is quite cool, but there's also a sloppiness. One of the most egregious is a female (!) singer who holds the mic out over her shoulder yet is flawlessly rendered. I've also mentioned the hideous dubbing of so many female characters.

And it's not that I don't find some value in Fellini's work, though generally it's earlier stuff. Probably his film I like most is Nights of Cabiria for his examination of a whore's (natch) life and story. So no, it's not that I detest his work outright, it's just that his so-called personal films are yes, "indulgent egotism." 8½ is all about "look at me" while never venturing near mea culpa. Maybe one reason I detest these films as much as I do is they remind me so much of my father -- no mea culpa, all rationalization, justification, and self aggrandizement.

Last, if this is meant to be the ultimate film on film-making -- and yes, some things it does pretty well, like the director/auteur's treatment of women actors -- then one might expect a bit more of a hint of queer characters than we get. There's one woman, the friend of the director's wife, who does rather seem like a possible lesbian. She's certainly not there as mother or servant, probably not a whore, so guess that means she's a Madonna? Though clearly meant to be conquered if given half a chance. I have to assume that gay men didn't exist in 1960's Rome (though don't tell Pasolini) or at least didn't work on Fellini's sets.

I did give 8½ one more star on re-viewing than I did originally back in 00s. That's not much of a surprise: I'm tuned in to different things now and didn't expect a strong narrative storyline since this is about "calm confidence", "mood and style". Yes, I can see those things and appreciate the film's execution, the realization of the director's vision, even if I detest much of what he has to say.
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#10

Post by RenaultR »

As a 34 year old, am I the only who's tiring a bit of "the younger generation doesn't seem to appreciate old movies anymore" arguments Older folks in general have been saying this as long as I've been on this earth, but I thought the dyed-in-the-wool cinephile set was above these sorts of generalizations about 'ignorant young people', but in the last few years they've really started to run with it, and I'm not sure why. Criterion's entire business model relies on culturally curious liberal arts majors in their 20s and 30s for crying out loud.

I know at 34 I'm on the cups of being 'young' and not being 'young', but I'm still just young enough to get annoyed with generalized complaints about the ignorance of the "younger generation".

Also, if you think Fellini ignores homosexuality then you probably haven't watched La Dolce Vita that recently. As for 8 1/2, I think Fellini is depicting misogyny, namely that of Guido, rather than being unwittingly misogynist. Yes, I know Guido is partly intended as a stand-in for Fellini himself, but as I see it, Fellini is showing that he's introspective enough to acknowledge his own flaws as a person, which may include the misogyny that was par for the course of that era. I also think the way the wife and even briefly her sister in the film delineate Guido's personal shortcomings sort of nullifies the argument the film is misogynist. Guido's wife as a character has agency of her own. La Dolce Vita, on the other hand, may feel far less misogynist, since Anouk Aimée's character in that film almost manages to be Marcello's equal and isn't merely depicted as a conquest.
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#11

Post by cinewest »

I think Renault's final paragraph says pretty much what I would have about "Fellini's misogyny," and "indulgent egotism" for that matter. Though the main character draws a lot on Fellini himself, let's remember that it is a character whose flaws the director is very aware of, even points out in the film.

Stylistically, Fellini, like Almodovar, is also prone towards colorful exaggeration (he began his career as a newspaper cartoonist), and your response to his work may say more about you than Fellini (I don't mean this as an attack). Fellini definitely wrestled with his own background (Italian Catholicism included) in his films, but I don't think he was "celebrating" any of it. As a "cartoonist" his approach was often to exaggerate in order to lampoon, without being unduly harsh about it. I think he loved his characters while simultaneously being disgusted by them.

In "reactive mode" you are missing both his expressive wonder and creativity with the art form.
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#12

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Well yes, like all art, our reaction is more about us than the creation. I've shared my honest reaction to 8½ and there are things I just can't get past. I can see the alternate viewpoint; just can't find it in my own response. (And yes, I do remember some queer characters in La Dolce Vita, thank you very much.) Is there much of a feminist defense of Fellini? Also, a member of the "younger generation" I most certainly am not. I am closer to double your age, RenaultR, than I am to your age.

The film just doesn't work for me, doesn't reach me the way it does for others, maybe even most people. It's just the way it is. I have a very different set of lived experiences. I also don't expect people to agree with my assessment, but I did promise to give it another go and have done so.

I also think I have a hard time connecting to the wonder of this piece since the subtitles are going by at a rather furious pace. Did think a number of times that I'd probably react differently if I was fluent in Italian. It's my old complaint about spending so much energy reading and not enough looking at the film.

I get that others love this film and Fellini in general. I just do not nor do I see any reason why anyone should feel compelled to react a certain way. It's art and our reactions are own.
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#13

Post by gunnar »

I watched 8 1/2 about a decade ago and don't remember much about it, except that I didn't like it very much. For me, it was about on par with Fellini Satyricon, another one that I didn't like, though it had nice sets. I didn't hate them, though, like I did with Fellini's Satyricon.

There have also been a number of Fellini movies that I liked - Amarcord, Juliet of the Spirits, La Dolce Vita, Nights of Cabiria, La Strada, and I Vitelloni.
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#14

Post by RBG »

never made it through 8 1/2 in spite of it's presence in something like 150 official lists... but I love Ford so 😇
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#15

Post by xianjiro »

Yeah, I honestly thought about turning it off part way through though I'm glad I didn't since that final sequence is visually interesting.

A couple other thoughts -- I wondered if Fellini might be poking a bit of fun at Rossellini's 'Nordic problem', especially when paired with Anita Ekberg in La Dolce Vita though clearly no one can mistake Ingrid Bergman for a sexpot. For me to make the leap that 8½ is pure satire or a critique of his Cinecitta peers, I'd need to see him treat a woman as equal, and by that I mean professional equal. The only real conversation Guido has with a woman is when his wife is threatening to leave him but as I've said, I see that as an ego defense, nothing more. Without this opposition -- a woman as an equal -- I'm unwilling to make the leap others are comfortable with since it seems a defense of old fashioned heteronormative behaviors -- granted, the norm of Fellini's time. It's not my contention that he should have been different, just that I'm not required to make allowances for something I find repulsive.
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#16

Post by cinewest »

I have heard the subtitle complaint before, but I've never really had trouble a problem with them unless they are hard to see for some reason. I've seen so many "foreign language" movies since my mid teens (in my early 60's now) that I usually don't even notice they are there and am busy drinking everything else in.

Of course, nobody is compelled to like anything, though I called attention to the article on this board because I have noticed that among the most celebrated filmmakers in the world, I have noticed a general lack of appreciation for Fellini here, and have sensed that there might be a generational disconnect, somehow, even as it does not extend to other "classic filmmakers" that feel more outdated to me. aI have gleaned from your commentary that age is not the issue for you, but pretty much the inability to really connect, even more, an active dislike for his characters and the way they behave, which you believe Fellini is in avid support of.

If nothing else, I would say that Fellini seems more aware of his characters' "bad behavior" than most other filmmakers of his time. He even exposes it, though at the same time he is forgiving, or at least not so ready to fully condemn.
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#17

Post by xianjiro »

It's an interesting way to think about it. After all, I've had a rabid disconnect with a number of his films though it's not uncommon. Again, all I can fall back on is my lived experience and what that means to me. Your last paragraph makes quite a bit more sense to me in the context of La Dolce Vita which I believe I've seen three, maybe four times over what, thirty years? Yet I connect more closely with the oft compared La Grande Bellezza. Are the characters any more approachable or likable? Or is it a stylistic difference -- color, music I relate to, the final dawn cruise on the Tiber as the credits roll, and Jep's follies and foibles? It's interesting to think about and I'd argue there are no right or wrong answers to be had unless one is actively trying to misrepresent an obvious reference or symbol.

I appreciate the different viewpoint and the patient exchange. Thanks.
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