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8-1/2: The Criterion Collection

It's self-indulgent, narcissistic, thoroughly masturbatory, and a masterpiece. Federico Fellini's 8-1/2 (1963), the postmodern movie-about-itself, is not, despite its arty trappings, a cerebral exercise: It is a free, poetic, and romantic vision of the purity of art and life. Marcello Mastroianni stars as Guido, a famous Italian filmmaker on the verge of directing a film he has not yet written. He withdraws to a tony spa for space, but is besieged by needy agents, actors, performers and producers, as well as hounded by acolytes and critics, and caught between his mistress, his wife and every other woman floating around in his imagination. Mastroianni gives another masterful performance as Fellini's alter-ego, following his role in La Dolce Vita (1960). Suave and seemingly unflappable, Mastroianni also always seems on the edge of crisis, resigned to destruction with a cool smirk. The women in Guido's life are vividly and memorably portrayed by Sandra Milo (Carla, the mistress), Anouk Amiee (Luisa, the wife), Claudia Cardinale (Claudia/the Girl of the Spring), Barbara Steele (Gloria, the brooding flirt), and the unforgettable Eddra Gale (La Saraghina, the wild dancing whore). 8-1/2 is given a typically reverent presentation by Criterion, gloriously restored with an excellent black-and-white anamorphic transfer (1.85:1) worthy of the standard recently set by Warner's celebrated Citizen Kane, while audio is in Dolby Digital 1.0. The feature is accompanied by a commentary featuring on-set documentarian Gideon Bachmann, NYU film professor Antonio Mondo, and a screen-specific essay read by actress Tanya Zaicon. Director Terry Gilliam (Brazil, 12 Monkeys) delivers an effusive introduction. This disc also features the original theatrical trailer. Disc Two features almost three hours of extra material, including a television special made for NBC in 1969 during which Fellini leads host Peter Goldfarb on a tour of ideas for past and future films, and a German documentary about composer Nino Rota, and interviews with actress Sandra Milo, Fellini-assistant and director Lina Wertmuller, and cinematographer Vittorio Storaro. Also on board are two collections of production stills, including rare photographs by on-set documentarian Gideon Bachmann. Dual-DVD keep-case.
—Gregory P. Dorr

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