Wednesday, February 27, 2013

8½ (1963)

WHO: Federico Fellini.

WHAT: Here's how Catherine Breillat described this film when addressing a Fellini study congress in 2003:
At this particular moment I feel just like Marcello Mastroianni when he didn't want to (or couldn't) decide to start making his film and is pushed, if not dragged, onto the set. And that's how we see him, with his heels dug in as hard as [they] can in order to put off the inexorable moment of confrontation for as long as possible. 
This moment, when everyone is expecting something from us, and we have to know how to give it to them, is very difficult. There is no "savoir-faire", only  a leap into thin air and therefore we have to reply on that other person inside us, who can, and must pull us through. The seventh art is a name that I find particularly fitting, because it is a magical art. The film makes itself. It creates its own needs. It directs itself, it isn't directed. It is the Maestro and you need to have made a film to understand this.   
There is none of the director's faint-heartedness, only the fear. The need, the imagination, and the fear.
WHERE/WHEN: Today only at the Castro Theatre, at 2:30 and 7:00 PM.

WHY: After a long stretch of mostly awarding films that seem very unlikely to become canonized classics among future film historians (call them "The Kolya Years"), the voters for the Academy Award For Best Foreign-Language Film have in the last couple of ceremonies announced winners that align with the critical and cinephile consensus: Amour this year and A Separation last. Will this usher in a period like that of the first decade or so of the Academy made this a competitive category (beginning in 1956 when Fellini's La Strada won the prize) in which the winners by and large are remembered in cinema history not just as trivia footnotes due to their Oscar-winning status, but as memorable, influential and dare I say important films in their own right? (One may quibble about the relative merits of films like Mon Oncle  and The Virgin Spring within their directors' filmographies but it's hard to deny their status as enduring classics.)

And then there's .  Not only did it take the Oscar in 1964, besting Roman Polanski's Knife in the Water among other titles, but it has become the signature work of its director, its star Marcello Mastroianni and its composer Nino Rota.  It's considered by many to be one of the all-time great films; the consensus of critics responding to Sight and Sound's most recent poll named it the #10 best of all time, and the directors collectively rated it even higher, at #4. History will tell us if Amour's reputation ever touches those heights, but for now, I'm just glad there's a chance for us to see it on the big screen where it belongs best. 

The Castro has released its March calendar but before that month begins there's one more chance to see another Italian film that won the Foreign Language Film Academy Award: Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion, for which Elio Petri took home the statuette in 1971, screen in a new 4k-restoration DCP tomorrow night.

HOW: 8½ is paired with another wonderful film set inside the movie-making world: Albert Brooks's Modern Romance. Both in 35mm prints.

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