8 1/2 (1963)

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Released 20-May-2004

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Main Menu Audio
Featurette-The Lost Ending
Trailer-La Dolce Vita
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1963
Running Time 133:15 (Case: 138)
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (81:53) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Federico Fellini

Madman Entertainment
Starring Marcello Mastroianni
Claudia Cardinale
Anouk Aimée
Sandra Milo
Rossella Falk
Barbara Steele
Madeleine LeBeau
Caterina Boratto
Eddra Gale
Guido Alberti
Mario Conocchia
Bruno Agostini
Cesarino Miceli Picardi
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI $27.95 Music Nino Rota

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None Italian Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
16x9 Enhancement
Not 16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures Yes
Subtitles English Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    This is perhaps the most famous film of one of the greatest directors, Federico Fellini. A film director named Guido Anselmi (Marcello Mastroianni) is faced with writer's block on his latest project, which we don't know much about except it involves a large spaceship. He meets with his producer and stars while trying to work out what he is trying to say, but also has to deal with his jealous wife (Anouk Aimée) and his mistress Carla (Sandra Milo). At the same time he has dreams and visions, and flashbacks to his childhood.

    The film is highly autobiographical. The title refers to the fact that this is Fellini's 8½th film. Prior to this he had directed six feature films. He had also co-directed one and directed episodes of two others, making up the other 1½. Mastroianni dresses and acts like Fellini, even adjusting the lilt of his voice to that of the director. The storyline also openly looks at Fellini's relationship with his actress wife Giulietta Masina and with his mistress, in the film called Carla and played by Sandra Milo.  In real life, Milo was his mistress - the director seems to have been a philanderer. Despite this he and Masina remained married until his death in 1993.

    It may be difficult for people coming to the film now to understand what the fuss was all about. This sort of film has become almost a cliché, having spawned all sorts of imitations such as All That Jazz or several of the films of Woody Allen. But in 1963 this film was unique. The subject matter of a filmmaker reflecting in a fictional way on his own creative process was foreign to the cinema, and especially so with the story being drawn from the material of the director's own life.

    Just as influential was the use of fantasy elements. The opening sequence is a dream, with Guido being drawn up into the sky. Fellini moves seamlessly between reality, dream sequences and memories, such as being bathed in wine or visiting the local rhumba-dancer and being punished for it in school. He also comments on his own inadequacies. The press often ask Guido why he doesn't make love stories, and his chief writer relentlessly tears his script to pieces. Mastroianni gives a wonderful performance as the troubled director, and the supporting cast is equally exceptional. Claudia Cardinale plays a sort of unobtainable muse that Guido both lusts after and wants to feature in his film, not surprisingly named Claudia. Barbara Steele also takes a break from those Italian horrors to play the latest girlfriend of one of his producers.

    The film also benefits from superb cinematography by Gianni Di Venanzo and a fine and witty score by Nino Rota, as well as those faces and characters that became synonymous with Fellini. This film was in fact the first of his long series of self-indulgent films, some of which are masterpieces like this and some not so good.

    This is a film that has been endlessly analysed and critiqued, but the best way of understanding it is to see it, and more than once.

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Transfer Quality


    According to the titles at the commencement of the film, this a restored edition of the film, and certainly it does look good up to a point. The film is letterboxed in an aspect ratio of 1.85:1, despite the case saying that it is in 1.66:1. It is not 16x9 enhanced. There is some confusion as to whether the original aspect ratio was 1.85:1 (as claimed by Criterion who have released it in Region 1) or 1.66:1 as stated on the IMDb. I suspect 1.85:1 is correct.

    The transfer is not as sharp as I would have liked. It looks as if it may have been taken from an NTSC master, as while it is sharp when the camera or the actors are stationary, any movement results in a very slight blurring. The contrast does not seem to be quite right either. Black levels tend to lack any kind of detail, being just solid black. The early scene in the grounds of the sanatorium looks to be overly bright and slightly washed out. Perhaps this is the original look of the film, but it does not seem accurate to my eyes.

    Some aliasing is visible from time to time during the film, though it is not nearly as annoying as in the same distributor's transfer of La Dolce Vita. The blurring that I mention above may be due to excessive noise reduction, as there is no noticeable grain to the transfer. A severe example of the effects of too much noise reduction can be seen at 63:55. There is also some posterisation visible at 75:38.

    There is very little in the way of film artefacts, but some are present in the form of small white flecks. Occasionally there is a larger spot, but really the film is in pristine condition. The only exception to this are splice marks at 43:12 and 48:55, the first of these being very minor.

    English subtitles are provided. These are burned-in in a white font, and into the lower portion of the frame, which allows the viewer to use the zoom function of a widescreen television to fill the entire screen. There is at least one spelling mistake in the subtitles, and they have American spelling, but otherwise they are quite good. They are though quite large, often covering the width of the screen.

    The disc is RSDL-formatted with the layer change placed at 81:53. It is well positioned at a cut between scenes.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    The sole audio track is Dolby Digital 2.0 mono. Most of the dialogue is in Italian, though there are some brief passages in English.

    The audio is not brilliant but not bad. Dialogue is clear, with only a slight distortion noticeable on the louder passages. The higher frequencies tend to be a little constricted, but there is an acceptable amount of bass.

    Audio sync is variable. The principals have dubbed their own voices, and this dubbing is very well done. Other characters though have been dubbed with voices other than their own, and the sync on these is poor.

    Like virtually all of Fellini's films up to 1979, the score is by the great Nino Rota. This score is less obvious than in other films, but it has memorable tunes and is a perfect fit to the film. Excerpts from Wagner, Rossini and Ponchielli are also used.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


Main Menu Audio

    The main menu has music from the film as background.

Documentary: The Lost Ending (50:19)

    This is a 2003 Italian documentary based on the audio interviews and photographs taken by Gideon Bachmann during the shooting of the film. An ending set in a train was filmed but not used, and the footage no longer exists. The documentary is ostensibly an attempt to discover what the ending was about, through photographs and interviews with surviving cast and crew, some of whom have no recollection of shooting this ending. Most of the film is taken up with audio interviews with Fellini, plus some with Mastroianni, in which the former talks about his intentions in making the film and his film-making techniques and the latter about his working relationship with the director. These are illustrated with photographs taken by Bachmann. I could have done without the digital animation of some of these as well as the annoying background music.

    The newly shot interviews include scriptwriter Tullio Pinelli, assistant director Lina Wertmuller, and actors Claudia Cardinale, Anouk Aimée and Sandra Milo. Subtitles are non-removable and in American spelling. There are a few passages where Fellini speaks in thickly accented English, and these are not subtitled.

Trailer - La Dolce Vita (2:02)

    This is the same Italian trailer as is included on the La Dolce Vita disc.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    This film has been released in Region 1 by The Criterion Collection. Reviews of this 2-disc release indicate that it is of superior video quality to the Region 4, with 16x9 enhancement and removable subtitles as well. It also includes the following extras:

    I saw the Fellini documentary many years ago at a revival cinema (as a second feature for Juliet of the Spirits) and it is an interesting and insightful film made by Fellini himself about his problems in trying to make a film called The Journey of G. Mastorna, which ultimately was never made.

    I would have to say that the Region 1 is the winner here.


    A classic that is both worthy and highly entertaining, this is one film that everyone should see at least twice.

    The video transfer is less than ideal, but the audio is satisfactory.

    The bonus is substantial and interesting, but the Region 1 alternative gets a better set of extras.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Philip Sawyer (Bio available.)
Friday, January 14, 2005
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-S733A, using Component output
DisplaySony 86CM Trinitron Wega KVHR36M31. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to DVD player, Dolby Digital, dts and DVD-Audio. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationSony TA-DA9000ES
SpeakersMain: Tannoy Revolution R3; Centre: Tannoy Sensys DCC; Rear: Richter Harlequin; Subwoofer: JBL SUB175

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