The Magic Lantern – Federico Fellini, Part I of a series
This is the first in a series discussing some of cinema most potent single images. It’s sort of an anathema to boil a film down to a single image, nonetheless the power of one frame as it sears our minds and lingers in our conscious and subconscious thoughts when we recall the experience of seeing a particular movie is part of what makes movies so compelling and riveting.
First up is an image from Federico Fellini’s 8 1/2. Fellini and his flights of fancy dove deep into humanity’s soul with a sometimes whimsical point of view and treatment, yet by and large enchanting and enthralling. At this stage in his career he was poised to make a gigantic leap forward. All the neorealism aesthetics that were part and parcel of his first seven films were being jettisoned by this semi-autobiographical work (perhaps a little bit of a roman á clef?).
This composition from the penultimate moments of 8 1/2, and is one of the glorious moments of the film; when the weight of the decision Guido (Marcello Mastroianni) has avoided the entire film is now at hand… the press conference to announce his next film.
Dir: Federico Fellini, DP: Gianni Di Venanzo
The heavy, heavy 10K Mole-Richardson
lights have an extraordinary industrial aesthetic that contribute to the pressure this moment exerts on Guido.
There are an uncountable number of jaw-dropping compositions that Fellini and his cinematographer, Gianna di Venanzo, created in 8 1/2 to unspool this singular film with very few equals. The use of light, the use of shadows, the precise camera movements, the choreography of the actors AND the camera… if art film ever had a proponent, this is the film. I don’t know if Fellini gets enough accolades for his mise en scene, but it’s brilliant, dream-like when necessary, and certainly key to his work.
As a boy, I came across 8 1/2 in the Bordwell & Thompson book UNDERSTANDING MOVIES; 8 1/2 along with Citizen Kane were remarked upon in nearly every chapter (or maybe it only seemed that way!). And yet it would be another 6 or 7 years before I had a chance to see the movie for the first time (this is one of those films you want to revisit again and again as your career in entertainment starts up and then grows, the film will have more resonance and bite to it).
What’s exceptionally brilliant about 8 1/2 is… this won’t be the only image from that film that will appear in this series!