Plumb Lines

August 31, 2009

Monday Movie Still: 8 1/2

Filed under: Uncategorized — David Schaengold @ 4:49 pm

I know almost nothing about Fellini, but I’ll make an uninformed pronouncement anyhow: 8 1/2 is surely one of his most visually entrancing films. Almost any frame at random could be chosen for its elegance, but I found this one particularly interesting:


There’s nothing extraordinary about the composition of this frame, though its symmetry and straightforwardness are certainly significant. The protagonist of the film, seated on the left, is a film director played by Marcello Mastroianni, and a stand-in for Fellini himself. The character typically responds obliquely, obtusely, and deceitfully to everyone around him. His wife accuses him throughout the film of lying both on film and in person, and the character seems to wonder if the medium itself must necessarily tell falsehoods. Occasionally bizarre camerawork and flights of surrealism make the viewer ask the same question (do watch that clip, and this one too, if you can).

The character arranges a meeting with a Cardinal (exactly why is never explained — it is suggested that he might want to ask him questions about the role of the prelate in his next film), and when he finally sits down to talk to him, the camera frames the conversation unobliquely, even naively. I can’t interpret what this framing says about Fellini’s famously complicated relationship to Catholicism, but it does neatly invoke how differently the character acts with the Cardinal than with everyone else. Losing his easy disdain for those around him — typical of the artist and the celebrity — he approaches the Cardinal with a schoolboy’s nervousness (this is very well acted by Mastroianni, whose feet and posture  in this still convey exactly the right tone). At the same time, the camera abandons its own deceits and ruses and presents the scene as simply as it possibly can.

David Schaengold


1 Comment »

  1. There is a remarkable energy in his right foot and the crook of his neck…

    Comment by P. Langdale Hough — August 31, 2009 @ 4:54 pm

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Blog at

%d bloggers like this: