FIlm Critic - "Eight and a Half"

I'll start from the beginning, because if you have the time that's the best place to start. I sat in on contemporary art history last week and we discussed the role of the critic. I continued the discussion with my good friend Chris Pianka, found here. Our conversation turned to what film critics did now a days. He commented that the shit found in papers is just there as advertisement for the movie to get you to go, and the shit on the internet is filled with polemics where no one is really saying anything. With his statement that he as an audience was looking for sincere film criticism and that product wasn't being delievered, well the answer seemed obvious I should provide.

I should clarify that I am not a historian of film. Actually I avoid film of the serious affair. For I take it to be a serious activity and it's hard on my bleeding moral heart. I like to keep my mood up beat and happy. Sticking to things like "Glee" and "Community." Seeing my show choice you may say that I am probably the worse person to be a film critic. Well running off of Chris Pianka's version of what criticism should be; being that criticism is bringing a new perspective on the work to bare so that the maker and other can learn from it. I feel I can fill that role adequately. Chris Pianka gets his product of sincere film criticism, and I force myself to watch film of a more serious matter. I hope it to make me more worldly, and also getting in the habit of making this blog something to visit. I hope to make this a weekly event.

Chris Pianka selected the film that I watched this evening, so it's even more to his interest. Coming in the only thing that I knew of the film was that it like "Synecdoche, New York." After watching the film I would say that it is Charlie Kaufman's response to Federico Fellini's "Eight and a Half." I will talk about that comparison as well as a few basic other things. With the sole objective being to bring my perspective to this work I'm not exactly sure what to talk about. Actually I have something in mind I just didn't know how to transition into talk about it.

I got four things that I would like to talk about. Lets make it easy with bullet points

  1. Bringing my perspective to bare on what I thought about this movie by giving a synopsis of the movie and my interpretation of it.
  2. What I liked about the movie
  3. What I didn't like about the movie
  4. Talking about the context of the movie ("Synecdoche, New York," and being an Italian film)

If I get comments on a different format of how people would like these posts composed then I will probably conform to most suggestions. This is a first draft so I'm going to pray that there is a sense of clarity. I do this enough and hopefully I'll get better at it. Also SPOILERS from here on out. This is not a review I will be talking about the movie and specific scenes. So yeah you've been worn.

1. Synopsis

An Italian filmmaker is sick and goes to a spring to get better. He has moved his entire production team there with him. Also he has given his screen play to a film critic to see what he says and make the film a collaboration between the two. The Film is about his life and all he wants to do is be honest with it. The film touches on things like his relationship with his father and mother, his relationship with religion, and his relationship with what seems like countless mistresses and his wife. When his wife comes down and is happy at first until she begins to see that he is still spouting lies, and eventually while they are viewing screen tests she walks out on him and says she wants nothing to do with him anymore.

I got scene from the movie linked below that I feel is probably the climax of the movie.

He then goes to a press release at the constructed launch pad for his not yet constructed space ship and calls the whole movie off. Or kills himself. It's not really apparent which, but I'm a optimist when it comes to a medium like film. Then after that as he's walking back to his car and the critic is praising him for calling off the movie, saying "you don't help the chaos by adding more chaos to it" something like that. but then the director has a day dream and feels like he suddenly knows the meaning of true happiness and love. the next scene is all the people that matter to him parading down the launch pad. there is also a boy in a white cape with some carnies and instruments. It is my interpretation that the boy with the white cape represents the director. Now whether this is a dream sequence or he actually changed his mind and made his movie which ended up being just a long parade sequence. Once again i'm an optimist so I beleive the latter.

Important concepts in this film. The way the film is shot within the framework of making a movie. It becomes very much more personnal for the director since the main character is a director. I enjoyed it also because within this frame work there is a character that represents the critic, and while it probably represents Federico Fellini's feelings towards critics, it gave me a new way to invest in the movie as I was trying to be a critic. Anyways I'm pretty sure a fictional movie about making a movie had no precedent up until this point.

There is also a question about what relevance does autobiographical work have. At the press release in the movie the crowd starts asking what's so important about his life that it should matter to them. This is a question I myself am working with since I consider my own work autobiographical, but I feel even the most mundane of life can give viewers a sense of affirmation. Which in a increasinly busy life can be hard to find. Affirmation is the reason. That is my answer though I'm not sure the movie provides it's own answer.

2. What I liked

Going to make this a bullet list also so i can keep it straight.
  • The critic. I know Federico is portraying him as an annoyance in the movie but a lot of his criticism I like. I liked the character even at the end where he's praising him for giving up on the movie. "a cripple disowning his own crippled footprint" there is a saddness in his character as he also asks if there is anything true enough and relevant that it has a right to be brought to life in this world. Which while harsh I think is a sad self realization for him. Though I think it might be a old realization that might just be an axiom for him. Through out the movie I enjoy him as a character, and was distraught that the protagonist daydreamed that the critic hung himself. Or maybe he did and that's why after the press release after he killed himself the character reappears. shit. damn it no I'm going to convince myself that no one dies in this movie.
  • The fact taht it touches on religion. Other movies do this by begging the question of who's God and whether or not its there, but this film is different. The question of God doesn't ever come up. It's more about the catholic instituition and it effects it had on his up bringing. It's an ambigious commentary on the whole thing but I appreciate that it's there.
  • the launch pad was awesome
  • I'm pretty sure he has the literal translation of the metaphor for the oedipus complex played out. He puts his father to rest in his grave then makes out with his mom.
  • I'm sure the cinematography deserves praise and there are a few scenes and transitions that stand out as beautiful but I don't have a deep enough background to really give him adequate praise. It's a pretty film.
  • the magician dude is pretty bad ass.
  • the musical score of this film is wonderful. It plays an important part of the movies narrative. the second dream sequence where everyone is drinking what I assume is holy water. the musical score to that scene is great. the protagonist is humming the beat to it at several points also.

3. What I did not like

  • Subtitles. No I'm not hating the movie for being a foriegn film. more I'm just lamenting the fact that I do not know italian. You view a film differently when you're reading it through subtitles. there is a lot of cinematics going on but I'm not really grasping it since I have to read. Honestly I would have to probably be trilingual to watch this movie without subtitles since there is a bit of english in here, and I think one of the actresses might be french since she has a translator. though I wasn't keen enough to pick up the difference. It's just a shame. Ran into the same problem with "Amelie." Luckily with that film there are a lot of scenes without dialogue so i could appreciate the cinematography. A film shouldn't adhere to that though. So i'm going to learn french and italian and come back and watch this film. or I'm going to rewatch it without subtitles and just absorb the cinematography.
  • guys view of women sort of slated but it's the own characters conflict so I don't really hate it or anything. just a hard thing to get behind.
  • a debate between Guido(the protagonist) and the Critic would of been nice. instead of the critic always harping and Guido trying his best to ignore him.
4. Context

First thing I want to talk about is Italy. It has a scued sense of gender. It was brought to my attention by this documentary there is a synopsis of the film there as well as a trailer. Enough information that I would make you give the site traffic by clicking on that link and seeing what it has to say. I'm not going to really dive into that topic that much, 'cause I don't really have the information or the will power to debate about gender, but I bring it up 'cause viewing this film I felt it had some understated feeling that is brought more under the lens of view in that documentary.

okay on to "Synecdoche, New York" which really at this point I'm not sure I have to go into this comparison. More to say after watching both these films which warrant a second viewing, though I would say "Synecdoche, New York" warrants more than two, the similarities are everywhere. So much taht I would say that Charlie Kaufman's movie was a response to "Eight and a Half." Here is what I consider the most powerful scene in Kaufman's movie. It really doesn't have the same feeling without all the context that is "Synecdoche, New York" but still a great scene.

with that I say good bye. I hope you enjoyed this I put some serious work into it so I hope you give it some attention. we'll see what Chris picks out for me next week. Until then hopefully I'll update you on the state of my art also. uh yeah I'll probably edit this somewhat as shit starts poping out and bothering me, but I need to paint also so yeah later.