Monday, February 24, 2003

81/2 and full metal jacket: directorial visions

Fellini's movie about a director trying to make his next movie is as autobiographically liberating as it gets. Exploiting film technique to exorcize his own misgivings and apprehensions, Fellini offers a stylized narrative that blends time and space to linearize the three phases of the human psyche: the past, the present and the realm of fantasy, using the last as a mating ground for memories, current events and wishful thinking. Full of great framing and composition and some well-orchestrated complex ensemble satire, the film's only irksome aspect is the lack of dubbing synchronization. Apparently, the Italian film studios were spacious and had been around long before sound came to movies. This meant that they were not soundproof. Tearing them down or refurbishing them wasn't worth the money. This meant that all filming was done using a wild track and all dialogues were dubbed after the film was shot and edited. Fellini had a habit of using people who matched his desired characters perfectly (thus eliminating any need for real acting prowess). Hence, most of his actors weren't professionally equipped to deal with the sensitive complexities inevitable in a dubbing session. Pity. Put that aside, and you have a great spectacle. I'm glad I had a chance to catch it on the big screen at an NFAI screening a few years ago. While that print wasn't a great one, the cinema hall experience is worth it (in my case, an annual membership). The Criterion Collection DVD boasts a great restoration as well as a tri-layered scene-specific audio essay by film critic and Fellini friend Bachmann, Gideon & NYU professor of film Antonio Monda. In case you were curious, the title refers to the number of movies Fellini had directed up until that point: 6 features and 3 short (1/2) films. Do the math: that adds up to "eight and a half".

Watching a Stanley Kubrick movie, knowing it's a Stanley Kubrick work, is tough for me. It's the greatest measure of negative bias possible. I have never been able to understand the man. His penchant for "creative" excess motivated by a super-fine attention to (often aggravating) detail often fails to make it to his finished works. Full Metal Jacket is a movie of episodes, and I caught the first one and half of the second one yesterday. Everything is understated and a lot of the jokes were just destroyed by familiarity or occasionally by just bad delivery. But more opinions will have to wait till I've seen the whole thing.

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