'It's horrible being in love when you're...'

Film 8½ things about seeing Fellini's for the first time last night in an actual cimema:

(1) All the way there I had the song "It's horrible bein' in luv when you're eightnalf" by Clare and Friends playing out in my head. That's disturbing.

(1) Yes, person sitting two rows behind me. The girl in front of you is half attractive. Yes, she looks slightly bewildered. No, it isn't a good idea to go into a long, detailed plot synopsis ten minutes before the film's about to start. That's why she's given you that annoyed look and pretending she needs to go out and get a plastic spoon for her ice cream.

(2) The cinema is very busy and mostly with people younger than me. I'm thirty. At no time did I think I'd be going to see a Fellini film and be one of the oldest people there.

(3) The story is of a film director who should be making a film but seems to be procrastinating by going to some parties and cheating on his wife. No matter how hard Marcello Mastroianni tries, he ultimately fails to gain my sympathy by basically coming off as quite a smug person.

(4) At about the half hour point I realise I'm losing interest. Perhaps years of reading about how much of a classic this film was has elevated it to a level which it could never attain. But somewhere in the middle of the pitiless dialogue, pointless closeups of bit players or annoying camera angles I find that I can't be less involved.

(5) About minute fifty the audience laughs. Someone on-screen has made a joke at the expense of some extras who are supposed to be appearing in the film within a film. By now I'm making do with letting the admittedly exciting cinematography wash over me.

(6) Minute ninety and a dream sequence begins in which all of the women who've appeared in the film re-appear as part of a harem. Whiile initially an exciting concept, it plays in places as Carry On Art House. Next, the director decided he can't be arsed with the film he's making after all, and the movie ends well with a circus band and all of the cast dancing around in a circus ring. It's funny and interesting and has a freedom the rest of the film lacks.

(7) As the credits start to role, the audience literally and audibly gives a sigh of relief, partly because the film's ending and also I think because everyone realises everyone else is having the same reaction they've had.

(8) As I'm leaving the cinema, a couple are just behind me going down the stairs to the exit. I overhear her saying: "Surrealism is ok. But I think that some surreal has a limit...." I burst out laughing and we all agree we've just spent two hours we'll never get back and wished we'd been watching La Dolca Vita instead.

(and a half) When I get home I read the review from the Time Out Film Guide. Here it is:
"The passage of time has not been kind to what many view as Fellini's masterpiece. Certainly Di Venanzo's high-key images and the director's flash-card approach place 81?2 firmly in its early '60s context. As a self-referential work it lacks the layering and the profundity of, for example, Tristram Shandy, and the central character, the stalled director (Mastroianni), seems less in torment than doodling. And yet... The bathing of Guido sequence is a study extract for film- makers, and La Saraghina's rumba for the seminary is a gift to pop video. Amiably spiking all criticism through a gloomy scriptwriter mouthpiece, Fellini pulls a multitude of rabbits out of the showman's hat."
I decide that I'm never going to see an 'classic' film without reading what those people have to say first. It'll save a hell of a lot of time.

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