Movies and Munchies meets Books and Booze: '8 1/2'

Editors pair renowned films with mixed drinks

8 ½” is one of Federico Fellini’s best known works and one of the most profound meditations on the creative process committed to film. It follows a director, portrayed by Marcello Mastroianni, who is suffering from director’s block on the set of his latest film. As both the film and his personal life begin to collapse, he retreats into his own thoughts and his past and finds the film more and more mimicking his life. 

The 1963 black-and-white film boasts a 98 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, and is often acclaimed as one of the greatest films of all time. 

There’s no better choice for one of the prototypical Italian movies than the prototypical Italian cocktail — the Negroni. While perhaps best enjoyed on a veranda in Naples, it’s just as good to pour a few and sit down with this film.


1 oz. gin 

1 oz. Campari

1 oz. sweet vermouth 

Rocks glass

Combine ingredients in a shaker with ice. Shake and pour over fresh ice in a rocks glass. Garnish with an orange peel. 

Casting: 4.5/5 

The core of this film is the character Guido, and Mastroianni is phenomenal as both an artistic stand-in for Fellini and as an extremely compelling, extremely flawed protagonist. His wife Luisa (played by Anouk Aimee) is also perfectly cast, and Aimee plays her with equal parts pathos and passion. 

Claudia Cardinale, who becomes Guido's idealized muse, is one of the most interesting characters in the film. She is present throughout many of the dream sequences in the film as a beautiful, almost divine woman who can offer Guido the absolution he so desperately desires. One of the film's greatest scenes is when he finally meets her in reality and finds she is nothing like he imagined her to be.   

Story: 5/5

"8 ½," like many great films, is not a film best seen once — it gains new depths of meaning with every rewatching.  The story is at times hard to follow, as Fellini shifts dramatically from reality to fantasy and back again without much explanation. Fellini doesn't make it easy on the viewer, but he rewards those who stick with it. 

It is equally a portrait of an artist, a meditation on the creative process and a story of redemption. It's amazing for a film that is so focused on a lack of creativity to be completely brimming with it.  

Cohesiveness: 4/5

As a film that relies on a narrative framework that is supposed to be in line with the mental state of its protagonist, it is remarkably successful. As Guido's life crumbles, the audience is treated to more fantasy than fact, as Guido escapes into his thoughts and the visions of the past to escape the painful present.

It is perhaps hard at times to discern what is really happening versus what is just happening in Guido's mind, but the structure of the script is important in mirroring the fracturing of Guido's artistic and personal life.  

Relevance: 3.5/5

Fellini's films have held up well, and modern audiences can gain a lot from it. While 1960's Rome might be a completely different world compared to the present, "8 ½" has not lost any of its power and depth. 

The famous harem scene, a dream sequence in which Guido lives in a castle with all the women he has ever slept with or wanted to sleep with, is a poignant look at his depravity and the depths of his addictions, but perhaps troublesome to modern sensibilities. However, his latent misogyny is an important part of his character and his redemption, and is never portrayed in a sympathetic way. 

Overall: 4.75/5

"8 ½" is not only one of the greatest films of all time, but one of the greatest artistic statements on the artistic process. It should be required watching for anyone that wants to make art. 

Related links:

Books & Booze: 'Slaughterhouse-Five' by Kurt Vonnegut

Books & Booze: 'Wuthering Heights' by Emily Bronte

Movies and Munchies: Scott Pilgrim vs. the World

Movies and Munchies: "To All the Boys I've Loved Before"

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