Since either a stream-of-consciousness or impressionistic self-portrait, in

Since its premiere release on February 14, 1963, Federico Fellini’s film 8 ½ (in its
original Italian, Otto e Mezzo) has received worldwide universal acclaim. Critically understood
by many as Fellini’s own autobiography, depicting a middle-aged Italian filmmaker dealing with
the debilitating constraints of “director’s block” immediately following Fellini’s own period of
creative lull, 8 ½ follows Guido Anselmi’s struggle through a creative drought, as he seeks
inspiration for his new film as well as his weakening spirituality. Attempting to establish a
harmony between these two aspects of life– the creative and the religious– Guido embarks on a
soul-searching quest through his memories, his daydreams, and his women, as well as his
affiliation with the Catholic Church. Marking a clear break in style from any of his previous
works, 8 ½ shocked Fellini’s audiences, causing discord over the purpose and the message of the
enigmatic film: was Fellini’s new work sublime, or merely self-indulgent? Episodically
interweaving flashbacks and daydreams with reality and symbolism, Fellini takes his audience
on a journey through both the conscious and unconscious mind of his film’s self-reflexive hero,
creating one of the first portals into the subjective consciousness through film. Due to its
involved plotting–ordained even more deeply serpentine through characters that transcend literal
chronology–critical commentary on 8 ½ proliferated as audiences attempted to decipher the
mysterious film’s deeper meaning (or lack thereof), turning Fellini’s work into the hottest
“intellectual cud to chew on” of the early 1960s.1
Hailing Fellini as “a genius possessed of a magic touch, a prodigious style,” for having
created what some were willing to call “the most brilliant, varied, and entertaining movie” since
Citizen Kane, many critics and awards panels held no restraint against complimenting Fellini on
his work, even though its implications remained unclear.
2 Perhaps due to its uncertain
classification as either a stream-of-consciousness or impressionistic self-portrait, in 1987 a group