Archive for December 28th, 2009

An Extra Half

If ever there was a film I was destined to hate it was Nine. I think Rob Marshall’s big hit Chicago is the worst recipient of the best picture Oscar in my lifetime. Seven years later Marshall returns to the Broadway musical, Nine is based on a show that in turn was based on 8 ½, my second favourite Federico Fellini movie (my favourite being La dolce vita). There are many problems with remaking classic films, in this case the original film was partly autobiographical for Fellini. The direction and construction of the film are at times awkward and messy. 

Despite all the odds been stacked against it the film isn’t bad. The main reason is excellent performances from an eclectic cast. Two time Oscar winner Daniel Day-Lewis takes on the central role of Guido played by Marcello Mastroianni in the original movie and is as brilliant as ever. A master filmmaker who is struggling with his next film after his last two have flopped. With only a matter of days until filming starts he has no script things start to unravel. The rest of the leading players are made up of the important women in Guido’s life. Penelope Cruz plays Guido’s mistress, Marion Cotillard plays his wife and Nicole Kidman his muse and leading lady. Judi Dench is his old friend, confidant and his costume designer, Stacy Ferguson aka Fergie from the Black Eyed Peas plays a prostitute Guido remembers from his childhood and Sophia Loren plays his mother. Kate Hudson’s character is a bit on an enigma, an American fashion journalist who is somewhat superfluous to the plot but has one of the movies more memorable musical numbers. Because of the nature of the movie Guido takes centre stage and all the female characters are somewhat under developed. Despite this two of the actresses manage to transcend their parts and give movie stealing performances Penélope Cruz is as brilliant and sensual as ever but even she is upstaged by Marion Cotillard.

So this is a musical and I have said very little about the songs. The musical numbers tend to take place away from the narrative of the film, often on the half finished movie set. This creates an almost neat divide between the reality a movie and the fantasy of a musical. Normally a good thing but 8 ½ was so full of ambiguity and a dreamlike sense. The songs themselves aren’t that memorable, the biggest and best are probably Fergie’s Be Italian and Kate Hudson’s Cinema Italiano.

Strangely the fact that the movie isn’t full of memorable musical numbers works to it s benefit, none musical fans like me can enjoy it as an engaging well acted movie. I just hope a fraction of the millions of people who see this movie are inspired to see Fellini’s original masterpiece 8 ½.

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