Monday, August 2, 2010

Chicago is "Transformed"...While A Few Feet Away, an Old Masterpiece Unfolds

It was too good to pass up:  vintage Fellini back on the big screen in a new 35mm print, at the Gene Siskel Film Center, one of the city's best screening rooms.  We had to go...

So, while walking through Downtown Chicago yesterday, there was a huge mob of people gathered at Wabash Ave. Then I saw the rubble...the street "torn up", and also the cameras and lights.....Oh yes.."Transformers 3".

Behind these people, some of the most beautiful architecture in the world loomed, ignored....Director Michael Bay promised to make the city look beautiful in his film.....which is ironic, and laughable. Even if he manages to capture a few seconds of the Wrigley Building, Tribune Tower...few in the audience will notice, or care, just like that Sunday crowd.

"Transformers 3" would have been a good candidate CGI instead of location shooting; it doesn't strike me as substantial enough to deserve the awesome locations Chicago can offer a truly monumental motion picture. 

And just two blocks away, in a quiet 200-seat screening room on State Street, one of the most unusual and interesting films was on display....and I would bet that 90% of those in that mob never heard of it...


In my fantasy, there would be a sellout crowd lining up to see this masterpiece of cinematic invention, while the mindless labor-intensive exercise on Wabash went virtually ignored.

Although Fellini did not pack the house, thank goodness the Siskel Center at least had a respectable showing.....

I assumed that the Transformer toys lost their "coolness" a while ago.  Were young adults being courted by movie companies to play on their nostalgia for their toys?   I now know that Transformers never really went out of fashion. 

I, too, am susceptible to the allure of a location shoot in my home town, of the awesomeness of seeing the streets and bridges you cross every day being blown up, courtesy of the relative safety of the Special Effects and Art departments. 

Not every movie can be (or should be) as rich as this by Fellini;  I only want there to be something in between to capture undernourished modern filmgoers  and to prepare them for the artistic feast of an "8-1/2", a film which offers so much that it's disappearance from popular culture is almost obscene.

Last year's musical film "Nine", which was inspired by "8-1/2", was so reviled and misunderstood, that it did not help expose a new generation of filmgoers to Fellini; rather, the critics succeeded in alienating potential Fellini-philes.

In "8-1/2", Guido Anselmi, a world-famous director, is poised to create his next film...and despite the skeptical scrutiny of his public, the urging of his cast and crew, the prodding of his co-writer, and his ever-present fantasies he seeks for inspiration, he finds that he has nothing to say.

That was Fellini's own dilemma as he struggled to create his "eight-and-a-half" film (Fellini had already made something like seven full-length movies and one short film, hence the title.)

I can't do justice to Fellini's accomplishment here, his successful self-reflexive soul-searching through his protagonist, the specific set pieces he stages for  the women in his life who are his muses, his reflection on family and religious guilt and the pain and confusion of true creativity.....

I will review the film soon....

In the final sequence, I found Fellini's generosity toward his kindred creative spirits, his acceptance of "seeking and not knowing", and the desire to integrate one's past with the total artist (where the past can inspire, or paralyze, an artist), was a comfort....It was an overpowering emotion.  In a similar way, I found that I was striving to accomplish the same thing with this blog....especially in my nostalgic previous post.....Fellini's final image, just like my own, is of himself as a little boy....

"8-1/2" (and "Nine") inspired me....


  1. LOVE 8 1/2. Your collage reminds me of how similar Marion Cotillard and Anouk Aimee are, physically. Oh, and of course talent-wise. Wonderful actresses, both!

  2. Walter, I'm so glad you appreciated this. When you come to Chicago to marvel at the architecture, you will also be our guest at the Siskel Center!