Pure Bliss: 8 Minutes on the Set of Fellini’s 8 1/2

This post originally appeared on the site on 8/20/2010.

YouTube is proving to be a treasure trove of invaluable film records. I have just found this clip, from Italy’s public channel Rai3: “8 Minutes on the Set of Fellini’s 8 1/2“, which happens to be my number one favorite film.

I had no idea there was such a record: a backstage reportage shot during the last day of filming for 8 1/2. A male TV reporter walks around the film set and interviews the key actresses from the film: Claudia Cardinale, Anouk Aimee, Sandra Milo, Barbara Steel, and Eddra Gale (aka “La Saraghina”). We see Fellini behind the camera (a heart-stopping, super precious moment), directing the “circus scene” that closes the film. Marcello Mastroianni doesn’t want to be interviewed on camera, so we see a close-up of his “dummy” that an artisan is working on…

I’m thanking my lucky stars for being Italian – because I can understand the following interviews, which unfortunately do not carry subtitles. Here are some highlights, for those of you who don’t speak Italian:

Claudia Cardinale (“Claudia” in the film)
Claudia: “I’m something strange in the film. I’m half vision, half reality”
Journalist: “You’re the ‘friend’ of the director?”
Claudia: “Yes”
Journalist: “And the enemy of the director’s wife?”
Claudia: “No” (laughs nervously)
And then the journalist asks her if the film mirrors real life, and she nervously laughs and denies it.

Anouk Aimee (Lisa Anselmi, the director’s wife, in the film)

J: “What’s the best compliment that Fellini ever gave you?”
AA: “He cast me in this film.”

Sandra Milo (“Carla” in the film, the director’s mistress)

SM says she was a bit upset that for the film Fellini made her completely shave her eyebrows for the role of Carla. She says her face feels “flat” with the new look. Fellini had also asked the makeup department to give her dark moles.

Barbara Steel (Gloria Morin, the young girlfriend of Guido’s friend Mezzabotta)

Upon meeting Fellini, she says, she immediately felt something familiar, as if she had always known him.

Federico Fellini

“This is a peculiar film, even I, I haven’t really understood it. The film has come to an end almost suddenly. It wasn’t difficult to make, not at all. It simply happened, almost unbeknown to me. And today it’s over.” Fellini then adds that he doesn’t want to talk about the “intentions” of the film – he finds it dangerous and insincere. He recalls the recent experience of promoting La Dolce Vita: he says he spoke too much about it before the film came out and people went to watch it with an already pre-established idea of what it would be like. Fellini asks the journalist if he thinks the mystery surrounding 8 1/2 is a publicity stunt. “Do you think it’s a publicity stunt? If you want I’ll tell you just that. Are you happy now?”

And now, 8 minutes of cinematic bliss:

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  • I’m one of your “old” readers from the Girl with a Movie Camera blog and every once a while I check your website to see what’s up. I was so thrilled today, while horribly bored at the day job, to discover your new blog. I hope you keep it going. :)

  • I wasn’t sure of what each person was saying in this video – but all the same, I watched it and found it to be very enjoyable. Makes me want to curl up and watch 8½ tonight.

  • I loved watching this, since the film is one of my favorites as well (though I don’t understand most Italian). I love the fluid dynamism of the camera movements throughout the film; interesting to see Fellini himself behind the camera while it’s dollying. I was aware that Fellini played music while scenes were filmed, though in this case it wasn’t Nino Rota’s score that would appear in the finished version. 

    Thanks for posting this!