In 1963 the film 8½ was released. It was a semi-autobiographical tale directed and co-written by Federico Fellini. It centered on a director struggling to find inspiration for his latest movie. Unable to find that creative spark, he retreats to a spa where he reminisces on his life and loves, hoping to discover that needed creativity. The film is considered a classic and I am sure I have seen it. The problem is that I do not remember it. I guess that means I am going to have to revisit it. In any case, the Fellini film inspired a Broadway musical called Nine, which has now been turned into a feature film by director Rob Marshall, who previously shepherded Broadway to the Oscar stage with Chicago.
The question that many people seem to be struggling with is the comparison between Nine and 8½. I am fortunate in that my potentially false memories of the older film are so faint as to not have an affect on my thoughts of Nine as a creation unto itself, although I must admit the idea of making the comparison is an interesting one. As it stands, Nine is a splendid visual creation and features a few better acting performances than it likely deserves, all in the service of a shallow story with a central character I find difficult to identify with. The funny thing is that I identified more with the character of his wife than anyone else.
Nine opens with a press conference where director, or rather maestro Guido Contini (Daniel Day-Lewis) is to announce the start of production for his next film. The problem is that there is no next film. He has no script and no idea what it will be. Guido fakes his way through the conference and escapes to a remote spa town where he seeks clarity to conceive his next opus.
His getaway is complicated by the arrival of his pampered mistress, Carla (Penelope Cruz). Then come his producer and a legion of studio hands, who go right to work creating sets, crafting costumes, all in the service of a non-existent script. Through all of this Guido just wants to get away.