Federico Fellini’s 8½ (1963)

Federico Fellini’s is a head-scraping and memory-swirled portrait of the judgment and shame that comes with creative effort. Tonight it speaks heavy to my desire for clarity, how I worry time is running out for me to find some niche or a single point of focus:

Could you leave everything behind and start from zero again? Pick one thing, and one only, and be absolutely devoted to it? Make it the reason for your existence, the thing that contains everything, that becomes everything, because your dedication to it makes it last forever? Could you? No, this guy here, he couldn’t. He wants to grab everything, can’t give up a single thing. He changes his mind every day because he’s afraid he might miss the right path. And he’s slowly bleeding to death.

But hyperspecialization might be an illusion in these days of everything-at-once, a romanticized relic that belongs to the medieval artisan. Lately I’ve been wrestling with my anxiety about contributing to our crowded screens, and this this line hit me particularly hard:

We’re smothered by words, images, and sounds that have no right to exist, that come from the void and return to the void. Of any artist truly deserving of the name we should ask nothing but this act of faith: to learn silence.

Most of all, I love this detail: when shooting began in 1962, Fellini taped a piece of brown paper next to the viewfinder of his camera. It said, “Ricordati che è un film comico.” Remember, this is a comedy.

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