Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Nine (2009)

Title: Nine (2009)

Director: Rob Marshall

Cast: Daniel Day Lewis, Penelope Cruz, Nicole Kidman, Fergi, Marion Cotillard, Judi Dench, Kate Hudson, Sophia Loren


Legendary Italian director Federico Fellini’s 8 ½ is a film about filmmaking. It tells the story of a film director who is struggling with the fact that he has producers breathing down his neck, waiting for him to produce his next film. Problem is that Guido never really knows exactly what film he wants to make. He is struggling between the idea of making the film he wants to make, and making a commercial film that will make money for the producers. In between all the madness that accompanies making a film, Guido Anselmi also struggles with all the women in his life. His wife, his mistresses, his lovers and the complications that accompany them. The film was Fellini’s semi-autobiographical explorations of what it meant be him. Juggling so many responsibilities at the same time, juggling so many women. In the end, Fellini comes to the conclusion that life is just one big circus and that we all form part of it.

The one, the only 8 1/2

NINE, the new film by the director of Chicago and Memoirs of a Geisha (Rob Marshall) is essentially a remake of Fellini’s 8 ½. It’s also a film about a director struggling to make his next picture. The directors name is also Guido, only this time his name is Guido Contini, not Anselmi. And basically, NINE goes step by step through the most important moments seen in 8 ½, but in the form of a musical. NINE is also based on a broadway show of the same name. So NINE is really a film based on a broadway show that was based on a film. And same as it happens with a copy of a copy of a copy…NINE feels a bit lifeless and distant when compared to what is considered by many to be Fellini’s best film.

What this film does basically is, aside from adding a musical number for each female we encounter in Guido’s life, is update the ideas that Fellini presented us with in his films. You see, Fellini was a very macho kind of guy, he was the center of the universe in his films. The character of Guido Anselmi in 8 ½ has always been seen as a mirror image of who Fellini was, the character represents his creator. Guido Anselmi (as played by one Marcello Mastroiani) has always been seen by more then one movie buff as Fellini’s alter ego. The obvious reference to himself is of course that the films main character is a film director. In 8 ½, Guido is famous, everybody needs his opinion, everybody needs to interview him, talk to him, and everything needs his approval first. Same with his women, they all desire him, they all want to be with him, and they all need him. And, Fellini had no problem with depicting Guido as a womanizer, who worships women but hates the responsability of marriage. Fellini always chose these beautiful sexy bombshells for his films. In the films, Guido loves women for their femininity, their natural beauty, their sensuality.

All through out the course of his career, Fellini worshiped the beauty in women. He always chose the most beautiful women on the planet for his films! This is to be expected since directors give great importance to the way things look. Beauty, and the aesthetic side of things are important to a film director. But while Fellini worshipped beautiful women, in Fellini’s films men are unfaithful, they despise married life or commitment, they love to have fun, and not be tied down. Fellini's male characters never want to live married life, they see it as boring. Fellini’s men were always free spirits with no emotional attachments. Free to go and come as they please. This is a theme that can also be seen in Fellini's I Vitelloni for example, where young guys are struggling with the idea of getting married and becoming parents. What NINE does is, it says, “this is wrong, women cannot be treated as sex objects, they need to be loved for who they are, not for their physical beauty alone”. This can be seen in more then one scene on NINE, but the one I noticed most prominently was the one with Nicole Kidman, playing the role that Anita Eckberg played in La Dolce Vita. That of Sylvia, the bombshell actress who Guido whisks away to that magical iconic fountain in Italy. In La Dolce Vita, that scene has Guido falling deftly in love with Sylvia, wooing her, saying beautiful things about her, making her feel like a goddess because she is simply so stunningly beautiful. On this film, Nicole Kidman says “I’m not that woman” and walks away from Guido. Leaving him alone. As if Nicole Kidman’s character was saying “We know we are beautiful and all, but nobody loves a chauvinist pig!”

This film has elements from many of Fellini’s films. It’s not just a remake of 8 ½, this film also has scenes taken from La Dolce Vita, Amarcord and even Nights in Cabiria. It’s like Rob Marshall took some of the most Iconic moments from many of Fellini’s films and updated them with new songs, strung them together and called it a movie. Problem is that the film feels like a series of sketches or musical numbers, and not a movie. I mean, yeah, there’s that main storyline, but the film unfortunately takes no time in fleshing out its female characters and instead rushes its way to the next musical number. It’s like "Hi; I’m the new girl we are going to be talking about…and this is my song!" And that’s it. I really didn’t like that about the film. I mean, the musical numbers are fine, the songs are sometimes catchy (loved that Cinema Italiano song) but as a whole, the film doesn’t feel together.

It certainly does lack something. I think it needed to flesh out its female characters more since in essence, they are as much a center of the film as is Guido. I never felt like I knew these women walking before us. They are simply to be admired for their beauty. In many ways, this film contradicts itself. In one way its saying “love women for who they are not what they look like” but then it presents us with shallow empty female characters whom we never get to really know, so what’s left? Simply to admire their beauty and their song and dance. It certainly is a plus to have so many beautiful actresses on one film. But they are paraded around like trophies instead of tangible characters with life. With the possible exception of Marion Cotillard who actually made an effort to act, the rest of the female performances felt more like quick phoned in cameos then anything else, specially Kate Hudsons sequence. I loved the song she portrays, but shes in and out of the movie in the blink of an eye and your not even sure she was really even needed in the film except to add that song to the film. Even Daniel Day Lewis, who normally wows me with his performances was kind of dry here. In my opinion, they needed an actor who was a tad more dashing then Daniel Day Lewis. Rob Marshall’s original choice of Javier Bardem would have worked better, but he backed down due to exhaustion. Heck, even Antonio Bandera’s would have worked better.

This is not the worst film ever made, but the problem for me with it was that it’s coming from such great inspirational material, that the result should have somehow been better elaborated. Even the art direction was lack luster at times. Most of the songs take place in a stage, not a location, not a cool set, but a stage. I was expecting something grand for the big fountain sequence with Nicole Kidman, something that at least lived up to the memory of that awesome sequence in La Dolce Vita, but what we get is this silly looking little fountain. Nothing that came even remotely close to the great work of art we saw on Fellini’s film.

So why is this movie tanking at the box office? Well, my main hypothesis is that Fellini is a well known director amongst movie buffs and critics, but he isn’t a house hold name. He isn’t somebody that everyone knows about, and for that matter, neither is his film 8 ½. An awesome film, but a film that not everyone will be able to watch from start to finish. Fellini fans are a knowledgeable bunch; they aren’t your regular everyday movie goers. Problem is that NINE was made for the regular everyday movie goer, and these are the people who will enjoy this movie the least! This movie will be enjoyed by fans of Fellini, and that’s it. Nobody else will understand why the film takes place in Italy, why it takes place during the 60s or what films are being referenced, they will simply be disappointed and lost, which is what I’m thinking is happening right now with the abysmal Box Office Performance this film is having. Even with all its stars, it was not able to pull audiences in.

Rating: 3 ½ out of 5


Reina said...

I think your right about the movie being a bit lifeless, but i wouldnt say that the songs were catchy, and I hated the cinema italiano song!!! Argg, so vogue and chic and plain blah! but anyways, i still enjoyed this movie, it was entertaining! But as a tribute to Fellini's movies, there was a lot missing

Franco Macabro said...

Well, Ill have to disagree with you there Reina, I thought at least three of the songs were "catchy" specially, Cinema Italiano, and Be Italian.

But yeah, as a Fellini tribute, it came short, totally agree.

And it did entertain, whenever the songs come on, the movie turns into a broadway show. Literally. It looses all desire to be a traditional film.

joana said...

I think that from a connoisseur point of view you decide to review consagraded movies.

Franco Macabro said...

I do enjoy reviewing consecrated movies, films that are considered masterpieces. Sure.

But actually, if you check out the rest of the blog, you'll notice I talk about all kinds of films Joana, from the sleaziest b-movie like Basket Case 3 to high art films like Tarkovsky's Stalker, which was actually my first review.

Tom said...

I just found your blog; I went to your review of Nine right away because I've been on the fence about seeing this for the longest. Enjoyed reading your take.


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