Woody Allen does Fellini—and the result is one of his best films, though you’d never have known it at the time this affectionate take on 8 1/2 was released back in 1980. The problem was that the fans—goaded by the critics—decided that the film demonstrated Allen’s contempt for his audience, since it depicted a filmmaker (Allen) attending a retrospective of his movies and running into a variety of mildly to seriously demented fanboys (as we’d call them now). It didn’t help that the retrospective was clearly patterned on movie critic Judith Crist’s “film weekends,” giving it an air of authenticity. (What no one noticed was that Crist seems to have been in on the joke, since she has a cameo.) Two points: It’s only about you if you see yourself in the depicted fans, and Allen’s filmmaker is just as much the butt of the jokes as anyone. Allen has claimed that there’s nothing autobiographical about it, which I don’t buy for a minute. More recently, he’s claimed that everything in the film following the shot of the dead rabbit his cook wants to prepare for dinner (“I don’t eat rodent”) is fantasy, which might be true (and which might tie the film to Roman Polanski’s Repulsion). Whatever the case, it’s a funny, visually striking movie about movies and fans—with one of Allen’s best soundtracks.
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