LE RéPERTOIRE

8…8 1/2…9…

Posted in Adaptation, film, Uncategorized by Joie on December 3, 2008
Mama, Claudia, Liliane, Carla, Random Blonde Socialite, Luisa, Saraghina, Guido

Clockwise (by character): Mama, Claudia, Liliane, Carla, Random Blonde Socialite, Luisa, Saraghina, Guido

Yesterday, on Good Morning America, during Britney’s performance of her new single, “Circus,” also the title of the latest effort to reboot her career, I notice the familiar tune of Nino Rota’s score for Fellini’s 8 1/2 (1963) as the opening and closing bookends for the song. Transporting us to some carnivalesque wonderland because you know…Fellini/Rota equals garish circus freaks and a barely sweating ringmaster attempting to sell the greatest show (I mean, preview) on earth, Britney is less of a performer than she was before, now a vampish marionette in the grand tradition of female has-beens, like Lola Montes and Mariah Carey, wearing her setbacks as pity points for fans’ financial support. By even comparing herself to the incredibly cluttered yet fluidly warm style of the late Italian master is more insulting if it was an intentional homage than simply browsing through Itunes for mood music.

Then and Now

Guido & Carlo: Then and Now

castfellini2

Fellini and his harem

To her credit, Britney revived my interest for Rob Marshall’s film adaptation (filming in the UK, due out 2009) of the Tony Award-winning musical, Nine (also thanks to Meg!), simply due to its stellar casting stunt alone: Daniel Day-Lewis, as the womanizing (ha, Britney) artist Guido with writer’s block, Nicole Kidman as his on-and-off again muse, Claudia, Judi Dench as the witty French reporter, Lilianne, Marion Cotillard as his faithful wife, Penelope Cruz as the voluptuous dim-witted mistress Carla, Sophia Loren as his Mamma only in memory, Kate Hudson as a composite character of American/European socialites parading around the set, and of course, the Duchess herself, Fergie as Guido’s first sexual conquest, a misunderstood monster of a whore Saraghina. Even though the film is adapted from a theater show and not directly a remake of the original Italian film, creating a compare/contrast profile chart of the character/actors gives us however, tiny of a clue, that Marshall is referring to both sources for his project rather than the musical itself (look at the exact hair styles!) and hopefully unlike its dour box office cousin, The Producers, another film-to-musical-to-film inbred, Nine should absorb or borrow the exuberant energy that made 8 1/2 a sensational box-office draw of its time, a classic in the kooky genre of films about films, transforming the behind-the-scenes of the production process into an exquisite confrontation between fantasy and memory, the tempting desire to let go and the stubborn will to create meaning.

Sophia Loren on the set of 8 1/2.  Fellini and Marcello by her side.

Sophia Loren on the set of 8 1/2. Fellini and Marcello by her side.

As the reigning discourse around the word, “adaptation” brings to mind, the embarrassing accusations that the “film” didn’t do this or that justice to the “book,” or what I think is inevitably an impossible endeavor, one could distill the situations or more crucially, the sensual essence of the source, while taking liberties with how an actor will improvise spontaneously with words and gestures, or how a whole scene could be shot from a perspective that goes beyond what the book can imagine. Upon digging through the photo archives of 8 1/2, who could have known that Sophia Loren, visiting the set of the original film, would star in its redo’s remake. If originality is inherent in the original, could originality be transferable to a copy, cutting its ties to the original, plain and simple? I find it better to move away from the iron curtain of fidelity and towards a more conducive discussion around intertextuality. Excuse my academic jargon, but the term means what it says, suggesting the play of allusions and references that one cultural object refers to another. Rather than speaking in ad finitum about a singular piece, the plenitude of experiences between texts bring us closer to dissecting changing attitudes about times present and past, and how subjective interpretations are being filtered as objective criticism. If professional and amateur critics like to spin personal anecdotes only for the sake of attention, followed by defending their preferences through external standards of good taste, than for better or worse, in the probing spirit of 8 1/2, to think about the trivial and profound relations from one book to another, from one film to another, would surrender the human ego to the witness stand as its own judge and prosecutor…the artist have already sold his soul to the devil, it’s a matter of how long he can keep it.

Britney’s “I’ll just wiggle around the playpen” routine, listen for the beginning:

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3 Responses

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  1. airickm3 said, on December 4, 2008 at 1:23 am

    Joie has lured me out of my production cave with a morsel too tempting to resist. My all time favorite film, my all time least favorite celebrity, and the lighting rod word, “adaptation”. I’ll skip the first two, because frankly, enough has been said about both.

    Now adaptation is interesting territory. Like Joie says, the play between two objects is often of great interest itself. But to take a step away from the cultural discourse, I simply want to know why it is that more films aren’t “played with”. We all love covered songs, no matter how great the original version. I’m not talking about remakes (Van Sant’s “Psycho”) but versions where a new director redesigns an older work.

    Rintaro’s “Metoroporisu” (2001) a fantastic “cover” of Lang’s “Metropolis”, is the best example I can think of. This needs to happen more often.

    Bringing this around to the conversation about “Nine” – here’s a project I felt instant ambivalence toward. I’m fascinated by the casting choices, but my anxiety comes in praying that it be well executed. This hope is bolstered by the counter example to “The Producers”, another film-musical-film-(then musical again!) bouncie ball: “Little Shop of Horrors”. Here’s a piece that started out as the lowest of budget Corman B-pictures (featuring an early Jack Nicholson), was adapted into an off-Broadway show, was adapted from that to a Hollywood musical, then adapted again to a full scale Broadway production. And it’s fantastic in every incarnation.

    All this by way of saying – it’s easy to look down one’s critical nose at the “adaptation” as “not worthy of the original”. Props to you, Joie, or sticking up for reinterpretation.

  2. seejaye said, on May 2, 2009 at 2:20 pm

    Interesting, ’cause when I heard about this project, I thought to the other two examples your brought up, “The Producers” and “Little Shop..” 8 1/2 has always been one of my favorites, and hearing about “Nine” made me want to watch it again, which I’ve just done, twice on two successive nights. It’s such a visually ravishing movie, I love your description of “cluttered but visually warm.” Noone can equal the fluid dynamism of Fellini’s moving-camera shots, especially in the harem scene.

    I’m curious about Nine – it’s best to not compare it with 8 1/2, and judge it on its own merits. But it’ll be hard not to see how it stacks up against Fellini’s masterpiece.

  3. seejaye said, on May 2, 2009 at 2:25 pm

    Oops – it the first commenter that brought up those two movies, not the author of the original post. My bad – i’m seriously breathless with excitement seeing these pics and anticipating this movie.


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