bustakay’s review published on Letterboxd:
Ferrera remakes 8 and a Half so faithfully that he carries over all the same problems of depicting creation that Fellini was wrestling with. How to depict the creation of a film without sacrificing something akin to narrative (we could just call it a story, a tale, a conversation). How to show the tension between living and making an artwork. Especially when the artwork is drawn so closely from one’s own life.
We watch Dafoe as Ferrera’s double muddle through clips from films (ethnographic and otherwise), correcting scripts and giving acting classes. As in 8 and a half there’s no signal for when we enter his fantasy, or part of the film he’s working on. This still works although of course the more ridiculous the fantasy the more we lose sight of how creating a film (or a work in general) will unsettle the careful arrangement of the senses that otherwise holds back the deluge (madness, violence, despair).
To depict this well means rigorously avoiding certain tropes. Ferrera isn’t so careful. He doesn’t care that he’s histrionic (is this not what Felliniesque really means? Hysteria as a form of heroism. The ridiculous beauty of being unbearably extra.) This is also what makes the film work, it has a pleasant roughness, an ugliness and a silliness that perfectly suits a film about a director of directing in general.
The figure of the addict is as always the perfect cipher for the artist. We are in familiar territory and it’s where things get a bit tiresome. Nonetheless the AA scenes are probably the most effecting. And the erotic fantasies are hilairious. He’s a walking erection. A curled up fist. All taut and hungry. Dafoe is a pleasure to watch. It would be good to revisit this alongside Ferrera’s Pasolini film. From memory Tommasso is still stronger. Closer to the ugliness of the artist. Somebody quite despicable, socially irresponsible and personally a nightmare to live with. A dying beast. A pathetic ex-drunk. Crucifying himself because there’s literally no better symbol for this wasted project of a life spent in search of personal glory through the deeply depersonalising process of turning one’s life into a work of art.