8 1/2 : Remember, This Is a Comedy

        Surrealism is genera that never really came into its own. In the literary field the books of Gabriel Garcia Márquez are held up as the most well known and easily accessible of the type, and while in cinema most films that fall into the category are merely brushed off by the average movie goer as "art house" films or as films that they feel are too complex to deal with on a Saturday night. What causes film goes to label art house films "art house?" Using Fellini's 8 1/2 as the subject, not as a movie released in the early 60's, but as a modern movie released today, one must wonder why this wonderful film would only be known as an "art house" film.

        First there seems to be a strike against any foreign film that is not either in English or an action movie. The average American audience is young and has a limited education. This seems to place many movies out of their mental reach, and older audiences no longer go to theaters and only rent movies with large amounts of press, which foreign films, even winners of the Academy Award for Best Foreign Film, rarely get taken home to be played. The second strike against the film is that it falls into a grayish category. While the Fellini would consider it a comedy, there is no atypical humor found. There is no slapstick humor traditionally found in American comedies or even dry witty humor traditionally found in British comedies. The humor is situational and very subtle, to the effect of his continual metal decay in front of his friends and coworkers.

        The primary fall of many films from "mainstream" to "art house" seems to be the place of origin and the subject matter. Mainstream Hollywood films deal with American issues and will have a neat and tidy ending with strings left hanging for a sequel (even V for Vendetta, whose source material was British and dealt heavily with fascism and anarchy, was changed to a freedom fighter against a repressive government, and left few lingering questions at the end). Art house films are pushed on the intellectuals of American society, on people who believe that they see things differently from the way that the common Joe does. And while Fellini's 8 1/2 will almost always be considered an "art house" film, many other art house films are gaining notoriety (such as Amelie and Good Night and Good Luck) and on occasion are jumping to the megaplex screen.

Michael Belcher

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