I realize I was quite harsh on Nine in my Oscar recap. I was criticizing without having seen all of it. I had seen the Fergie segment and was not pleased with what I saw. It tried to combine neorealism and flashy theater in a way that didn’t work. In addition, I did find it miscast. Does this look like Fergie to you?
Anyway, maybe this was the exception. Plus, the song itself was not…well it wasn’t bad. Maybe it was a case where the most popular item of the film was not the best. I had better watch the full thing if I am prepared to criticize it.
Well, now I have. And it sets a new bar for film musicals. Singing in the Rain? Chicago? Yankee Doodle Dandee? Evita? Child’s play compared to this wonderful cinematic experience. It is enough to revolutionize, not just the musical, not just the film, but all of human history…..hahaha no not really. It’s all absolute garbage.
The problem is that the film never answers that all important question that all remakes must face: why? Why was there a need to remake it? Also, in this case, why drastically change dramas? It is not the simple fact that 8 1/2 was remade as a musical. As far as I am concerned, anything can be done in the hands of the right people. The main item the film would have to do is addressed what Fellini was trying to accomplish in 8 1/2: create an intelligent discussion of imagination, creativity, and the muse that exists for all artists. It addresses absolutely none of those things. Those wonderful portions about Guido’s sexual hang ups from 8 1/2? They are not NEARLY addressed on the same scale. The images of Guido being pulled down to earth in order to complete his film? Not present at all. Director Rob Marshall merely remakes Chicago‘s aesthetic to discuss a genre where such an approach nothing but abrasive and acerbic. It is an absolute failure.
Also, it is thirteen minutes before the first song is performed. For a musical, that is a death sentence. But I will get to how it treats its musical sequences later.
Have you seen 8 1/2? No? Go do that now. I will wait. Finished? Nine has the exact same plot. Director signs up to make movie (in this case, a film called Italia, which appears to be a musical rather than a science fiction yarn that the original was all about). Director not passionate about said movie. Director trying to reconcile with his lovers, both in his mind and with them. Let’s move on.
Can I find anything positive about the film? Well, Daniel Day Lewis as Guido is actually quite good. He looks enough like Marcello Mastroianni and brings a sort of stoicism that the role requires. In the original, Guido lives a completely clandestine life – the women he sleeps with are never sure what sort of person he is because no person is really there. He does everything he can to shield himself from the world (right down to the sunglasses). Lewis does the same, and frankly it works. That is more to the credit of Lewis than the film. Also, I suppose the soundtrack is nice and the women quite…aesthetically pleasing.
That’s all I can say. I just cannot get around the fact that the film wasted the opportunity it had. Fellini is one of the greatest filmmakers of all time. He could address the human mind and desire visually better than any other. He revived the cinema of Italy, he created a sort of dream atmosphere that no one else could. What does Nine say about Fellini? Here’s an actual song lyric: “I love the black and white/I love the play with light.” Yes, Kate Hudson (who sings the song) THAT is the only reason we remember Fellini. What has Fellini’s style been replaced with? Mostly a sort of Vegas cabaret revue that is just bizarre. And the scenes where they do copy Fellini? Well I have shown you the original (and quite playful) Saraghina scene. The film does not even come close. It goes from merely flirtatious adolescent play to borderline child molestation (just imagine a man becoming this involved with a striptease around young girls):
Even on its own, I am not sure how well the musical would fair. Most of my critiques are about how it compares, but that is unavoidable. Besides, even the musical sequences are not that well executed. That Fergie scene is honestly the best one. The rest are just a sort of pedantic run through of the sort of choreography that Marshall helped popularize.I will show you what I mean; here is the Penelope Cruz song “A Call from the Vatican”:
It would make more sense on a stage at a night club than on screen. Songs should do more than showcase the actresses bodies – they should propel the plot or otherwise address some sort of internal fear or desire the characters have. Yes, Cruz is beautiful, but when the scene is about nothing, such beauty feels wasted.
At this point, I am seriously at a loss as to what else I can say. The film is not even a noble experiment. It is just a wasted opportunity. I will close with another song lyric; one segment has Judi Dench’s singing “movies are not worth their entrance price.” Hmm… I like when movies critique themselves.