Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, November 1, 2012


Daniel Day-Lewis as Fellini-Contini
NINE (2009). Director: Rob Marshall.

"My body's nearing fifty and my mind is nearing ten."

Famous Italian director Guido Contini (Daniel Day-Lewis), whose last couple of films have been flops, is trying to come up with a script for his new one -- his ninth -- while juggling a wife, Luisa (Marion Cotillard), a mistress named Carla (Penelope Cruz), who is also married, and other women as well. This is  based on the Broadway show of the same title, which in turn was inspired by Federico Fellini's semi-autobiographical film 8 1/2 [which has never been one of my favorite Fellini films]. The trouble with the script, which tries to deal with the conflict artists have with a repressive church and friction between their personal and professional lives among similar matters, is that it has nothing new to say on those subjects. Contini is the stereotypical neurotic ladies man with a big ego and a few moments of sensitivity, and while he's very well played by Day-Lewis, he ultimately isn't very interesting on his own. What we're left with is an entertaining adaptation of something that probably played better on the stage. Maury Yeston's songs are tuneful enough without being spectacular, and there are some well-done and sexy production numbers, such as the hookers singing "Be Italian." Cruz and especially the very lovely Cotillard are excellent, and there is good support from Nicole Kidman as a movie star, Judy Dench as a costumer-assistant to Contini, and Sophia Loren as Contini's mother! Not to put it crudely, but many see this film [and 8 1/2 as well] as less a celebration of womanhood than a paean to the arrogant male ego and his obsession with "pussy."

Verdict: Flawed and minor in most ways, but also colorful and well-produced with a fine lead performance. ***.

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