Reimagining Fellini's classic Italian masterpiece 8 1/2 as a lavish stage musical - and subsequently as a high-budget cinematic endeavor - was certainly a bold gesture, whatever the eventual outcome. After all, both the film and its director represent something of a holy grail to those with any real passion for foreign filmmaking or a finely tuned historical sense of cinema in general. Putting style and relevance aside for a moment - sacrilege, surely, for the Criterion elite - Fellini's narrative centers on a troubled and romantically philandering director who simply cannot find inspiration for his next film.
In that vague sense, Rob Marshall's adaptation of the staged musical Nine uses this same basic conceit to accomplish what amounts to a less successful retread of Chicago set in the epicenter of 1960s Italian film production. Both films share the same set of qualities and flaws, but where Chicago offered a little more Broadway-style razzle-dazzle and charm, Nine can never quite reconcile its story with its presentation.
Daniel Day-Lewis plays Guido Contini - a brilliant cinematic mind who we're told (without ever being shown) has crafted a number of seminal, culture-defining films. His newest project is about to be announced and Guido has yet to inform anybody that he has no actual idea what it's going to be about. Without a page of script to show, Guido's boundless charm is all that carries him through the hectic pace of pre-production, as he gives orders and dodges questions without any sense of what he's actually trying to accomplish.
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