If any film embodies what most film school wannabes aspire to make it's Fellini's 8 1/2. That's not to say the film is without merit -- though some complain it is self-indulgent and ultimately without meaning -- it is in fact a seminal work of cinema. In other words, those film school geeks know a good thing when they see it.
Federico Fellini (who, more or less, had directed eight features and one short before this point, hence 8 1/2) found himself at something of a crossroads at this point in his career. He had come off of La Dolce Vita, widely considered his greatest work, in 1960. Fellini, searching for something that would be a worthy follow-up, he finally settled on 8 1/2, an idea which had been languishing with him for years. The story is priceless -- and has been widely copied ever since. Marcello Mastroianni plays a famous Italian movie director named Guido Anselmi, who... get this... is coming off a big hit and is searching for his next project. He finally finds one, but due to the outrageous antics of his old cast and crew, problems with his personal life (wife and mistress, natch), and an increasingly perplexing series of dreams and waking fantasies, getting the movie underway proves challenging indeed. As the project nonetheless gets underway with no script and Guido's cluelessness about what to do next, somehow the movie gets made. The irony, of course, is that there wasn't much of a script for 8 1/2 either (the actors were given their lines for the day each morning, often verbally) -- it's art imitates life imitates art imitates life. A film within a film within a film. Genius!
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