Nine Movie Review
Guido Contini (Day-Lewis) is a star director gearing up for his ninth movie.
The press is begging for details, and his producer (Tognazzi) wants to see the script. But with shooting starting in 10 days, Guido has yet to write a word.
Instead he's haunted by his muses: his patient wife Luisa (Cotillard), his needy mistress Carla (Cruz), his diva star Claudia (Kidman), his sardonic costume designer (Dench), a sexy Vogue journalist (Hudson), a woman from his past (Fergie) and his loving mother (Loren).
Marshall directs exactly as he did Chicago, putting the musical numbers on stage as surrealistic, introspective flights of fancy contrasted against the realistic scenes at Cinecitta studios and a seaside resort in 1965 Italy. This allows each actor to create two versions of their character: the purely dramatic one and a more colourful song-and-dance incarnation. This adds terrific insight into the characters and allows the cast to really go for broke.
And while the songs aren't showstoppers, they're at least performed with full-voiced passion. All of the actors have solos, and most enjoyable number is Hudson's go-go catwalk scene, which bursts with glittery energy. Dench gets a superb cabaret piece, and Cruz is fiercely sexy in hers. But it's Cotillard who nails all her scenes to perfection. She gets the two best numbers, including a raucous and bitter striptease, and also has the film's most complex character.
At the centre is Day-Lewis, gleefully channelling both Marcello Mastroianni (who played the role in 8 1/2) and Fellini himself. He throws himself into the role physically, taking us backstage to see both the creative process and the circus that surrounds the industry. Plus a strong comment on gender politics in a country ruled by men who are ruled by their women. And if the film as a whole feels cold and unmoving, without much of a message, it also has an enjoyably freewheeling tone. And it goes without saying that Fellini's original is still the masterpiece.