Written and directed by Federico Fellini, 8 1/2 is an Italian avant-garde film released in 1963. Its title derives from its position as the eighth and a half film that Fellini directed (if one considers his two short films and a collaboration each...
Federico Fellini was born in Rimini, Italy to Ida and Urbano Fellini. Rumors that Fellini was born on a moving train that was passing by Rimini later circulated as a result of a newspaper article printed decades after his birth, but friend and biographer Tullio Kezich denies this, since a rail strike began on the very day Fellini was born, making it impossible that his mother would've traveled through Rimini that day.
Fellini's mother and father were neighbors who fell in love despite class differences. Ida was wealthier, and her family disowned her when she married Urbano. Because Ida's family also had ties to Roman nobility, she—and young Federico, as a result—always felt her return to Rome was inevitable, though only Federico would move there permanently in the late 1930s.
According to Kezich, Fellini did not often attend the cinema as a child, nor did he read many books. Nevertheless, he had an active imagination, distinguishing himself as a talented cartoonist early in life. While still in high school, he started a caricature shop called the "Funny-Face Shop," hoping to capitalize on the local tourism industry. Fellini was also a notably unathletic child, never touching a soccer ball or learning how to swim—a rarity in Italy at the time.
The early seeds of inspiration for films like 8 1/2 are clear in retrospect. As a young boy, Fellini named the four posts of his bed after the four major movie theaters in Rimini, already drawing connections between film and dreams. Although his family later denied it, Fellini also insisted that he once tried to run away to join the circus.
After his move to Rome, Fellini began contributing cartoons and stories to the humor magazine Marc'Aurelio. Once World War II was underway, he started writing scripts for a radio serial starring actress Giulietta Masina, who would later become his wife and the star of his films, including La Strada and Nights of Cabiria.
In 1944, Fellini met famed Italian director Roberto Rossellini, who recruited Fellini as a writing collaborator on the film Open City. This earned Fellini his first Oscar nomination and launched his career as a screenwriter and later a director. Because Rossellini was a pioneer of the Italian Neorealism movement, Fellini adopted some of the movement's qualities while also breaking with them in notable ways, in particular using a more personal storytelling style. This divergence is a major source of conflict in 8 1/2, in which reporters, family members, and colleagues rebuke the protagonist, a filmmaker, for believing his personal life could be of interest to audiences.
Following the success of La Strada and Nights of Cabiria, both of which won the Oscar for best foreign film, Fellini went on to direct such classics as La Dolce Vita, 8 1/2, and Juliet of the Spirits.