Nine (2009) Directed by Rob Marshall
The following conversation may or may not have happened. A phone rings.....
Ring, ring , ring....(click)
Daniel : Hello.
Rob : Hello, is this Daniel Day Lewis?
Daniel : Speaking.
Rob : Hi Daniel. My name is Rob Marshall, I'm the Oscar winning director of the Chicago movie.
Daniel : Yes, I'm aware of that travesty.
Rob: well, err, anyway, I got your number from your agent. Hey Danny, do I have the part for you. I'm going to be making a movie from the hit Broadway musical based on Fellini's 8½ . And I would like you to take the lead role of the uninspired, womanizing film director Guido.
Daniel : It's Daniel to you.
Rob : Yeah, sorry Daniel. This picture will be called Nine, you get it? It's half a number up from the original title. Neat yeah? And guess what else. We're going to take away all the surrealism from the original story, all the strange observations about Italy, religion, sex, dreams and anything that was remotely interesting about Fellini's picture. We're just going to focus on the ladies and how good they look and make crass generalizations about Italians...
Daniel : Well, thanks for the phone call..
Rob : Wait, don't hang up. Listen, we have got songs, they're not great but they'll do. We want to have dance scenes like a Bob Fosse movie, but seeing as no one in the cast can dance we'll have to try and get round that. Maybe we can use modern pop video techniques, what do you think Danny? You get to dance and sing, try on a bad Italian accent. But more importantly, you got all these hot dames lusting after you. I mean you should see this Spanish broad Penelope. Wow! Mamma Mia! And then there is this Fergie who does a striptease, you should get a look at those melons. And then we have another striptease from this ditzy French chick and then...
Daniel : That's quite enough! I'm not interested..
Rob: Wait! Listen to this. Sophia Loren. She plays your dead Mamma. I mean Sophia is nearly 200 years old, but you should see the rack on this baby! Sophia heard the greatest actor of his generation will be in this movie and she wanted to be seen on screen with you. And there's more, Nicole Kidman, Kate Hudson, we'll try to make them look good....... I mean, we'll even squeeze this British 007 Dame into a corset..... it'll be hilarious. Sexist, Sexy drivel. This movie will have Kitch classic written all over it. After It's dismissed by the critics as being really awful, people will re-discover this movie. It will have a cult following, I'm telling you Daniel..
Daniel: That's It, I'm hanging up, this is nonsense...
Rob : No Danny Boy! There's more. We have so much money to burn. You get to drive an old Alpha Romeo, we will be in the most exotic parts of Italy. Think of the food, the wine. You will have the finest Italian tailored suits. The best hand made shoes...
Daniel : Wait a minute. Did you say hand made Italian shoes?
Rob : Yeah, That's right.
Daniel : Supple, suede and leather moccasins? Hand crafted with the utmost attention paid to every stitch? Made by some peasant in a small Italian village?
Rob : designed just for you Danny Boy!
Daniel : I'm in.
We went to the cinema in town last night! The name of Daniel Day Lewis and the scary knowledge that this was a remake of Otto e mezzo (Fellini) drew us in. So we went despite the bad reviews and the fact that this is a musical, a Broadway adaptation to be precise (we hated Mamma Mia some years back).
The trailer and posters and promo shots had promised a lot of women in lingerie. And not just any women, but the biggest Hollywood stars of right now. Sure enough, almost all of the musical numbers were staged and separated from the 'real' events of the film. They happened in the imagination of Guido Contini (Daniel), the film director, but the women were wearing extremely cheap-looking underwear and in some of the shots the cinematographer managed to make
Penelope Cruz, Nicole Kidman and Kate Hudson almost ugly! This was not cheap-looking in a cool roughed-up way, but cheap in no-style-circa-1995 way. Why?
As the film was otherwise set to happen in the 1960's and it managed to look quite stylish over all, there is no good reason as to why the makers decided to opt for this unimaginative hooker-look.
There is really nothing to say about the content, context, cinematic values or acting in this film.
Blank. So I'll write a little more about the representation of women here:
There's the beautiful wife (Marion Cotillard) who is left alone as the artist goes after his muse in the form of various mistresses. There is the mother (Sophia Loren) comparable to a goddess and obviously a ghost, but oh so loving and good. So there you have the virgin marys. On to the whores: mistress number one (Penelope Cruz), a past memory of some town whore from when Guido was a child (Fergie), the actress of all his movies (Nicole Kidman) and the Vogue reporter (Kate Hudson). These women are the temptation, the sin, inspiration and a stop-gap. It is the return to the virginal and righteous Wife/Mother that will release the genius' creative spirit again.
So, while some things never seem to change, in 2010 there is no surrealism in 81/2, just pseudo-psychoanalysis in Nine.