Four

… which is what Nine should really be called, as it’s the film of the Broadway stage musical version of the theatre adaptation of Fellini’s movie Eight and a Half, which was so called because it was, according to Fellini, his eighth-and-a-half film (it’s complicated, but as well as a handful of features he’d made a couple of shorts and done a collaboration and he added the “halves” up), and this is the fourth feature film directed by Rob Marshall, after a TV movie of Annie, the Oscar-hoovering Chicago and Memoirs Of A Geisha. Phew. I must admit, I enjoyed Marshall’s Chicago, I’m a fan of the great Hollywood musicals of the 40s and 50s, and if I go to the theatre it’s usually to see a musical, as I find them tremendously good value. So it felt quite natural to go and see Nine at the cinema. It’s already gathered quite a hand of Golden Globe nominations, and I daresay Oscar will come calling, but it’s really handicapped by that title. It’s rubbish. It says nothing. It’s just a number. It even looks dull written down as a word. I wonder if the title will have actually prevented people from seeing it? After all, the poster image gives nothing away but the main cast, and the tagline, “Be Italian”, is not helpful. Do we have to “be Italian” to enjoy it? Is it about people “being Italian”? Well, it is about Italians, so I suppose they have no choice.

If you like musicals, I say give it a whirl. You won’t know any of the songs. I’ve seen it, and I can’t whistle any of them. But it’s well staged, the cast are pretty good, and if you like Italian cinema of the 50s and 60s, there is plenty to enjoy, as Daniel Day-Lewis takes on the Fellini/Mastroianni role, a middle-aged director unable to make a film due to a midlife crisis of confidence and, frankly, a complicated love life imploding around him in Rome, and the musical numbers sort of spring up around him. If you like Rome, you’ll enjoy the sightseeing, and the direct references to La Dolce Vita, Anita Ekberg, the prototype paparazzi and various other period signifiers. The girls – that is, Penelope Cruz, Nicole Kidman, Marion Cotillard, Fergie (ha ha, not the Duchess one), Kate Hudson, Judi Dench and Sophia Loren (who doesn’t have to move much) – are superb, and I speak as someone who can’t usually bear to be in the same cinema as Nicole Kidman. Luckily, she only has a marginal part; she swans in, and after one number, swans out again. The bulk of the responsibility falls at the capable feet of Cotillard – how nice to see her with something to do after the false start of her first Hollywood movie, the useless Public Enemies. If anyone steals the film from this formidable chorus, it’s Judi Dench, actually, although you have to admire the way Day-Lewis inhabits a part, carrying himself in such a convincing way, even in silhouette.

So, after the disappointment of Sherlock Holmes, it was good to see something that held my attention and did not insult me. It’s not a classic, but it’s full of artistic merit. And I saw it in a small cinema, the HMV Curzon, where people seem happy to pay their money, turn their phones off and watch the film. Radical.

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5 thoughts on “Four

  1. i may go see it now! i DID go and see avatar with my sons and g'friend and really loved it. wasnt expecting to mind. my cynic told me i'd hate it, and my sentimental old sap won the day. i didnt want to hear how much it cost cos that seems to counter the environmental beauty of the message somewhat…havent dared see sherlock holmes yet as i dont think guy ritchie can direct traffic.

  2. I saw Nine at the Donmar Theatre years ago, starring Lary Lamb off of Eastenders. The music was very nice but I couldn't remember a single thing about it after leaving the theatre.

  3. I went to the hmvcurzon the other day to see Where the Wild Things Are and I got a free glass of wine with my ticket! Truly the way forward. Nine I am slightly scared of. I don't hate musicals and Danny D always gives you good value for money (none of this lazy naturalism rubbish, I demand my ham), but having read Peter Bradshaw's review the other day, I can't help but be a bit apprehensive since I find that I'm reasonably closely aligned with him in terms of taste (apart from his adulation for Borat, what on earth was that doing as Guardian's 2nd best movie of the decade..)

  4. Andrew, do you ever buy the popcorn at the cinema and if so are you a 'salted' or 'sweet' person?Which is the most 'plush' cinema you've ever been to? I remember going to see Terry Gilliam's Brazil (it has only just come out) at the then newly refurbished 'NFT' and thought the seats there were magnificent – although I was a small and naive child then.But I've been to some cinemas in South Florida where the seats have been incredible, hugh plush seats make my own sofa at home look rubbish, there is even a cinema somewhere near Pompano Beach (I think) in South Florida where you get a proper two seater sofa – you can only buy two tickets for those, and some of the seats even recline!

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