The Pen May Be Mightier Than the Sword, but Sometimes It Makes You Want to Slit Your Wrists

The Austin Film Society's latest series zooms in on creative block

<i>8½</i>

Federico Fellini was flummoxed. After the international acclaim that followed La Dolce Vita, he was unsure what to do next. What emerged from his creative restlessness and confusion was (1963), a sprightly mix of Jungian dream, flashback, and nuts-and-bolts "let's make a movie" procedural shaped by his own raw autobiography (the title tallies the six features and three shorts – or "halves" – that came prior). What Fellini couldn't have known then was that would influence multiple generations of filmmakers, many of whom were similarly confounded by a starburst of early success and the crippling stress of high expectations that followed. may be an intensely personal work, but its truths are universal: It can be brutalizing, isolating work, making art – but what comfort in knowing others are just as embattled.

The latest Austin Film Society Essential Cinema series, guest-curated by yours truly, opens with and is followed by four films that further riff on creative block, frequently in direct homage to Fellini's film: Paul Mazursky's sweet, strange, hippie-in-Hollywood fantasia Alex in Wonderland (1970), a box office failure that (by the director's own estimation) put the final nail in ailing MGM's coffin; Woody Allen's black-and-white, bleak, kind-of comedy Stardust Memories (1980); Bob Fosse's surreal song-and-dancer, All That Jazz (1979), which I've alternately – affectionately! – come to think of as So Much Dexedrine; and writer Charlie Kaufman's directorial debut, Synecdoche, New York (2008), about a playwright who struggles for decades to produce a single, definitive work of art. They're all wonderfully weird movies, death-obsessed (all but one include the lead's death, either real or fantasized) and admirably upfront about what torture it is, trying to wrestle the wild imagination into neatly ordered words on a page, into pictures on a screen.

AFS Essential Cinema – After '8½': The Creative in Crisis

May 1: (D: Federico Fellini)

May 8: Alex in Wonderland (D: Paul Mazursky)

May 15: Stardust Memories (D: Woody Allen)

May 22: All That Jazz (D: Bob Fosse)

May 29: Synecdoche, New York (D: Charlie Kaufman)


Series runs Thursdays, 7:30pm, throughout May at the Marchesa Theatre (6226 Middle Fiskville). $8 general admission; $5 for students and AFS Make and Watch members; free admission for AFS Love and Premiere members.


A version of this story previously appeared on the Austin Film Society's website (www.austinfilm.org).

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

READ MORE
More Essential Cinema
The Many Faces of Janus
The Many Faces of Janus
AFS Essential Cinema series presents a wild lineup

Kimberley Jones, April 12, 2013

An Eclectic Send-Off to Summer
An Eclectic Send-Off to Summer
Contemporary French film the focus of new Essential Cinema series

Kimberley Jones, Aug. 31, 2012

More by Kimberley Jones
We Have an Issue: The Revolution Will Be Embroidered
We Have an Issue: The Revolution Will Be Embroidered
In this week’s cover story, Jessi Cape explores the resistance potential in cross stitch

April 9, 2021

30 New Shows, Returning Series, and Other TV Premieres This April
30 New Shows, Returning Series, and Other TV Premieres This April
Top Chef, crazy love, and sweet potters

April 1, 2021

KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

creative block, Essential Cinema, The Creative in Crisis, , Federico Fellini, Alex in Wonderland, Paul Mazursky, Stardust Memories, Woody Allen, Bob Fosse, All That Jazz, Synecdoche, New York, Charlie Kaufman, Kimberley Jones

MORE IN THE ARCHIVES
NEWSLETTERS
One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

New recipes and food news delivered Mondays

Eric Goodman's Austin FC column, other soccer news

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle