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Review: Nine

Rob Marshall's Nine is a collision of two directors, namely Federico Fellini and Bob Fosse, interpreted by himself. 8½, and All That Jazz were major influences on Rob Marshall’s Nine each film represented a portion of where Marshall wanted his film to say. While both and All That Jazz were intensely private films made in an autobiographical fashion by directors Fellini and Fosse, Marshall is nothing more than an interloper here, he has no personal stake in the film.

Death, failure and womanizing were all a fixture of both directors for their films as it was revelatory of their dark periods where they did not know whether the creative genius that had accelerated their careers was getting away from them. Fellini was distressed by writer’s block and his own dissolving marriage to Giulietta Masina and Fosse was plagued with the thoughts of his own mortality both themes, while touched on in Nine, are mostly ignored for Guido Contini’s (Daniel Day-Lewis) relationship with the women in his life in Nine.

Day-Lewis, never capable of a bad performance, is done in only by his physical attributes in Nine. While an excellent actor - probably the best of his generation - Day-Lewis is no George Clooney. Guido is a notorious womanizer and audiences bought Mastroianni as that man, but it is harder for moviegoer to see Day-Lewis as man any woman would immediately throw their lives away for. Guido's biggest problem is not an existensial one, rather a professional one, he should have been an actor. He has so many faces for so many different people in his life that simply playing one of the characters in his stories would be infinitely easier than writing and directing them.

Marshall pays homage several times to both films during Nine: during the beginning of the film Guido (Daniel Day-Lewis) walks into the set of the studio – similar to Mastroianni entrance in 8½ - and a beam of light shines behind him casting a shadow into the building, like Cabaret where Sally Bowles (Liza Minnelli) also enters the set with light reflecting around her. More references are found toward the end of the film as Guido’s wife has left him and he stands at the beach reflecting upon the mistakes he has made with his life. The beach was used frequently in Fellini’s films: La Strada, La Dolce Vita and  all featured scenes were the protagonist was standing at the beach reminiscing about their lives before their failed choices finally caught up with them.

In La Strada Zampano collapses in tears on the beach after learning of the death of Gelsomina. In La Dolce Vita Marcello Rubini stands at the crest of the beach staring at a beached sea monster pondering, after attending an all-night party, why he did not leave his life of paltry philandering, drinking and debauchery sooner. He sees himself in the sea monster being poked and laughed at by his fellow partygoers. There is also a reference to All That Jazz in the film when Guido, being checked out by a slew of doctors, ignores their advice as he takes a very sensual phone call from his mistress, Carla, reminiscent of Joe Gideon’s hospital scene where, instead of resting per doctor’s orders, he spends his time drinking, philandering and generally running amok.

Nine was a collage of Federico Fellini’s and Bob Fosse’s works viewed through Rob Marshall’s looking glass. Marshall was only interpreting his own vision of what he thought Fellini and Fosse were trying to say, even though it was their hearts poured out on the screen.

The conflict for Nine is that it cannot help but be compared to  even though the two are radically different.  is an auteurish character study where Nine is a musical biting off more than it can chew.

**1/2 out of ****

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