Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Inspiration from 8 1/2

Watch 8 1/2 on a late summer Sunday evening

I realize I’m very late to the party on this, but I recently watched the film 8 ½ for the first time. Haunting black and white images, tinged with longing. Boundaries blurred between memory and unfolding reality. Seamless transitions between fantasy, recollections, 
and the inevitable near-conclusions of a weary womanizer/director’s life decisions. Comical touches woven throughout that keep the tone from being too self-important. This film contains many gems for any person involved in the creative process, and below are two favorite quotes that I jotted down while reading the subtitles across the bottom of the screen.

“We’re smothered by images, words and sounds that have no right to exist, coming from, and bound for, nothingness…Our true mission is sweeping away the thousands of miscarriages that everyday, obscenely, try to come to light.”
I think creative people are wired to look at the world through the lens of whatever project is bubbling away on the back burner. Listening to a couple argue on the subway and storing the scene away into a mental jar. I know I can use this later, but how? We are all capable of pricking up our ears and staying alert for random acts unfolding around us. The real talent comes in being able to realize that maybe there is no creative use for a particular incident. Learning to understand what best suits our artistic intention. What should come into the light, and what needs to stay behind.

Image Source
“How do you benefit from stringing together the tattered pieces of your life? Your vague memories, the faces of people you were never able to love?”
How do we “string together” the bits of personal experiences, the fleeting vision from a daydream, the hinted at life of a stranger, the lingering mood from the just-finished book, into a comprehensive whole that gives even the slightest hint at what we so desperately wanted to portray? 

I remember being in kindergarten and wanting to draw a delicate Monarch butterfly perched on a flower. When I tried to translate my imagination into a crayon drawing, I was so disappointed because it hardly resembled what I saw in my head.

One thing to remember is that even if an idea is based on a real life event, I’m not bound to put down every miniscule detail that surrounded it. That’s the beauty of creatively re-purposing. I can change the truth – make it more extreme, heighten the intensity, bend the rules. OK, this idea doesn’t work for this character. No worries. I can lift it right out of this piece entirely and plop it into the life of another character who occupies a much different space. In the end, only the smallest speck of a detail may still be “true,” but if that speck had enough power to evolve into something bigger, unplanned, unexpected – all the better.

In 8 ½, we don’t need to see a finished film from Guido. It is enough to understand what he is trying to do, to watch the floating memories collide with the current cast of characters in his life. The incompleteness, the process is what intrigues. The ever-shifting barrage of muses and stimuli provides enough substance for us to grasp onto. Enough mystery to remain curious, enough familiarity to turn inward and question our own artistic goals. The whirling kaleidoscope of our own crazy lives.


  1. Fiona,
    I haven't seen 8 1/2 either. But what you talked about, the stringing together of memories aqnd thoughts becomes more and more important as you grow older, I think. I loved that Fellini? talked about the people you couldn't love. You go through life trying so hard to love everybody, on a cosmic scale. And then it's election year and suddenly you are reminded that you actually believe that 1/2 the country is mad and utterly unlovable! LOL. Jude, Tamcho Sangmo is my refuge name

    1. Hi Jude!

      Yes, the older we get, the more memories and thoughts there are! And, I imagine, the greater the urgency to make sense of them all.

      I guess one good thing about the people you try to love - but can't quite get there with, for whatever reason - is that it might be easier to creatively work them into your artistic expression without worrying as much about how that person will feel about it! But then again, there's that whole cosmic scale and karma thing to worry about :)

      I know it sounds ignorant, but I generally keep my head under the sand during election years, so my feelings of frustration regarding people and politics are somewhat subdued. I feel your pain in that respect though! :)

  2. To begin, can I just say I love this comment:

    " We are all capable of pricking up our ears and staying alert for random acts unfolding around us. "

    If this is accurate and all of us are capable, then I wish we did so more often .. myself included.

    Next, I don't know if you have realized yet, but the infamous pack-rat and I share certain characteristics. If the pack-rat as an artist believes he can use any and every life experience for his artistic expression, then he and I concur. I believe there IS creative use for every single incident and every single nano-second that we are conscious. However, because of our previous experiences and our completely unique perspectives, we are more prepared to use some incidents and experiences with more "artistic potency" than others (I apologize for the lack of better words). For us to be more productive I agree some incidents and/or experiences need to be left behind. However, I will never agree that certain "random acts unfolding around us" do not have any creative use.

    I think this is the best post on Shadow yet. However everything you do is wonderful. Love ya!

    1. I like how you say "because of previous experiences and our completely unique perspectives, we are more prepared to use some indicents and experiences with more 'artistic potency' than others." To me, this means that two different people can witness the same event and then come away with radically different interpretations and artistic expressions of it. I sometimes wonder how after the hundreds of years of people writing (or painting, making films, etc.) all the original ideas aren't used up by now. But it has to be because of each individual's unique perspective and journey through the basic concepts and events that make up the human condition.

      I think we may choose to creatively leave behind a particular incident/experience at one time (or maybe not even give it a second thought at first, after it happens) and then years later realize its creative purpose after all.

      Love ya!