It's an abstract title, until you consider that this was Italian director Federico Fellini's eighth and half film (the half being a selection of short collaborations). The film won Oscars for Best Foreign Language Film and Best Costume Design - the third of Fellini's four Oscars for Best Foreign Language Film - alongside La Dolce Vita, Amarcord and La Strada. The movie is a veritable who's who of swinging Sixties Italian cinema, starring Marcello Mastroianni, Anouk Aimée, Claudia Cardinale, Barbara Steele and Sandra Milo. This is a beautiful film full of beautiful people and is the landmark of celluloid cool.
Remade in 2009 as Nine, with an equally starry cast including Daniel Day-Lewis, Marion Cotillard, Penelope Cruz and Nicole Kidman, this is the story of the zeitgeist film director Guido Anselmi who has been given carte blanche and all the money to make the film of his dreams. The only problem is that his dreams are subsumed by his own celebrity lifestyle and the many, many women with whom he shares his life both in public and in private.
Rome does not need much help to look beautiful from Fellini's rich, thick and creamy lens but, by God, it doesn't hurt. Fellini presents us with a reality enmeshed in dream, it is a stylised musical, architectural, fashionable world with a long list of gorgeous people dressed in gorgeous clothes struggling with creative process. The film seems to head toward an ultimate endeavour to find happiness in a difficult and fragmented life, constructed between a series of relationships. Fellini stops short of being didactic, he knows better than to alienate his audience. So Mastroianni's greedy, childish, selfish but utterly charming, charismatic and lovable Guido falls into a world of his own creation, everybody else seems to as well - and so will you, happily and with a hallucinatory fantastical smile on your face. It is no coincidence that the original title was the less abstract The Beautiful Confusion.