Director Rob Marshall, who nearly a decade ago almost singlehandedly revived the Hollywood musical with his innovative adaptation of Bob Fosse’s Chicago , has tried it again with the 1982 Arthur Kopit/Maury Yeston Tony Award winning musical Nine, based on Federico Fellini’s classic film 8 1/2. Although loaded with flashy mod-1960s Italian style, glistening visuals and rousing musical numbers, Marshall’s film is only a superficial tribute to the creative genius of the Italian filmmaker.
While even Fellini’s original story lacked much narrative form, it made up for it with a charming central character and the most imaginative blend of cinematic expressiveness, visual imagery and emotional passion. It seems the Kopit/Yeston musical lacks an essential coherence in its basic narrative and the splashy musical numbers seem to merely punctuate a meandering tale of a once genius filmmaker Guido Contini, who is having a creative writer’s block making his ninth film.
Marshall’s film becomes a showcase for several very impressive musical numbers with lyrics that offer very little character development or significant narrative elaboration. The best numbers are skillfully managed by real singers like Fergie, as Saraghina in the flashback sequence “Be Italian” and Marion Cotillard as Luisa Contini in a hurt wife’s lament “My Husband Makes Movies”.
Daniel Day-Lewis is certainly not the ideal selection for Guido either. As a forty year old filmmaker with a flock of beautiful women in his life, from wife (Cotillard), mother (Sophia Loren), mistress (Penelope Cruz), leading lady (Nicole Kidman) among others, the 50-something Lewis lacks the romantic appeal and musical skills of Antonio Banderas, who recently played the same role in a recent Broadway revival.
Loren, Cotillard, and Judi Dench, who plays the production designer, add a significant amount of grace and class to the film, while Cruz, Kidman and Kate Hudson add a lot of eye candy sex appeal appropriate for the biography of a macho ladies’ man. Ultimately though, Marshall’s Nine takes the complexities of Fellini’s imaginative tale and makes them too simplistically literal and superficial.

About The Author

Syd Slobodnik

Syd Slobodnik has been writing for Illini Media publications since 1975: for The Daily Illini from 1975 to 1978 and from 1984 to 1988, and for buzz since 2003. Syd teaches numerous film courses at the University of Illinois in the English Department. He also cohosts a monthly television program which reviews old films that remind you of recent films you may have seen, called "If You Liked, You'll Love" on the Parkland Channel.

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