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"Nine"; a film review by Gary Chew

GARY CHEW/Sacramento

"You create in public to forgive yourself in private," Luisa tells husband, Guido. Luisa tells it true. Guido does exactly that. See Guido. See how guilty Guido feels as you watch an astounding new film titled, "Nine."

Speeding through the second-revolution orbit on a nearly perfect trajectory is a truly amazing cinematic musical. Or maybe it's an amazing piece of musical cinema. It lifted-off about 43-years-ago as an Italian film director added up all the dreamy numbers of his muse and created the never to be forgotten sum..."8½."

Then 27-years-ago, Maury Yeston added music and dance, placing the stage version on Broadway, bumping the sum to "Nine."

And now, with a decade already having vanished from the 21st century, director Rob Marshall ("Chicago") has adroitly put in front of our faces, once more, an autobiographical romp about a filmmaker who suffers director's block and too many women in his life: the film...the musical...each respectfully subsuming the other genre into something greater than the sum of it all for an homage of substance and consequence to maestro, Federico Fellini.

And here are some reasons why...

Daniel Day-Lewis

Daniel Day-Lewis

As uncomfortable as I am with overblown superlatives, I have to begin by saying (in full disclosure), I've never been a big fan of film musicals. It must have been because I had to see several of them as a child in the company of my mother who loved Betty Grable, John Payne, Alice Faye, Dan Dailey, etc. All memorable movie stars, yes, but not so for little boys who'd rather see a Gene Autry movie. ("Hello, Frisco, Hello" was one of the first, I think.) Then came the water musicals of Esther Williams and her aqua ladies with Ricardo Montalban looking on, approvingly, from poolside. Musicals on film got off on the wrong foot with a small town kid like me.

How could it be, then, I use words like astounding and amazing, with musicals not high on the list, even the good ones? That should clear the air about how much I like "Nine." The film almost astounded me, if not amazing me---at the same time.

The secret must be bringing it altogether---the important elements of a really good film: a substantive narrative, creatively brought, with fabulous camera work, editing, (music and film), as well as great music and how it's arranged and performed (orchestral and vocal). Great choreography and how it's danced are also a big help. Add to that, lighting and imaginative cinematic ideas that pay respect to the true art of filmmaking.

Forgive me. I left out the acting and dialogue. There's that, too, in "Nine." Daniel Day-Lewis ("There Will Be Blood") is a consummate dramatic actor, comedian, and song and dance man, all rolled into one, as Guido Contini. He couldn't do it any other way. No one could slack a challenge like being the leading man to Marion Cotillard ("Public Enemies," "La Môme"), Penélope Cruz ("Vicki Cristina Barcelona"), Nicole Kidman ("The Interpreter"), Kate Hudson ("My Best Friend's Girl") looking more like her mother than ever, Judi Dench ("Notes On A Scandal"), Sophia Loren (1957's "Boy On A Dolphin") and Stacy Ferguson (aka Fergie of the Blackeyed Peas, also seen on TVs "American Idol" ). Each gifted woman's role seems to be tailored to her talents---acting, and performing musical numbers.

Daniel Day-Lewis, Kate Hudson and company
Guido gets an eyeful.

These women love Guido---each in her own way. Much to his dismay, Guido loves them all back in a manner as to be expected according to each relationship, which must be why more than enough of them are a problem for him. It is a broad array of associations.

Another issue for Guido is that he has no script for his movie, "Italia." It's about to shoot with the whole cast and crew right there with him, on location, and his pushy producer breathing down his neck. All hands on set want to read the script.

Then there's the guilt trip the Church puts on poor Guido: always something on the mind of Maestro Fellini. Guido is, in his way, a religious man. He believes in God, but the artistic drought he's in and the exigencies of keeping things straight with his wife, his mistress, his leading lady, his wardrobe lady, not to mention his mother and a lusty lady of the evening are more than a high strung, artistic, successful, irresponsible, craggily handsome Italian man looking in the mirror of middle-age can fathom. Guido implores our concern. His women entreat our consideration.

Another thing: the music in use other than just when the staged moments of excitement occur is effective, too. I felt that busy, bubbly, almost chaotic sense of stress and motion I remember when seeing genuine Fellini films: some of the strains echoing the wild, fabulous jazzy stuff created by 20th Century French and German composers, Darius Milhaud and Kurt Weill.

I hope my words persuade you to see this flashy piece of movie entertainment. It could snag a shiny statue, plaque or two, come early 2010. For that we'll have to wait and see. So, here on a scale of one to ten, with as little hyperbole as possible, I give "Nine" an eleven.

"Nine" official site.

Opens wide on Christmas day.

Check Yahoo Movies-Tulsa for theaters and times.

Gary Chew can be reached at garychew@comcast.net,
Facebook.com/justin.playfair and Twitter.com/orwellingly.

Copyright © 2009, Gary Chew. All rights reserved.

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