American Fable is ambitious, maybe too much so sometimes, but there's an intense pleasure in the boldness of the film's style.
If you were watching the 1993 Academy Awards telecast, you saw Federico Fellini at his effortless best, taking center stage and handling the crowd with more poise, humor and authority than any of the highpriced stars who surrounded him.
He invited the audience to relax. He professed surprise at being honored - and then confessed he was not surprised at all. He commanded his wife, Giulietta Masina, to stop crying - at once! Watching him, you received an overwhelming impression of a man who felt thoroughly comfortable with himself.
That is the impression Fellini always gives, like an orchestra conductor who knows the music and trusts his players. And that is one of the reasons his 1963 masterpiece, "8 1/2," is such an unlikely film, since it pretends to be autobiographical and yet shows us a movie director who is emotionally frayed and artistically bankrupt.
The movie is currently being revived around the country with a new 35-mm print in glorious black and white. It's out on video, but it's so big and rich it deserves to be seen on the big screen, and this 30th anniversary revival may be your last chance for a long time. "8 1/2" routinely places high on those polls that ask critics and directors to list the 10 greatest films of all time.