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Nine is a musical about a director’s mid-life battle with women and his desire for spiritual and creative fulfillment. Originally screened as Fellini’s, 81/2, the theme has had various workouts such as Allen’s Stardust Memories and Fosse’s All That Jazz. However, this version directed by Rob Marshall (Chicago and Memoirs of a Geisha), is a seamless re-working of Fellini’s very personal story.

The Italian director Guido Contini is played by the very charismatic, chain-smoking Daniel Day-Lewis. He portrays a flattering physical image of the late Fellini who was a rather portly man in the flesh. One can imagine a voice coming from the grave saying ‘Bravo! Hai vinto un premio!’ Or words to that effect. Guido is surrounded by a cast who intimidates as much as vies for his affections. And, what a bevy of beauties they are!

The first to get her lips around Guido is our Nicole (Claudia), the muse, the one who got away. Nicole’s performance is one of her best. However, it is the fabulous musical number ‘Casa Sulitaria,’ performed by Guido’s mistress Carla (Penelope Cruz), which sets the bar for the other performers. Cruz slithers and shakes her booty to the max and purrs like a true tigress. It doesn’t stop there as both Stephanie (Kate Hudson), the all American performing ‘Cinema Italiano’ and Saraghina (Fergie), performing a vigorous version of ‘Be Italian,’ both strut their stuff in a very competent manner.

The consistently brilliant Judi Dench (Lilli) portrays Guido’s on-set costume designer and confidante. Dench’s musical performance of ‘Folies Bergere’ ignites a very warm and appreciative shot of Day- Lewis who doesn’t appear to be acting when he is filmed gazing admiringly at her. Dench has some of the best lines and plays the matriarchal, bosom buddy to perfection. The dialogue she delivers to Guido imploring him to give her an answer, ‘yes,’ or ‘no,’ and ‘I’ll do as you ask,’ has Dench working the scene as only she knows how.

Guido’s life is spiraling out of control as he struggles with writer’s block and his confused emotions. He loves his wife, Luisa (Marion Cotillard) who plays the wounded, ignored beauty to perfection. But, he can’t keep his hands off his mistress, Carla, and, who can blame him! The repeated flashbacks to his early childhood days confirm the effect that women had on his life and the most influential was his Mamma (Sophia Loren). La Loren flashes her fabulous smile reminding us of the Italian cinema of the 60s, when Italian sirens ruled supreme. We reminisce during her performance of ‘Guarda La Luna’.

Nine is a wonderful adaption to the screen and there will be audiences around the world who will leap to their feet in applause after the numbers. We may stay seated in The Land of Oz since we do not show our appreciation at the cinema as we do for live theatre. The costumes are gorgeous and the sets and locations are fabulous. We are taken for a scenic tour around the centre of Rome, Cine-citta and along the Italian coast near Anzio. If that isn’t enough to make you want to give the film a round of applause, there are enough other fabulous moments which make you want to give it the standing ovation it deserves.

moviereview colin fraser film movie australia review critic flicks